Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Saigon lifestyle’ Category

Now I have to learn to walk with a steel cane -- but perhaps I won't need it for long ; )

I went home to Manila almost two weeks ago. I came home riding an early morning flight, was picked up at the airport in the wee hours of the morning by my dad, and then, figured out which specialist orthopedic doctor I had to visit soon.

I came home because I’ve been hit by a motorbike driven by an equally crazed young, female teenager who likes to drive off full speed while not looking in front of her.

At first it felt like a big bump in my schedule, just like the big bump this bike gave me on my tummy and my leg. I have two scheduled interviews for articles I’m dying to write about. I was one day short of enrolling again for the second level of bellydance classes I’ve been studiously attending the past month.

Yet these thoughts only came after I ended up in the emergency room of a supposedly upmarket hospital where the only people around there was a nurse and a guard. And you’re scared shit, not so much because you can’t move your leg and the right side of your abdomen is hurting like hell, but because of the realization that you could die, right there and then at the emergency room, for lack of attention or because everyone was moving at a glacial pace worthy of the demise of the dinosaurs.

I forgot my cellphone. I only had a beltbag and a wallet when I slipped out at night to buy breakfast in a convenience store a block from where I live. I couldn’t remember any one of my colleagues or local friends’ phone numbers. And I was continuously crying while the nurse was trying to ask what was the problem (wasn’t that supposed to be their job — to check what the problem was with me!).

And when you’re left alone thinking you might die anytime, it just struck me how short life is. And how much we spend our days thinking, worrying and working for sometimes the wrong reasons and for the wrong people. 

Life is very short — too short sometimes to worry about who likes us, what kind of achievement we’ve done, how much money we make, or if we’re missing that Backstreet Boys concert tomorrow. We’re walking leisurely one time and the next minute, we’re lying down on that road with our life almost snatched from us.

We must learn to live and treat life as if every minute is the last we’ll ever have.

But now, safe again in the confines of my little room, we also think about how we can turn adversity into opportunity. For instance, I went back to Manila to get a 2nd opinion from an orthopedic specialist (I think it’s a good idea because I was hit in the abdomen, and although the doctor in Saigon said there was no internal damage, you can’t be too careful). 

So by going to Manila, I get to see my family too. And my Papa will be happy. And I get to see my sister who is also a bit sick like me. And I get to talk to friends and potential biz partners to cook some really great ideas for new businesses.

Right now, the world is gripped with sorrow — from the devastation wreaked by an earthquake and a tsunami in Japan, as well as a potential worldwide nuclear catastrophe. Then the air strike on Libya over UN sanctions. And now Bahrain.

It seems that there is a never-ending list of woes, both global and individual. But as people, we know that the only way we can survive through these is to lift up our chins, strengthen our spirit, pray to God or our protective angels/guardians, and look on the bright side of things.

There will always be a silver lining behind any cloud. There will always be a reason for a tragedy in life. All we have to do is to find it — and to keep on having a positive attitude towards life.

Remember, the only person that can bring us down is OURSELVES! So look up and think “pink thoughts”. A happy life is just awaiting us behind that dark cloud.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

After a certainly most boring holiday spent primarily at home, I am happy to say that I’m glad that TET holidays (otherwise called Chinese New Year in other parts of Asia and Chinese-influenced communities in the world) are almost over.

Yep, I showed up at the office today, expecting our ever loyal employees to be there before me, and wallah — they’re not there! Only my dear colleague Chi was there. And so laughing at the absent employees, we had a great time just having a long and late lunch.

But what drives up my ire is that “I couldn’t access Facebook” during the entire TET holidays! In fact, I can’t access Facebook at all when I use the internet at home

Okay, some people will disagree with me about the inability or difficulty of accessing Facebook in Vietnam. Some people say that you can tweak your DNS configuration, or even use one of those proxy servers just to access Facebook.

But despite these maneuvers and sometimes, the lucky chance of being able to get online through some server, it is MUCH, MUCH MORE DIFFICULT to get into Facebook these days. Because of that, I am faced with —

* Not being able to contact friends from as far as half a globe away

* Not being informed about what friends are doing as far as half a globe away

* Missed the latest jokes, the hippest videos and the wackiest antics of a few colleagues and friends

* Missed out on a couple of friend’s birthdays

* Missed out on trends and news from the home country or the region

* Can’t announce my latest blog posts on my Facebook page

* Can’t announce my status on my Facebook page

* Can’t inform my friends about my recent travel & lifestyle articles

And most especially, I can’t access my directory of friends’ emails and phone numbers as well!

But there is also an upside to life without facebook — I get to read more blogs online. In fact, I stumbled on this funny blog from China called “Ministry of Tofu” (www.ministryoftofu.com). Aside from its witty remarks and funny, sometimes weird stories (pole dancing subway commuters, sexiest Chinese language teachers, etc.), it also features stories of the ever-present issue of “online censorship” as well.

Which means we are not alone in this problem in this side of the world ; ) At least they’re having fun and a few laughs out there in China with their queer stories . . .

Read Full Post »

Time passes by so fast; we are back again in Saigon.

Before I found my flat which is just a block away from my office in District 1, I took up residence first for more than a week in a little hotel along Pham Ngu Lao Road, which is in the heart of the backpacker area in Saigon. I thought I would be bored to death again in that area, because if you’re not the type to drink yourself to death in the late evenings or are into shopping, you wouldn’t enjoy the hustle and bustle of the backpacker area.

Aside from showing up at the office nonetheless, I managed to spend my mornings at breakfast eating a banh mi, a baguette with slivers of pork meat or canned sardines, veggies, a little pate and a chile or two. That Vietnamese sandwich was enough to keep you going for 3 hours until lunch time.

But the best thing I liked doing at Bui Vien, a street behind Pham Ngu Lao and parallel to it, was sitting in one of those roadside cafes, and drinking their traditional iced-cold coffee with milk called “café suda”, or “café su nom” which is the hot version of it.

Normally, the type of coffee that you mix with café suda is rather bitter — and the condensed milk that they mix with it actually balances the bitter taste. But with café su nom, you drink the coffee filtered through a steel filter with the brew being catched from below in a cup.

And while you’re waiting for your coffee brew to be filtered, you look at the street and see the passing of motorists, tourists and the ordinary hectic day-to-day life in not just the backpacker area of Saigon but everywhere in the city. 

Sitting at a roadside cafe in the Pham Ngu Lao area. Simply bliss!

Read Full Post »

Hiya! It’s been a while since I wrote my last entry here. Been out of Saigon since March, got caught in Bangkok during the arson attacks, and haven’t had the time to update everyone what I’ve been up to all along. So I’m sharing with you an interesting anecdote about an incident I had some time ago, and my interest in interior design and art, among other things.

The Argentine artist Lucas Rise ponders life and the meaning and inspiration behind his art in his garden.

Sometime in late 2006, I was on the verge of relocating myself to Vietnam. I was thinking what kind of flat I was going to secure for myself, as well as how it would look lik. So I started looking over several interior design magazines in Bangkok.

One magazine caught my eye. It was Living Thailand. In one of the articles was featured a young man who painted colorful wooden cabinets — of the type I like! You know — brightly striking reds and blues and yellows, whimsical, quirky, and to a certain point, rather like child’s play.

Carrousel. My favorite piece among Lucas's quirky cabinets, mainly because of the use of bright colors and because the flowers remind me of the flower drawings I used to make as a child.

Since the magazine was actually written in Thai, I was quite content to just view the colorful pictures of his rehabilitated cabinets, and to have an intimate view of his equally interesting and homey atelier. Later, I found out he crafts all of his cabinets painstakingly by hand — a brilliant feat since sometimes he uses mixed media — like metal studs, wooden pegs or 20,000 hand-cut and painted pieces to decorate an old wooden armoire.

That young artist’s name is Lucas Rise. Just in his early thirties, Lucas hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, a country where every one seems to live life with gusto (not that different from most Filipinos though J) — truly a Latino to the bone! After being a finalist at the prestigious Platt National Art Awards (Buenos Aires) for an art entry featuring 20,000 handmade pieces of wood attached to a refurbished cabinet, Lucas’s quirky cabinets and other mixed media pieces have been highly revered by young people of his generation as well as art and interior design connoisseurs. His fame has traveled to other countries, particularly Paris, Istanbul, South Africa, Brazil and the US, his current domicile.

The following are some photos of his amazing work, which I happen to be updated about from time to time through all these years that I have had the graces to make contact with him. I must say that no other artist has piqued my fancy or tickled my imagination than Lucas and his very unique wooden cabinets.

A piece called African Whimsy. This series of photos show how the cabinet was made. Notice the unpainted wooden pieces on the cabinet on the right hand side of the photo.

Almost complete!

The finished product at last! What does it remind you of?

For more photos and information about Lucas’s work, see his personal website at www.sansparapluie.com.

Lucas is currently holding a one-man art exhibition of his wonderful cabinets in Orange County, California from June 3-27, 2010 at Saltfine Art Galleries, Laguna Beach, Southern California (see link for more info: http://www.saltfineart.com/exhibitions.php).

Lucas, if I had the means to fly there to the US, I would have done so just to view your exhibition. May you continue your great work; rest assured that we will never tire of being amazed of your artistic talent!

I think this is the first time Lucas used a figure of a person in a cabinet. Notice the figure of a lady on the cabinet's side.

Does the design look familiar to most of my Vietnam-based friends? The armchair back is made from a hand embroidered pillowcase from the Northeast tribes of Vietnam which I had sent Lucas as a present from Vietnam. And with his creative brilliance, he found textiles which perfectly matched the color of the pillowcase to finish a neo-ethnic looking piece! Brilliant!

Read Full Post »

This was one of my earlier blog entries which never got posted until now. I think it is still relevant as when I wrote it just a few months ago — and forgot to post:

It’s exactly 10 in the evening on a windy Saturday night in Saigon. I was pooped as usual — but it was a great day. My colleague and I had great fun dragging our soon-to-be-married ex-colleague around town, trying to find a suitable dress for her “meet-the-in-laws meeting” the following day.

It is a traditional custom in Vietnam that before the young couple gets married, the girl meets her fiance’s parents in a dress fit for the occasion. And in this occasion, the dress is supposed to be befitting of the girl’s background — proper, subdued, not too revealing, and bright or positively colored.

So we dragged her to 2 to 3 stores in town. After three stores and about 10 dresses — a great majority brightly-colored, embroidered and some not-so-brightly colored — we settled for a fuchsia looking silk dress — subdued but marvelous for a dinner date.

It was a great day. We finally found a dress for our friend’s meeting-the-in-laws event.

No spinsters in Vietnam

Before our whirlwind trip around 3 great boutiques around town, my two friends and I passionately discussed the in-topic of the season– “weddings”. Let it be known that during this time of the year, which usually starts around November and ends roughly around late March, is what we call “wedding season”.

You see them everywhere — couples, couples, couples! The bride wears her voluminous frou-frou gown with a bouquet in one hand and the groom in the other, walking near the cathedral at Han Thuyen Street.  Or sitting on the grass at the park beside the cathedral. Or on the grass in the Phu My Hung compound.

Vietnamese couples normally get married before their 30th birthday, especially for the women. Even if the women are not yet prepared to get married, they are hassled into marrying before their 30th birthday. Because if they reach the age of 30 and are still single — even though they are already committed to one guy — they are called “baco”, which refers to a woman that has been left behind by the times – and suitors!

Such is the plight of women in this country. It seems like a woman’s value seems to diminish with age, much like the value of a car that depreciates once it packs on the years.

Which brings us back to the issue of my Saturday night blues.

Alone Again – naturally

Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest days of the week for the socially mobile. But the variety of late night fare is rather boring. Usually, it’s a DJ night at a famous club or bar in the middle of town (take your pick of Vasco’s, Cage, or Xu; the Fashion TV bar is already closed – don’t know why?) with the same DJs spinning the same records every time. Then throw in a couple of special visiting DJs from Ibiza or Mallorca — and that sums up the night life in Saigon.

For the locals, the places to be in are Acoustic Bar and Café Dao on _______ . There are also a growing number of bars along District 2 which are getting some attention these days.

And so with the dearth of interesting and varied nightlife in Saigon, it is no wonder that me and my friends are always hankering for something other than a DJ night in town.

Any ideas to spice up our lives here?

Read Full Post »

My favorite Saturday afternoon cafe - Le Creperie in District 1

Continuing my blog entry last time, one of my typical Saturday afternoons in Saigon is to sit at a favorite café in District 1, with my handy laptop and tow, and blog the whole afternoon. It’s called Le Creperie on 15 Hanh Thuyen St. What is so great about this place is that it overlooks this small park with towering leafy green trees that provides the needed oxygen for city folks like us. It kinda gives you a bit of a countryside feel, even though the sound of motorbikes is not too distant away.

The staff are friendly at Le Creperie. Dishes are French-influenced. I recommend the Crepe Florentine with mushrooms and spinach lightly steeped in olive oil. Only a few doors away from Le Creperie is Au Pain, also a French-style/Mediterranean restaurant with a predominantly farang (Thai word for “foreigner”) clientele.

The charming lady owner is as charming as her restaurant. Although the dishes are tailored more for foreigners’ taste (the spaghetti with anchovies is not as hot nor salty as I had expected but more with a sour taste) and the meat dishes lack the proverbial spices that I knew Mediterranean food would at least have, the ambiance is definitely cozy and well-worth a leisurely meeting with your friends on a sultry Saturday afternoon.

Furnishings remind you of a Moroccan haveli with drapes looking like they’re floating on the ceiling and very comfy and colorful divans with patchwork cushions. A must visit!

The green and peaceful park beside Hanh Thuyen Street overlooking a row of restaurants.

Motorbikes and lover in the park in front of Le Creperie

Read Full Post »

Basilico at The Intercon

Basilico's interior furnishings is made of light wood which gives a very "airy", warm feeling. Note the nice overhead chandelier.

One quiet but sultry Sunday morning in Saigon, I decided to go walking around District 1, the central and business district of the city of Saigon. Well – partially walking though ; )

Café Lounging. It was such a hot day, I remember. I think I decided against walking all the way from my humble abode in District 1 to check out again a new café that my colleague had introduced to me one weekend. It was called Basilico, a new coffee place on the corner of the new Intercontinental Hotel on Hai Ba Trung street.

Decided to take a cab there instead, and when I alighted from the cab at the side entrance of the hotel, I accidentally stepped on my pants leg with my sandal and ripped the seam of my pants leg. Zounds! So much for alighting with panache and flair at the entrance.

Anyway, having looked around that someone didn’t see the little mishap except for the bellboy, I got into the entrance and positioned myself against one of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows of Basilico.

The food was largely Italian with oven-fired pizzas and a fairly good array of coffees to choose from. It’s a great place to lounge around on a Saturday afternoon with your friends — your intellectual friends — so you can lazily deliberate on the future economy and your future ex-boyfriends – har har har!

Basilico - At the patio

Basilico's patio overlooking the side street.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »