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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

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 . . .

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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!

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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!

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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?

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