Browsing Category Saigon

My Weekend – Toddlers, Bikes, and Taylor Swift

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I am tired. So very, very, tired.

I finally started my new job last week, Friday to be exact. From Friday to Sunday, I taught toddlers, teens, and small children. I don’t think my brain has had the time to fully process everything, but here’s a stab at it.

I don’t know how other schools work in Vietnam, but I work at a large academy type institution that offers English classes for adults and children of all ages. I found out my schedule Thursday and had to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And even though I was clear with the hiring staff that I’ve never taught young children, I am now teaching 5 classes with the wee ones. I was completely unprepared for my first toddler class, but after experiencing a class for the first time and some perusing through pinterest, I think I’ve got some idea of how it works. You’ve never felt exhaustion until you’ve had to teach a classroom of 20 3 and 4 year olds. And the classes are roughly 2 hours long with a 10 minute break. Yeah…keeping the attention span of a toddler for over an hour is a feat and I’m not exactly sure how I accomplished it, but I did. Thankfully, with the toddler classes I have 2 teaching assistants that help out, so it’s not *too* bad, but still exhausting.

I teach a 12/13 year old class Friday and Saturday nights. And newbie here gets one of the most notorious classes in the school. Apparently these kids have a reputation for not listening, talking, and just being a hot mess in general. One of the kids in the class even told me himself they were a bad class. Jesus take the wheel. I have also learned that Vietnamese kids LOVE LOVE LOVE Taylor Swift. Like, they are obsessed. She’s featured in a lot of advertisements here, but I never really put it all together until I asked them who their favorite music artist was and they screamed her name.

In between classes yesterday, I went and bought an electric bike!!! I’ve wanted to buy one for ages, but now that I work, I needed a way to get around since I don’t want to spend money on taxis all the time. Not only that, I drove it from Binh Tanh district, through District 1, and into Phu My Hung – roughly a 30 minute bike ride. Yes, I drove it through the insane and infamous Saigon traffic. I am miraculously still alive, and what’s more, is that is was SO much fun! My bike goes so fast! I feel much, much, safer riding an electric bike than an actual motorbike. And I’m not contributing to all the pollution here, so YAY for doing my part in saving the environment.

My new project is going to be announced very, very, soon. I finally got all the hosting set up for it and I’m working with a designer for the logo and branding. I’m so excited that everything is finally coming together! I also have a timeline for new Korean beauty reviews, as well as some other beauty related posts (I haven’t forgotten about the Sunday night pamper routine!).

How was your weekend? Let me know in the comments!

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My New Favorite Mode of Transportation – Xe Om

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By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of how utterly ridiculous the traffic is here in Ho Chi Minh City. Like…I don’t even think I can properly describe how insane it can be sometime. But in due time, you actually get used to it, and in some ways, it’s incredibly beautiful. I’d been slowly building up my traffic tolerance by driving around with Johnny in Phu My Hung where it’s not that crowded. But when it came time to go into D1 or beyond, I’d always hop in a taxi.

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But there’s another form of transportation in Vietnam, and it’s a xe om, or a motorbike taxi. The drivers are pretty much on every corner, everywhere, sometimes screaming at you, “MOTORBIKE, TAXI, MOTORBIKE!” I’d been afraid to take them before, but one day, I just decided to say fuck it and live on the wild side. Let me tell you, it was the BEST decision. While riding around the city, I took out my camera, and snapped away, soaking in as much of the city as I could. All of the photos in this post are from times I took a xe om through Saigon. It’s is now my preferred method of transportation. It’s cheaper, and much, much faster than taking a taxi. I’ve even heard of people hiring their own personal xe om driver!

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There’s no better way to really see the city than on the back of a motorbike. In a taxi, you can’t see all of the tiny nuances that make this city so electric, so vibrant. You don’t see the old women cooking clams in the alleyways, you don’t get to see the hidden vegetable markets, or see the tiny children playing with their friends. The first time I rode a xe om, I clutched onto the back of the motorbike for dear life, but now, I’m much more relaxed. I let myself really see the city, take photos, and interact with the kids who laugh and clap when they see me on the back of a bike. It’s allows me to really and truly connect with the city, and to never take for granted the fact that I’m able to live this sort of life.

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Rules for a Xe Om:

-Always negotiate a price first. It’s usually 50% of what a normal taxi ride would be. From Phu My Hung to D1 in a taxi is roughly 120,000-130,000d (or $6 to 6.50), so I usually ask for 60,000 – 70,000($3-3.50 dollars). If it’s raining or during rush hour, expect to pay a little bit more. If they don’t accept your offer, just laugh walk away to the next guy.
– Make sure they have a helmet for you to wear.
– If you have belongings, make sure you keep them in between you and the driver, wrapped around your body and hold on to them for dear life. Bag thieves are real and they will snatch your shit. I’ve also had drivers who have held my bags for me around their necks, or clipped them safely to their bikes. Better yet, if you’re planning on riding a xe om, wear a backpack.
– If the driver feels shady, just walk away. Trust your intuition. I’ve never had this issue, but you can never be sure.
– Hang on and HAVE FUN!!!!

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Life Lately – Smoothies, Pho, and Cupcakes

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A bowl of pho cures everything. Just trust me on this. It does.

So what have I been up to lately? My main focus for the past 2 weeks has been trying to find a job. After my few weeks of “vacation”, I’ve decided it’s probably a good idea to finally start looking for work. I admit that I’ve been a bit lax, but I’ve been upping up the amp the past few days. I wake up, make some tea and eat some breakfast, and scour Craigslist, vietnamteachingjobs.com, expat-blog.com, and other sites, send off e-mails, then do my blog stuff for the day. I respond to e-mails and comments, jotting down notes of what I need to review, taking photographs, etc. After all the business-y stuff is out of the way, I breathe a little bit and pick a place to explore. I gotta have a little fun, right?

The job hunt has been a tad bit frustrating, but I found out that a big bulk of hiring is done in August. Sigh. Most schools are getting ready to go on summer break, so there are a few positions for summer schools and summer programs available. I’ve been on a few interviews, but a lot of schools have crazy working hours (9:30am-730pm, or 9:30-6:30pm 6 days a week…no). My main focus is this blog and the writing opportunities that have slowly been coming my way, so I’m still looking for part time work only. I’m confident that I’ll be working in no time though. All in due time! I will say that if you’re planning on coming here, make sure to have some sort of savings with you, since there’s not a guarantee you’ll find work immediately.

This week, I went out for lunch with my dear friend Rae, and afterwards, I picked up the most delicious and adorable cupcakes from a bakery called Fly Cupcakes. There were SO many choices, and they all looked incredible, but I ended up picking up four to take home: key lime, red velvet, chocolate brownie, and Oreo. YUM. And best of all, they were about $2 each!

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I’ve also become quite obsessed with smoothies. After living in Korea for 2 years, aka the land of ridiculously priced fresh fruit, drinking real, fresh fruit smoothies everyday is quite a treat. Avocado mango smoothies were my jam for the past few weeks, but then Johnny and I went to a new (to me) smoothie place down the street from our place. I got a mango, banana, passionfruit smoothie and my whole life has been changed. Passionfruit is like..the greatest fruit known to man and I’m not sure how I’m going to deal when I can’t run around the corner and buy them. And the smoothie store is SO cute! It reminds me of a Whole Foods with the chalkboard signs and exposed wood.

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And this past weekend, Johnny and I ventured into District 1 to try and get some clothes made, but the place we wanted to go to was closed. Sad, we ended up going to Saigon Square, which sort of reminds me of one of the big stores in Dongdaemun (like Migliore or Hello apM). It’s a large shopping center with tons of vendors selling jewelry, accessories, clothes, bags, pretty much everything. We went wanting to get clothes, but I bought 2 pairs of sunglasses instead. Whoops! Sunglasses are always a necessity, so not all hope it lost. Still hoping we can get some clothes made soon, as I don’t really have anything super professional to wear once I do find a job.

Everything is still wonderful and hot here, although rainy season is right around the corner. Even though I haven’t found a job (yet), Ho Chi Minh City is just such an awesome place to be. I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve been stressed, angry, or upset. It’s just so gorgeous here, and everyone is so happy and calm. And it’s ridiculously affordable. I still can’t get over how inexpensive things are here. I can get my nails done every week, eat out, get smoothies everyday, get facials, go shopping…I love it! And this weekend, I think I’m going to buy an electric bicycle so I can get around the city on my own. Pray for me, ya’ll.

I have a big package from w2beauty coming any day now that I’m ridiculously excited about. Keep your eyes peeled for a huge haul post once I get it!

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Saigon Cooking Class

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I’ve now been in Vietnam for a whole month. I don’t understand time and how it seems to be flying by at warp speeds, but wow. Now that I’ve been here a month, I’ve hit that mark in expat life where I know my neighborhood, know where to find the most affordable groceries, I have my go-to nail salon, a gym membership, a pool membership, the works. But I’ve been a bit bored and restless lately. I know, I know, how could I possibly be bored when theres’s SO much more of Saigon for me to explore, but this whole job hunt thing has me sort of pre-occupied and a little uninspired. Frankly, I’ve been feeling a bit down. Even though I LOVE living here, I miss my friends. To be honest, I’ve been a bit lonely lately. It’s not as easy to make friends here as it is in Korea. Thankfully, I have Johnny, but I still miss my girls. But I can’t sit around in a funk, so I decided to do something about it and sign up for a cooking class at the Saigon Cooking Class by Hoa Tuc.

I found this particular class using the ol’ Google, and after I saw so many great reviews, coupled by the fact that the menu sounded absolutely divine, I knew I was in for a great time. It was just the thing I needed to get me out of my comfort zone and make me feel a little better.

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I was extremely lucky in that the class I took only had 3 participants, so it was really intimate and I felt much more at ease. The maximum capacity is 14 people, and apparently the morning classes are the ones that are typically full. I opted for an afternoon class as I like my beauty sleep. The class was 3 hours long, and we made 3 dishes. With each dish, the chef explained to us all the ingredients, where they came from, how they are harvested, or little anecdotes about the food.  He was super personable, answered all of our questions, and made us laugh. He made the class even more enjoyable than it already was. Some of the ingredients were pre-chopped and pre-portioned, which allowed the chef more time to really explain techniques and ingredients to us.

First on the menu – mustard leaf rolls with crunchy vegetables and prawns with a kumquat sweet and sour dipping sauce. It was super simple to make, and the fresh, crunchy veggies mixed with the peppery mustard leaf and the dipping sauce were to die for. I’m not even the biggest seafood fan, but I really enjoyed the shrimp as well.

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Next on the menu were sticky rice fritters stuffed with pork and and carrots and soy sauce. First off, sticky rice is a bitch to work with. It’s delicious as hell though! The fritters are deep fried until they are a golden brown and crunchy on the outside, but the insides are still warm and chewy. YUM!

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And last, we made my favorite meal (yes, more than pho), fresh rice noodles with marinated BBQ pork and raw vegetables, or bun thit nuong, which literally means grilled meat on noodles. This is my favorite Vietnamese dish because it’s just so fresh and tasty. Plus, when it’s insanely hot, the last thing I want is pho. I want cold noodles with lots of crunchy veggies. It’s the main reason why I chose to do the class on this particular day because I wanted to learn how to make it on my own. And again, it’s incredibly easy. The pork is marinated in honey, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and black pepper, then grilled over charcoal. We just used a clay pot filled with charcoal to cook the meat, no fancy grill required. It was so easy! After slicing up all the veggies and herbs, you just stick the meat on top, drizzle your dressing on top, and BAM. Done!

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After each dish, we got to sit down and taste them, and at the end, we were treated with a seasonal dessert, which was a passionfruit mousse. It was so incredible, I think I devoured it in about 3 bites.

Overall, the Saigon Cooking Class was a really wonderful experience, and just the thing I needed to make me feel a bit better. For only 39.50 USD, I’d say it was definitely an afternoon well spent. I learned so much, and after I left I felt like my creativity was starting to seep back. Food is always the answer!

For more information, you can visit the Saigon Cooking Class website here.

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Life and Other Things

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Hi Everyone!

Life here in Vietnam is going swimmingly. I haven’t really been doing much lately because it’s just SO hot, but I’ve been doing a lot of blog work behind the scenes, and I finally started applying for jobs. I actually have an interview later today, so please send some good vibes my way!

The big yellow rubber duck has made its way to Saigon, and is actually a 3 minute motorbike ride away from my apartment. On Sunday, Johnny and I went to the mall/park where it’s located, to go to a coffee shop to get some work done. The duck’s been in the lake for a few days now, but I guess Sunday was the official grand opening.

When we tried to leave the mall, we encountered the most ridiculous traffic jam of all time. Imagine this. I’m sitting side saddle on our motorbike, because I was wearing a tiny mini skirt. I also had to carry a giant bag of groceries because we had just gone to the store. If you’ve ever been to Saigon, you know the traffic rules are basically non-existent and people just drive wherever the fuck, however the fuck they want. Need to turn left? Just go out into traffic and pray no one hits you. People making right turns don’t even look to see if cars or bikes are coming. Riding a motorbike here is the most intense brain workout ever, you’re literally having to constantly watch all sides. But usually in our neighborhood, traffic isn’t bad and it’s actually quite nice to ride on the motorbike. But this past Sunday was the definition of a hot mess.

Anyway, I’m riding side saddle with a giant bag of groceries, trying not to fall off/freak out about the hundreds of bikes coming from every way possible. After riding slowly through traffic, we finally broke away for a second, only to encounter an even BIGGER traffic jam. This time, a large semi-truck was completely blocking a major intersection, one we needed to cross to get home. There’s exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, it’s hot as hell, everyone is honking and yelling…it was just in general a hot mess. Johnny decided to take the bike around a long way to get to our apartment, and I opted to just get off and walk, since I’d had my fill of motorbikes for one day. But walking across the street proved to be even crazier since motorbikes were all trying to get through the traffic jam and just zooming through ….yeah. It was like playing a real live version of Frogger. A MESS. And that’s about as exciting as my life has been recently.

Also, I took a recommendation from a commenter and decided to sign up for a cooking class. I’m going on Thursday and I’m so ridiculously excited I can’t even deal. Let’s take a look at what I’ll be whipping up in the class:

-mustard leaf rolls with crunchy vegetables and prawns with a kumquat sweet and sour dipping sauce
-sticky rice fritter stuffed with pork and and carrots and soy sauce
-fresh rice noodles with marinated bbq pork, raw veggies and fresh herbs with kumquat and nuoc mam dressing
-surprise seasonal dessert

I’m hoping I’ll be able to take pictures. If not, I definitely plan on replicating the recipes at home and maybe even doing tutorials. Would that be something you’re interested in?

And remember the day before I moved, I participated in a panel discussion with SEOUL magazine? They shot some awesome footage and made a super cool video, featuring me and the other panel members. You can check it out here. And if you’re in Korea, make sure to check out the May issue of SEOUL magazine for the full article.

Hope you’re all doing well!

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