Browsing Category Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City’s Hidden Cafes – The Morning Cafe

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Ho Chi Minh City is home to an amazing cafe culture, and if you know me, you know I LOVE going to cafes. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than going to a cafe, ordering a big mug of tea, reading, people watching, and doing my blog work. I’m always much more efficient at getting my work done in cafes… something about the ambience always makes me more productive.

A few weeks ago, I met up with Lauren from Never Ending Footsteps and her boyfriend Dave, for a little blogger hangout session at an adorable cafe called The Morning Cafe. Despite being on the one of the main roads in District 1, The Morning Cafe is located in an alleyway, in a nondescript apartment building, on the second floor. I actually passed by the building a few times before I looked really closely and found the tiny sign outside.

The Morning Cafe is gorgeous inside. It’s insanely quiet, and for a moment, you feel like your in a completely different city. There’s no honking or the noise of motorbikes zooming by. It’s quite small, but still very comfortable . It’s cozy and peaceful, the perfect cafe to spend an afternoon in getting work done.

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I ordered a passionfruit smoothie, and it came with a nice dollop of whipped cream on top. It was super delicious, although a tad bit on the sweet side. Lauren, Dave, and I were the only customers in the cafe for a long time, and the entire time we were there, there were only 3 other people that stopped by. The business cards say “Writers hangout, book lovers corner”, and I’d say that’s exactly the kind of cafe this is. I was able to get more done in 3 hours than I normally do, and that’s saying something!

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If you’re ever visiting Ho Chi Minh City and want to go to a pretty, quiet, and peaceful cafe to get some work done, The Morning Cafe is your place. I’ve only been once, and I’m dying to go back again.

Where is your favorite cafe? Let me know in the comments!

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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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Exploring Saigon – District 1

sunsetd1Living in an area that has literally everything you need has its perks. I don’t have to travel far to go to the gym, get groceries, see some awesome sights, get a massage or pedicure. But this also means that I’ve become quite comfortable in my little neighborhood and haven’t really ventured that much outside of Phu My Hung, which is tragic considering all the amazingness that Saigon has to offer.

The past 2 weekends have changed that though. Johnny and I planned date days to see outside of our little area and go explore more of Ho Chi Minh City. Somewhat like Paris, HoChi Minh City is split into different districts, with district 1 (D1), being the city center, where most of the tourist attractions, best bars, best coffee shops, and best shopping are. The first time I went to D1, I was completely overwhelmed. All of the stereotypes about Saigon were blatant… motorbikes coming at you from every direction, horns blaring, tons of pollution. I nearly had a panic attack trying to cross a busy intersection. I don’t think I was really in the mood the first time I went, and was a tad bit overwhelmed. We did manage to see a bit of the historical sites: the Notre Dame cathedral, the Saigon post office, the opera house, and the backpacker district. The second time we ventured out was a blast. I think because I’d already experienced what sort of chaos goes down in D1 that I was a little bit more prepared. We went shopping near Ben Thanh market, had drinks and watched the sunset at the BITEXCO building, ate banh mi on the side of the street, snapped photos of everything, and found a topshop where I bought some amazing leather sandals (thank god!).

Saigon is just such a beautiful city. I love the architecture, the lush greenery, the friendly people, the food. I’m just so happy to be here. The job hunt will be starting soon though, so I gotta take advantage of all the free time I have, while I have it. Hope you enjoy the photos! And in the meantime, let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see on the blog – info about Saigon, new beauty reviews, more photos, more daily life stuff. I have a ton of reviews in the pipeline, but I also want to focus on the travel side of my blog too. Let me know in the comments any ideas or questions that you have!

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