Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A suitcase filled with Saigon

One of my favourite pastimes in Saigon is sourcing curiosities.
Like a bowerbird, I select with care. 
This old wicker suitcase called out to me.
I was in love before I opened it...even more so when I did. 
The original paper is charming. 
I plan to use it to store my journals...
all 40 years of them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A test of skill...the sidewalks of Saigon

I consider myself an optimist, looking for the positive in every experience. But there are times when I am simply confounded and bewildered. It has to do with the sidewalks around Saigon. It sounds like I might be exaggerating when I say there are times you take your life into your own hands..but you do. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chateau Mango and Lotus Tea

Outside our front door...
little sweetly scented miracles blow in the breeze 
each time a lotus blossom opens to the sun.
They leave me breathless and have enticed me 
to explore the health benefits of drinking lotus tea. 
A combination of green tea and lotus leaves, 
it is high in antioxidant compounds. It is known for it's 
diuretic, astringent and calming health benefits. 
Sounds perfect to me.
Blooming at Chateau Mango this week....
fragrant lotus blossoms.

My lotus tea of choice.. Trà Sen
found at An Phu Supermarket
Thao Dien, D2
Ho Chi Minh City 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cooking at Chateau Mango with 'My Vietnamese Kitchen'

There is some major kitchen love going on at Chateau Mango for the cookbook 'My Vietnamese Kitchen' by Uyen Luu. I recently discovered the book in Artbook, a local shop in Saigon and have not been able to put it down since. Uyen Luu is based in London, having moved to the UK from Vietnam with her family when she was a young girl.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Expat moves...from one country to another

Once upon a time, we lived in Surrey, England where I wrote a blog Finding My Way in England. We moved from Surrey to Saigon nearly 15 months ago, in preparation of the move, I started this blog Expat Diary: Viet Nam. I have waffled betweent the two blogs...trying to let go of one, while  while writing here and on my primary blog Collage of Life. If you are confused, that's's an expats world. It's what we do.

I wrote the following and posted it on my English blog today. Seeing that I am living and writing from Vietnam, I wanted to share the story here as well. You will understand why I am still writing about England when you read the story below. I have a feeling a few others might be able to relate.

Thank You for reading along...wherever that may be!

P.S..for those of you who know that I have a few more blogs out there..shhhhh...we do not want to confuse people even more. ;)

 One thing I have learned in my 18 years as an expat is that you open a lot of doors. Throw in a few windows and you keep yourself pretty busy trying to keep your expat world in order. This thought came to me today as I assembled all my 'expat england' photos into one file. I admit there were quite a few heart strings that were pulled as I went along. Photos of family gatheringsexpeditions into the English countryside and quiet sojourns into London are now collected into one file. I had to pinch myself, it's surreal to think of a time when I walked to the local train station to catch a 20 minute ride into London.

When we boarded the plane for Vietnam, leaving England behind, I found the easiest way to make the transition was to shut the door until I was ready to open it again. If I had made the transition from a Southeast Asian city to Saigon I would probably have left the door ajar. The differences would not have been so extreme. To move from Surrey to Saigon was a jolt to the senses, I knew I would need time to decompress, if I hadn't closed that door for a time I would have sat on the fence with one foot in each country unable to embrace what was in front of me.

I see it often in Vietnam, that dazed look in a new expats eyes, wondering where they are going, how they will cope and steady themselves for the new experiences ahead of them. I want to tell them it's a matter of doors and windows. You have to know when to shut and open them until you set yourself right.

As for me, the doors are open, the windows are up and I am once again moving through my expat world with greater ease. I know, because it brought me here, to the house below. I would pass it nearly every day on my bike ride into the local village. Every once in a while, just before I turned the corner from our street, I would slow down...stop..and snap a photo. I captured it in all seasons, my favorite being summer and winter.

My view today is very different as I ramble along the streets of Saigon but I feel so very fortunate to have had those days where I imagined the life beyond the garden, the windows and doors that graced this beautiful home. I still wonder...but from further afar...and am so very thankful for the time we had in England.

A passing view in Surrey, England...

From snowy Surrey to our mango coloured home in Saigon, 
Chateau Mango..

 where my English Pashley awaits.

Sending you 'beep, beeps' from Saigon.

until I return with another English memory.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Destination Twitter #typhoon

Morning mass today at Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon

As I write from my desk in Saigon, the sun is shining, big lofty clouds are floating by and a soft breeze rustles outside my window. A far cry from the typhoon that is lashing out and gaining strength in the central and northern regions of Vietnam. We have known it was coming for two days, watching and listening as mother nature tore into regions of the Philippines leaving harrowing scenes behind. I try following the few English TV news channels in Vietnam, I try following the news reports on the Internet media sites but I find, in the face of the emergency, if I need information quickly, Twitter is my 'go to' site. 

I have never experienced a disaster of the magnitude that has just struck the Philippines first hand but I have been on the other end of a disaster trying to reach family. I was once tucked away in a leafy suburb of Surrey, England about to turn out the lights for the evening when I received the following text message.

February 22 2011
12:18 AM
I want to come home. 
Massive earthquake, 
scariest moment of my life, 
but I am fine.

My daughter was in the midst of the earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand with devastating consequences in 2011.  It was a moment when my expat world came crumbling down. I wrote a blog post on the text message here. That was the moment in time when I knew that Twitter was going to be my salvation. I tuned into every reference I could find that involved the earthquake and stayed in touch. She was without power for some time so I fed her 'tweet bites' the best I could. I can tell you in all honesty it is 'a place' I never want to visit again.

I was lucky, my daughter was fine. I know their are mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who will suffer as a result of Typhoon Haiyan and my prayers go out to them. It is an unimaginable tragedy.

If you have a Twitter account and would like to follow my Vietnam List, you can find it here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Moving overseas with pets...a dog's tale #vietnam

When we found out we were moving from England to Vietnam, my first thought went to our English Springer Spaniel, Tika. At that point in time, she was nine years old and had lived in Australia (where she was born), New Zealand and the UK. She had seen a lot of air miles in nine years but this transition worried me the most. I knew nothing about the environment in Vietnam except for the fact that dogs were seen as more than a family pet and we would have to take great care to protect her. 

Moving Tika to Vietnam was relatively easy. We organized the necessary shots and arranged for a pet transport company to handle her transition from country to country. We were familiar with the process having moved her twice before.

Thinking back at the time, it did not seem that long ago (2010), when a while van pulled up to our home in England on a cold winter's morning to deliver Tika safe and sound. 

We opened the doors to see her peering back at us from her crate. Once the
door opened she was happily on her way with my son Connor to explore her 
new terrain.

When she flew into Ho Chi Minh City three years later, it was 
a different experience for us all. It was close to midnight 
when we were contacted to say she had cleared airport customs 
and was on her way. The trucked backed in....

and there she was, peering back at us once again.

I belive she was dubious of the whole affair...

Although, it did not take long for her to get her groove back.

Connor and Tika...Chateau Mango

Tika recently turned 11 years old and has lived in Vietnam 
for a little over a year. Chateau Mango is her domain.

She has a pretty good life...swiming

and she can shake with the best of them.

She hasn't lost her sense of humor and I want to keep it that way.

Pet stories are often traded amongst expats in Saigon. You have to be extra wary of drinking water, fleas, ticks, worms and a host of other little things that could could make them sick. Dogs and cats go missing, are stolen and often left behind for adoption when a family moves on. Rabies is a fact of life and you have to know who's who in the veterinary world to make sure you have a well qualified one. Fortunately we do. We go to Dr. Nghia of Saigon Pet Clinic. I have complete faith in Dr. Nghia, he has never steered us wrong and genuinely loves animals. His enthusiasm is infectious. I took the photo below this morning, while Tika was having a treatment. One of the many while living in Saigon but I rest easy as I know she is in good hands.

 There will come a day when it is time to move on. I dread the day for our greatest challenge will be before us. Some countries have very strict quarantine laws and if we go to a country that does, Tika would be away from us for several months until she is approved to travel again. It is a difficult concept for me to grasp as we have been fortunate to date with just a schedule of required shots prior to entering a country. We will deal with it when the time comes.

In the meantime, if you have happened upon this post because you live in Saigon or are thinking about moving your pet to Saigon. I highly recommend contacting Dr. Nghia. He made the transition for us all much easier, his assistance has been invaluable.


Nguyễn Văn Nghĩa DVM, PhD
Specialist of companion animal medicine, surgery and diagnostic imaging from the University of Bristol School
of clinical veterinary Medicine – England
Member of British Small Animal Veterinary Medicine Association
Lecturer of faculty of Veterinary Medicine – Nong Lam University - Vietnam
@ Address:  33 - 41 Street,  Thao Dien, 2 Dist, Ho Chi Minh City
@ Tel: 08 35194182

We open Monday to Friday: 7:30 am to 8:00 pm Saturday: 8:00 am to 6 pm Sunday : 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Please call for an appointment.
Please call 0909 063 267 for an appointment in English, French or Chinese.
 The clinic is open 24/7/365. Emergency please call  08 35194182 or 0909063267

This is one of Dr. Nghia's five cats. She sided up to me as I was waiting for Tika. I couldn't resist taking a pic. He discovered her abandoned, starving and without fur and brought her back to life. Look how she has grown..a blue eyed beauty. I also have a feeling she would have loved featuring in this video clip...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Beep Beep...Vietnam

When it comes to modes of transport around Saigon,
there is no questions that the motorcycle/scooter is the 
popular choice. Although every once and a while 
you get lucky and see something special...
something quirky.

I never cease to be amazed. 

Photos by Jeanne Henriques

Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Regrets... #expatlife


I couldn't have said it better.
If you were to ask me, 
if I could turn back the
clocks 26 years, 
and do it all over again, 
would I do it?
My answer:
yes, yes and yes,
no regrets.

This video captures life in Ho Chi Minh City very well...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Connecting to the past...Vietnam

Something you can not help doing when living in Viet Nam 
is connecting to the past. 
I have been collecting old photographs and maps 
in my travels around Vietnam. 
They are hard to find but when I do find one 
it feels like I have struck gold. 

The top image is a collage of old photographs
I found a while back. 
The ones below are recent... 
and my favourites.

Every day is a new adventure in Viet Nam...
I always wonder what I will discover next.

Are you a collector? 
If so, I would love to know what you like to collect.
Hunters and gatherers are a unique breed..
 more on that topic here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shopping Ho Chi Minh City: Ton That Thiep Street

Planning on shopping in Ho Chi Minh City?
I just added these two shops to my

When I am looking for laquerware, 
I stop in at  mhCraft  33 Ton That Thiep St.
I never leave without picking up a few things,
great for gifts and keepsakes.

If you pop in a few doors down you will find 
Duy Tan at 47 Ton That Thiep St. 
As you cans see from the fellow sitting outside,
there is plenty to keep a keen shopper busy. 
It is a small store, but you can't help going around 
2-3 times to make sure you have seen it all.

More to see and do 

Michele De Albert (laquerware) 30 Ton That Thiep St, D1

MH Craft  33 Ton That Thiep St. ** Nice selection of laquerware

Celadon Green 51 Ton That Thiep

Saigon Kitsch  (art) 43 Ton That Thiep St. D1**

Duy Tan 47 Ton That Thiep St. ** nice selection handcrafted souvenirs

Dogma 1st floor, 43 Ton That Thiep (above Saigon Kitsch)**

 Temple Club 29-31 Ton That Thiep. St. **a family favourite
Fanny's Ice Cream 29-31 Ton That Thiep **

These are just a few of my favourites..
there is much more to see, 
do and eat on Ton That Thiep St. 
For such small street, it is worh a visit.

tried and true by me
photos taken on a recent visit
Jeanne Henriques