Thursday, September 10, 2015

Travel Tips...Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I have lived in Saigon for over three years. During that time, I have collected business cards, travel books, written notes, picked up recommendations and the list goes on. Now is as good a time as any to share the love...for Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. 

People often ask for my recommendations for things to see and do in Saigon. In turn, I ask what they hope to achieve. We travel for different discover, to look for answers.  If you are travelling to Saigon, chances are you have just a few days, possibly less than 24 hours. I have compiled a list to direct you, with a few of my favourites ** and ones recommended to me. 

Above all else, my recommendation for Saigon is to wander slowly and with care, absorb the sights and sounds, feel the beat of the city and enjoy. In fact..hold that throughout your time in Vietnam. It is a pretty special place, you will see...

My list starts with a list of books and movies, many I have read or viewed and others have been recommended. If you see two red stars **, it means it is tried and true by me. I have provided links for everything else, where possible.  It is a start... 

Last updated: October 15, 2015
NOTE: Restaurants, shops etc.. have a habit of moving and closing frequently. You should double check the address online before setting off.




Recommended Tours-
Sophie's Art Tour (Vietnamese art history)**
Saigon Treasure Hunt-Furniture/fashion/lifestyle/tours**
Vietnam Vespa Adventures**


Le Thang Ton St.
Song (fashion) 76D Le Thanh Ton St. D1
Vietnam Quilt (bedding and home) 26/1 Le Thanh Ton St. D1

Ton That Thiep St.
Michele De Albert (Vietnamese laquerware) 30 Ton That Thiep St, D1
MH Craft  (handcrafted Vietnamese) 33 Ton That Thiep St. ** Nice selection of laquerware
Celadon Green (handcrafted Vietnamese)  51 Ton That Thiep
Saigon Kitsch  (Vietnamese kitsch)  43 Ton That Thiep St. D1**
Duy Tan  (handcrafted Vietnamese) 47 Ton That Thiep St. ** nice selection handcrafted souvenirs

Dong Khoi St.
Alphana Jewelry 159 Dong Khoi St D1
The Vietnamese Refinement (handicraft) 141 Dong Khoi St. D1 **
Khai Khai Silk 81 Dong Khoi
Ipa-Nima (fashion) 77-79 Dong Khoi,  D1
Sapa (fashion and home) 47 Dong Khoi St. D1
Precious Qui 29a Dong Khoi
ArtBook ( art books) 43 Dong Khoi D1 **
Therese Jewelry  (popular jewelry store with local expats) 9 Dong Khoi St
Nguyen Freres (ethnic home and fashion) 2 Dong Khoi, D1 **

Mac Thui Buoi St.
It Happens to be a Closet (fashion) 89 Mac Thui Buoi

Nguyen Thiep St
Therese Jewelry (jewelry) 9 Nguyen Thiep St., D1
My Way Deco (laquer/home) 13 Nguyen Thiep St, D1

Le Thanh Ton St.
Villa Anupa (fashion accessories) 17/27 Le Thanh Ton 
Catherine Denoual Maison (luxury linen) 15 Thi Sach St, D1** beautiful linens

Le Loi St.
Kim Phuong (home linen, embroidery) 98 Le Loi St D1**
Orchid Taylor  84 Le Loi St D1**
Ben Thanh Market (food, fashion, home)  Le Loi St. **

Fahasa Bookshop 40 Nguyen Hue, D1**
Minh Hahn (fashion couture) 128 b Hai Ba Trung
Minh Khoa (fashion formal) 81 Ly TuTrong, St, D1
Verlim Interior Design 152 Le Lai St, D1**
Anupa Boutique (fashion/accessories)  9 Dong Di, D1** 
Gaya (fashion and home)  1 Nguyen Van Trang St. D1**

Kenly Silk 132 Le Thanh Ton, D1
Khai Silk 107 Dong Khoi St, D1
Huong Fabrics 57 Thu Khoa Huan, D1
T M Silk Boutique 155 Dong Khoi St, D1
Hoang Silk 201 Dong Khoi, D1
Bao Silk 223 De Tham St, D1
Tan Binh Market 171M Ly Thuong Kiet, D3
Thanh Thuy Cotton House 230 Le Thanh Ton, D1

TAILOR (and fabric)
Orchid Taylor  84 Le Loi St D1**
Khai Silk 107 Dong Khoi St
Dung Tailor  221-223 Le Thang Ton

Ben Thanh Market (food, fashion, home)  Le Loi St. **
Saigon Centre 60 Le Loi St, D1**
An Dong Wholesale Market  35-36 An Dong Vuong St. D5
Binh Tay Market 578 Thap Muoi St, D6
Cho Ben Thanh Market intersection Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai
Russian Market ( fashion) 225 Ben Cguong St, D1**
Dan Sinh Market (war surplus market) 104 Yersin St**
Saigon Square Intersection Le Duan and Hai Ba Trung
Cho Lon  Market Tran Hung Dao St, D5**
Le Cong Kieu St (vintage and antiques) **
Camera Street ( Huynh Thut Khang, Ho Tung Mau, Nguyen Hue Le Loi)

TuDo Gallery 53 Ho Tung Mau, D1**
Ben Thanh Art & Frame 7 Nguyen Thiep St, D1** off of Dong Khoi St.
Galerie Nguyen 139 Dong Khoi St, D1 **
Galerie Quynh 65 De Tham, D1
Craig Thomas Gallery 27i Tran Nhat Duat, D1
Dogma 1st floor, 43 Ton That Thiep, D1
Galerie Lotus 67 Pasteur St 
Lac Hong Gallery 1A Le Thi Hong Gam St, D1
Duc Minh Art Gallery 31C Le Quy Don, D3
Phuong Mai Gallery 213c Dong Khoi St, D1
Tara & Kys Art Gallery 48 Dong Du St, D1 
Blue Space Art Gallery 97A Pho Duc Chinh St, D1
Vietnam Art 80 Nguyen Hue St,  D1

Temple Club 29-31 Ton That Thiep St, D1**
Hoa Tuc 74 Hai Ban Trung St, D1 **
The Refinery 74 Hai Ba Trung, D1
Au Parc 23 Han Thuyen St, D1 ** funky and fun cafe
L'Usine First Floor 151 Dong Khoi St, D1** enjoy for Sunday brunch and lunch, thru the Art Arcade
An Vien 178A Hai Ba Trung D1
Restaurant 13 13 Ngo Duc Ke St. D1
Lemongrass 4 Nguyen Thiep St. D1
Square One Park Hyatt  2 Lam Son Square D1
Opera Park Hyatt 2 Lam Son Square, D1**
Carmague  74/7D Hai Ba Trung, D1**
Hoi An 11 Le Thanh Ton, D1
Mandarin 11a Ngo Van Nam, D1
Quan An Ngon  138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, D1
El Gaucho Saigon 5D Nguyen Sieu, D1 **
Lucca Cafe 88 Ho Tung Mau St, D1 **great coffee
Fanny Ice Cream 29-31 Ton That Thiep, D1 ..** gelato..passionfruit sorbet
Grand Opus Saigon 12 Phan Ke Bing Str. Dakao Ward, D1
Song Ngu Seafood Restaurant 70 Suong Nguyet Anh St, Ben Thanh Ward, D1
Cuc Gach Quan 10 Dang Tat St, Tan Dinh Ward, D1
Propaganda Restaurant 21 Han Thuyen Street D1
The Deck 38 Nguyen U Di, D2 **
Mekong Merchant 23 Thao Dien, D2 ** family favourite
Pho Pasteur  260 Pasteur St,  D3
Tib Restaurant 187 Ter Hai Ba Trung St. Ward 6, D3

Hoa Tuc/ Saigon Cooking Class  74/7 Hai Ba Trung,  D1 **great cooking!
Vietnam Cooking Centre 362/8 Ung Van Khiem, D1** on the floor, recommend
Overland Club 36 Bis Huynh Khuong Ninh, D1
Saigon Culinary Art Centre 269 Bis Nguyen Trai St, D1
Caravelle Hotel 19-23 Lam Son Square, Di

Reunification Palace Museum 106 Nguyen Du St, D1
Women's Museum of South Vietnam 202 Vo Thi Sau, D 13
War Remnants Museum 28 Vo Van Street, D3
Ho Chi Minh City Museum 65 Ly Tu Trong St D1 **
Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum 97A Pho Duc Chinh, D1**
Vietnam History Museum 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem, D1
Ho Chi Minh Museum 1 Nguyen Tat Thanh, D4
Military Museum 2 Le Duan, D1
Opera House Lam Son Square, D1
Notre Dame Cathedral Han Thuyen, D1**

Refer to my blog sidebar
Vietnamese Tourism online assistance
Saigon Tourist Information Centre 4G-4H Le Lot St at Nguyen Hue

As with all recommendations, I am constantly seeking out new ones. If you have any you would like to recommend, please leave a comment or write to me...
Thank you for reading along!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ebb and Flow...of life in Saigon

Daydreaming...along the Saigon River

It is hard to believe that I last wrote on this blog at the beginning of June. I had good intentions of writing a few posts before leaving for a summer trip to the USA but like all good intentions, something else seemed to take precedent. But I am back, after a ten week visit that was all consumed with building a house...and visiting family and friends and relaxing at a cabin along a mountain ridge between trips to the local pond where I magically disappeared from all reach as I glided along in my kayak. It was on the pond, between the strokes, that I thought of my travels along the Saigon River. I wished I could take my kayak and glide along as effortlessly on the Saigon River as I did on the pond in the mountain region of New Hampshire. I will hold that thought for a maybe someday, if the conditions are right...and I can find a kayak. 

Last paddle of the summer...New Hampshire.

Until then, I am going to focus on settling back into Saigon. A friend asked how it feels to go from a peaceful country retreat to the beep beep, bang bang...craziness of  Saigon. I say 'bang, bang' because from every side of our home for as far as the eye can see there seems to be a construction project of some shape or form. The amazing thing about the construction process here is that they work 24/7...with the same intensity and noise during those 24 hours. I am going to admit that it is a bit unnerving at times but that is only because I am just a few days off the plane so to speak. As time goes by, you absorb the sounds and sights until you accept them, until you do not hear them anymore. You adjust and's just the way in Vietnam. 

Ho Chi Minh City is bustling and busy and crazy and wild and so rich in life and culture that you can't help but embrace it...but it takes a few days to get acclimated and the best way to do that is to take it in slowly with open eyes and acceptance. Fight it and you are done for.

So...I am taking it in slowly,
moving with the ebb and flow 
as I assimilate back into life in Vietnam.

It's the little things 
that bring you back into the fold...

Like the curbside barber and the man 
playing games on his phone as the blade 
moves steadily along his face.

and the smile that you can't resist 
as you notice that
the flowers planted before you left...
are gracing the walls of your home 
at a pace faster than you imagined.

and that first whiff of steam coming from a 
bowl of homemade chicken pho.
The one you secretly wished for on more 
than one occasion from a cabin
along a mountainside in New Hampshire
 for the past ten weeks.

You smile as you always do when you see the 
feats of skill with each passing motorbike. 
They stack them high and hope for the best 
and in most cases it works.

You wonder if you should do it or not...take that
100th photo of a lotus flower growing in your garden 
and post it on Instagram for the 100th time...
and you do,
just because you love lotus flowers and hope
your followers do too.

You can't resist words of wisdom and decide
the relevance of these words is spot on 
to what you are feeling now.
Be the Windmill...
yes, I shall be the Windmill.
I can be be the Windmill, 
I am the Windmill.

The winds of change are blowing through...
one day at a time.
I can be the Windmill, because I have a 
happy Buddha watching over me. 
And when you have a happy Buddha 
watching over you...
anything is possible. 

The mind is everything,
what you think you become.