Adventures as Miss Saigon

Archive for October 2010

It was only a matter of time before I had to do a post on the unbelievable things that I’ve seen in this country, specifically relating to motorbikes! Unfortunately, I either never have my camera with me or I’m not quick enough to capture the magic. Therefore, any of this images in this blog are thanks to Google image search, but I promise they are pretty close to what I’ve actually seen!

It’s pretty typical here to spot motorbikes loaded up with various products, toys, large bottles of water, or crates of beer.

heavy load

beer crates

A few weeks ago, I spotted 2 people riding on a one seat bicycle. The amazing part was that each of them were working a pedal! Coming home from the airport after our trip to Singapore, we saw a girl riding side saddle on the back of a motorbike fast asleep. Incredibly, she managed to stay balanced and upright!

picture the girl on the back fast asleep...

Today was an exceptional day for motorbike madness! On my way to work this afternoon, I saw a man with a plastic pet carrier (small dog inside) bungee cord-ed to the back of his motorbike. I couldn’t help but laugh imagining my bundle of energy, Lexi, bouncing around on the back of a motorbike! Right behind the motorbike with the pet carrier, was an even more impressive load.

yup, 3 mattresses on the back of a motorbike!

This is so similar to the motorbike I saw, piled high with 3 mattresses, except the one I saw also had a pillow strapped to the very top of the pile! Talented and crazy, Vietnam drivers prove you don’t need a pickup truck to haul items around town! (Mom, the trunk of your Civic is looking pretty big now, eh?)

As a side note, I had my first awkward line of questioning from a taxi driver on my way home tonight. He started speaking to me in Vietnamese, and when he saw the look of panic on my face, he attempted English. It started off innocently…where you from? You work here? How long? When you go home? Then it got more personal…you come here with family? You married? Why you not married? No kids? Thankfully it stopped before he asked my age, weight or income!

…but I didn’t want to!

After finally recovering from food poisoning, I have had the most amazing couple of days. On Wednesday, my supervisor, Tony, came for a visit to my afternoon session. We were at the school playing and J was in a fantastic mood. Tony gave great suggestions and feedback, and on the way home, we stopped for a quick drink at the tavern. Tony and I had a good chat about J’s program and the future of ABA in Vietnam. I think if Tony had his way, he’d like to see me stay here and be a part of building ABA here with him and Laura. And as much as I’d love to, this girl needs to return to Canada come September 2011. It would be an incredible career opportunity to stay here, but it’s just too far from home.

On Thursday evening, I met Wendy for a ca phe sua da at a little cafe near our apartments. Paris (the cafe) is complete with a mini Eiffel tower and the comfiest hanging chairs I’ve ever sat in. If Wendy’s not at home, we know to check the hanging chairs at Paris, where she will likely be found curled up with her current book. Wendy and I had a great chat and laugh about our previous weekend in S’pore.

Friday evening, Wendy and I went out for comfort food…pasta at an Italian restaurant right by our apartments! It was satisfying on so many levels…the restaurant atmosphere, the plateful of carbs and the great company were all wonderful! After dinner, we headed to Laura’s to plan our trip to Cambodia, which is taking place right after Christmas, and is where we will spend New Years Eve. We should have learned from our issues when booking a hotel in Phu Quoc Island for Christmas…it’s a peak travel season, even in Asia! Getting a place to stay in Phnom Penh won’t be an issue, but one of our island destinations was already booked up. We’re now hoping to book into Jonty’s Jungle Camp for a few nights before heading to Tranquility Guesthouse on Serendipity Beach in Cambodia to celebrate New Years Eve.

Chris and Carly a few months ago celebrating Chris' birthday...I'm pretending they were here celebrating mine!

Yesterday was my 26th birthday (and also J’s 3rd birthday, although I think our celebrations were VERY different!) Birthday cards arrived from my extended family on Wednesday and Thursday, and I was so excited to open them! I’ve never cried while opening birthday cards before, but it meant so much to me to get all these cards. Saturday was really all about me. I slept in, spent all morning and part of the afternoon on Skype catching up with so many people. At 3, Wendy and Laura came over and we went to the salon that’s almost directly outside the door to my apartment building. Laura had her hair cut, shampooed, styled, a massage and a face mask for $10! I opted to get a pedi, complete with a hand painted flower design, for a mere $3! I can’t wait to go back for more pampering!

$3 pedi...amazing!

From there, we met Tony and his lovely wife, Trang, at the tavern for a few drinks before heading out for Japanese dinner. Dinner was unbelievable, and my first taste of raw fish! I had tuna, salmon, octopus, shrimp and eel, and it was all washed down with sake. The rest of the night was spent drinking and dancing at a club called Lush, and then more drinks back at the tavern, where we closed the bar. I was spoiled rotten by Tony, Trang, Laura, Wendy and Zuzana. Not only did they treat me to dinner and drinks, but also gave me a spa gift certificate!

Laura and I at Lush

Tony and Trang at Lush

"dancing machine" Wendy and the boys at Lush

Me and Laura at the tavern...Laura deleted most of my pictures so these are the only ones I have!

karaoke queen at the tavern

I’m really loving life in Vietnam right now. Work with J is going really well, I’m surrounded by amazing people, we have so many travel plans in the works, and most importantly, things seem to be going well at home in Canada. I don’t think I could ask for anything more! 6 weeks down…!

yes, I did get a drink named for me last night! Andy, at the tavern, renamed the "mudslide" the "megslide" and said it would stay there forever and ever!

On Friday night, Wendy, Laura and I flew to Singapore for what was to be a full weekend of shopping, site seeing and relaxing back in civilization. We arrived at our hostel at around 2am, and quietly got into our bunk beds. The next morning, we got up, walked around the marina (complete with a stop at Starbucks), made a quick shopping visit to Orchard Road, had lunch in Little India, and then took a cab to the Singapore Zoo (one of the top zoos in the world).

Merlion statue

Merlion statue and Singapore skyline

civilization

seahorse hanging from a taxi driver's mirror

beautiful colours in Little India

The zoo was absolutely incredible! It’s a 28 hectare, open concept zoo, meaning most of the animals aren’t in cages – some roam free, others have cleverly constructed areas using moats and other natural looking barriers. It was so amazing to get so close to animals that I would typically never encounter. We spent 4 or 5 hours walking around (and surprisingly covered the majority of the zoo). Some of the animal highlights (for me at least) were feeding the giraffes, getting face to face with lemurs and flying foxes in the fragile forest, the free ranging orangutans, and the many many many monkeys (chimpanzees, proboscis monkeys, cotton-top tamarin, hamadryas baboons, and more). I had a hard time picking out only a few pictures to post from our trip to the zoo. It was the first time I’ve had a “real” chance to test out the camera I bought before coming to Vietnam, and it was really worth the money! Thanks to Nancy for all her help with picking it out!

I think this guy is a gibbon

orangutans in a tree

proboscis monkey hiding his big nose

ducks swimming with the stingrays

mousedeer...not a mouse and not a deer

relaxed, tongue out

sunbathing

face to face with the flying fox

face to face with the flying fox

ring-tailed lemurs running around our feet

hanging out

giraffe

giraffe waiting to be fed

me feeding the giraffes carrots

zebra

orangutans in the trees

baby orangutan in a tree

orangutan in a tree

feeding time for the orangutans...I want this guy's job!

baby orangutan

baby orangutan

orangutans

baby orangutan

baby orangutan

Wendy and the orangutans

kangaroo

kangaroo

Laura the live animal

feeding time for the baboons

momma and baby baboon

baboon hanging out

one of the most entertaining monkeys at the zoo...I think this is a douc langur

cotton-top tamarin

The animal fun did not stop there. After the zoo closed at 6pm, we headed next door to the Night Safari! It’s a 40 hectare forested park where you can see nocturnal animals. Lucky for us, it also happened to be a Halloween event! We took the 40 minute tram ride around the park, where we were spooked by people in costumes and spotted many animals that were actually roaming free. After the tram, we did the walking trails that the tram doesn’t take you on. Highlights included the Asian elephants, walking through the fruit bat enclosure, and watching the hyenas as they looked to be planning their jump across the small moat separating them from the rest of the park. Also, the fire eating performance was incredible – felt more like we were at a chippendales show!

Wendy, Laura and I on the tram at Night Safari

fire eating stunts

fire eating stunts

fire eating stunts

Unfortunately that night, all three of us became violently ill with what we can only guess is food poisoning. We spent the night lying on the kitchen floor of the hostel, taking turns in the one bathroom and trying not to wake the rest of the people in the hostel. I’ll spare you all the details, but it was a real bonding experience and totally ruined our plans for Sunday in Singapore. Instead of more shopping and site seeing, we spent the day sleeping on the floor at the Singapore airport. Not exactly a great end to our first trip together, but at least we’ll always have the Singapore Zoo!

A Vietnamese squirrel ran across my path while I was on the way home from work today…I didn’t have my camera with me, but it looked something like this…

yes, I know it's a rat...

…doesn’t mean something exciting happens to me everyday! My last blog seems like ages ago, so I figured it was time to update…here goes!

After a few days off work last week to recover from my illness, I started back to work on Wednesday. On Thursday night, my three coworkers, my supervisor’s consultant (who was in town for the week) and I had the pleasure of being invited out to an amazing dinner by my supervisor and his wife. We met downtown at Go2 (anyone else sensing a pattern?) and then piled in a taxi for a quick ride to the restaurant. My supervisor and his wife ordered many different dishes – I tried most of them (being a flexitarian I will eat almost anything) but had to draw the line at the duck tongue! One of my coworkers and I were also a little hesitant with the plate of whole fish that was brought out, but happily ate them after our supervisor bit the heads off for us! We were also treated to a special dessert made by a legend. My supervisor’s wife bought cakes from this lady who has been making cakes here for 30 years. She wakes up at 4am to bake, and then sells her cakes on the street. They were incredible! Such a fantastic meal, great company and wonderful experience – can’t thank my supervisor and his wife enough for a great night out!

 

beer with ice...the only way to keep it cool in HCMC! photo credit to Zuzana

 

 

in case you don't know what this is...it's duck tongue! photo credit to Zuzana

 

It’s now Monday evening here, and it’s been raining for the past three days straight. There have been floods in central Vietnam and many people have been killed. And today, for the third time in my life (and also in the past week) I have narrowly avoided stepping on a toad. Today, I also had my first xe om ride in the rain, complete with a two headed poncho!

Friday night, two of my coworkers and I begin our travels – destination Singapore! We’ve booked in at a hostel for our two nights, and other than that, our itinerary is open!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home in Canada! I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it until I’m actually missing it! My mom’s already promised me a turkey dinner when I get home…or maybe that was the prescription pain meds talking? 🙂

At home, whenever I was too sick to go to work, my day would be spent curled up in bed with my dog, Lexi, beside me. Skyping with her (yes, with a dog) doesn’t really make up for sick day snuggles, but it’s a start.

Despite the rain here on Saturday morning, one of the girls and I decided to venture down to District 1. We wandered through the streets, made a few purchases, and stopped at Go2 for a drink, where our supervisor happened to find us. It’s so weird, in a city of over 7 million people, that we could run into one of the few people we know here.

Our time in District 1 was spent sightseeing, walking the streets and taking pictures. We also made a stop at a place serving delicious New Zealand ice cream, and then made our way to dinner. Our first choice of dining spots (courtesy of LP) was sadly closed for renovations. The backup plan was this vegetarian restaurant (also courtesy of LP), where we happened to dine with monks and other locals. We laughed at the vegetarian menu (with items such as noodles with beef and meat surprise), but soon realized that all items were in fact tofu.

People's Committee Building (Hotel de Ville)

View of the People's Committee Building from the top of the Rex Hotel

View from the top of the Rex Hotel, looking away from the People's Committee Building

What's that I see in the distance?

The Lancaster! (this is for Nanny)

Notre Dame Cathedral

The main post office beside the Notre Dame Cathedral

The main post office

I feel like we're at the circus...

...oh, we are at the circus!

Now, with all this talk of hospital stays and medical issues at home, I must have been feeling left out. I woke up this morning with a headache, fever, swollen throat and body aches. Deciding to nip this bud, I made a trip to FV Hospital – where thankfully the doctors and staff speak English. My little guy, J, had been sick last week, so I wasn’t surprised that I might have caught something from him. After an hour in the hospital, a $62USD hospital bill, a trip to the pharmacy and $10USD in medications, I’m now at home for a few days. Diagnosis – tonsillitis. Oh Vietnam, why do you hate me? I just want to be friends!

FV hospital