Adventures as Miss Saigon

Archive for December 2010

Obviously, when I decided to move to the other side of the world, I knew there would be many things I would quickly miss…my family, friends and dog top that list.

Just over three months into this year long journey, there are many things that I’m now missing that may have caught me off guard…things that I didn’t realize I was so attached to at home…

  • the freedom of having a car…although transportation is cheap and easily accessible here, I miss being able to just jump in my Civic and go.
  • seasons! It’s difficult to keep track of the months when the weather is more or less the same everyday…hot, hot, hot! I actually miss the routine of snow (waking up early to scrape off the Civic, repeatedly cleaning off the Civic throughout the work day, unexpected and always welcomed snow days), the comfort of seeing your breath on a cold winter day, and most of all, I miss wearing sweaters, scarves and toques!
  • “regular” food…I rarely eat meat here (the girls I work and hang around with here are all vegetarians and I don’t necessarily trust the meat in Vietnam) and I’ve been trying to indulge in Asian cuisine (which is all very delicious), but I really do miss my mom’s home cooking! I already have a list in the works of the meals I want to eat when I get home!
  • living in the same time zone as my family and friends…12 hours makes if difficult to connect with people at home some times.
  • music…at home, it was natural for me to always be listening to the radio or my iTunes, downloading new music whenever the mood strikes, and going to live shows on a regular basis. Here, I have to go out of my way to listen to music – my computer is becoming slower and fussier by the day making listening to iTunes challenging, internet in Vietnam is mostly just slow, so downloading music is rare, and although Wendy and I went to Loretofest, it will never completely fill my Trews void!

On the flip side, there are things I already know I will miss about life in Vietnam when I do finally return to Canada…

  • palm trees and the many other joys of living in a tropical climate! I hate wearing socks, so constant sandal weather is perfectly okay with me!
  • the cost of living and traveling in Vietnam and Southeast Asia…I make similar money to what I made at home, but instead of going paycheck to paycheck in order to afford the lifestyle I was comfortable with, here, I can afford that lifestyle, can afford to travel almost every weekend, and can also save.
  • delicious, amazing, cheap, fresh food…simply changing how and what I eat here (due to availability and personal choices) has caused me to lose approximately 30lbs in the 3 months I’ve been here. And, the best part is, I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed anything.

Despite the homesickness roller coaster and all of my Canadian comforts that I’m really missing, I’m still trying to focus on enjoying my time here…I’m aware that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I don’t want to miss anything. Three months has never gone by faster and slower at the exact same time.

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How did I miss this?!

So, I’m a little behind in blogging…As Vietnam becomes more my life at the current time than just some crazy experience/vacation of sorts, blogging has become more difficult (that combined with slow internet and an aging computer). But, I began this blog for me – as a way to document my year here, not only physically (traveling, etc) but emotionally too.

Bear with me while I attempt to catch up on the past week and a half of my life here…

First, let me start off with a big happy 3rd birthday to my furbaby, Lexi! And an even bigger thank you to my mom and sister for humouring me and throwing Lexi a little party.

the birthday furball

December 11 saw Wendy and I sitting in a grassy field in front of a massive stage and surrounded by pretty much every westerner in HCMC. Loretofest‘s advertising is what got us – “a combination of great wine, superb food, soft blankets, childrens activities, fresh grass and outdoor music”. What more could two music loving Canucks want in the middle of December? Our $25 entrance tickets included coupons that we used for three beers (plus we purchased a few more $1 beers throughout the night), and all the entertainment we could handle. From Vietnamese boy bands in matching outfits with choreographed dance moves singing Christmas carols, to a tiny female Vietnamese rapper, to Wendy‘s favourite – Wagons, an Australian country-rock band who had us off the fresh grass and enjoying their music a few feet from the stage with their cheers of “Ho Chi madness”, this music festival had it all. We went with no expectations and came home with our concert void temporarily filled!

adorable Vietnamese boy band

a practically naked Vietnemese pop star

rocking out with Wagons

cute Wagons member

concert going Canucks

The next day, Wendy and I were off again…this time shopping and wandering around downtown in District 1. A trip to the post office, DVD shopping and some other wandering around before meeting up with Laura and Zuzana for lunch. Zuzana was heading home the following day after being in Vietnam for 3 months. After lunch, Wendy and I tagged along as support for Laura and Zuzana who were Christmas shopping and buying presents for their families (Laura is also headed home in January to see her family). As much fun as it was to shop and help Laura and Zuzana find what they were looking for, I found it very difficult to keep myself from getting excited about buying things for my family, and talking about when I get to go home…I still have 8 months left to get through before I get to see my friends and family at home.

Last week seemed to be a long week…Monday seemed like Friday, Tuesday seemed like Friday…you get the idea. Maybe it was due to having a busy weekend and not fully “recharging” before heading back to work, or maybe because I was so looking forward to going on vacation the following week (this Friday!), but we eventually made it to Friday night…

Friday night, I met up with Laura and Wendy for a long overdue ladies night. We started with Christmas pedis – snowflakes and glitter snow for me, riding down the street with the three of us piled on Laura’s motorbike, sushi for dinner, followed by Christmas movies – my traditional Muppet Family Christmas that the girls kindly sat through (and maybe even enjoyed a little!), and the only other Christmas movie we had – Love Actually. And although both movies did help to get me in the Christmas spirit (I woke up the next morning with Muppet Christmas songs in my head), it was difficult to get through them without tearing up while thinking about my family and friends and what I would be missing at home this year. I’ve been fairly homesick at times over the past few weeks (usually Sunday nights)…along with it being my 3 month mark here, the Christmas season isn’t helping the homesickness. Also not helping is when my sister answers my Skype call with “I miss you”…I miss you too kiddo!

snowflake toes

Saturday morning, the three of us headed into District 1 again to do some more shopping – Laura has a Christmas list to finish up, and I don’t think Wendy and I will ever turn down a day of shopping! We started our morning at the travel center, booking flights to Bangkok Thailand, Hue and Hoi An (in central Vietnam), as well as our bus to Cambodia, and a weekend trip to Mekong Delta. All of these flights/bookings only set me back around $300usd…it’s amazing how much you can do here for such little money! There are a whole bunch of other trips penciled in on the calendar to keep time moving quickly…

I have three more work days this week before Wendy, Laura and I leave for Phu Quoc Island (in Vietnam) early on Friday morning. We should be on the beach by 9am, and are spending 3 days/2 nights on the island for Christmas, heading home Sunday night. Early Monday morning, we head down to District 1 to catch our bus to Cambodia, where we will be for 7 days/6 nights, including New Years Eve. Our Cambodia trip includes two days in Phnom Penh, and the rest will be spent on the beach. I’m definitely looking forward to relaxing in the sun on the beach for 10 days!

Merry Christmas!!!

Hospital visits, drinks with friends, and desperately needed sleep pretty much sums up my past week.

After coming home from Singapore, I decided that it was time to get my cough and cold checked out at FV Hospital. Dr Google diagnosed me with a sinus infection, so at the hospital, that’s what I told them. The doctor wanted to send me for a chest x-ray and face x-ray. After politely declining this several times, I asked for antibiotics. He hummed and hawed, telling me I was just like the Vietnamese, and explaining that I could buy antibiotics over the counter without a prescription here! What a crazy crazy country…also crazy is walking away with 4 prescriptions!

Despite not feeling 100% this week, or being able to hear 100% (my ear is still plugged from flying this past weekend), it was a busy week! I got a pedi at a new place on the main street here, and I will definitely go back there again! They had comfy chairs for pedicures, and created a fancy design on my toes, all for $4usd!

my latest pedi design

This week, Evans came to town for less than 12 hours. Evans is my aunt’s friend’s son, who moved to this country around the same time that I started talking about moving here. We’d never actually met before, but exchanged emails and text messages, and I was looking forward to hanging out with another Canuck. I met him at the airport, and after dropping off his bags at my apartment, we headed down to the backpacker’s district (in district 1) for a late dinner and drinks. We ended up having dinner at LePub, where trivia night was being held. We did embarrassingly bad on trivia (even the Canadian category) and had to sneak out with our heads down before the trivia was over. We then headed to Go2 for more drinks, laughs and watching the street chaos. After a late night and too many drinks, Evans headed off for the airport at 7:30am on his way to Da Nang, and I was on my way to work. Hopefully he comes back to explore HCMC for more than 12 hours next time!

Evans at LePub

Friday night found me out for dinner with Wendy, Laura, Tony and his wife Trang. On the menu was delicious Vietnamese roadside seafood BBQ! It was quite the experience – from sitting on tiny plastic stools in front of a tiny plastic table to trying weird and wonderful seafood that I never would have tried before. I’m pretty sure I tried it all – crab, clams, oysters, snails and other underwater creatures. Can’t wait to do it again!

instead of a dinner menu, just point to the basket!

a view inside from our table outside

cooking dinner

yummy seafood

The rest of my time this week has been spent sleeping and trying to regain my health. Saturday was very unproductive, but completely relaxing. I’m hoping for a productive Sunday, so I better get off to bed!

lots of sleep...with the Lexi pillow my sis made me as a going away present!

To prove that we weren’t holding a grudge against Singapore after eating there made us all violently ill, Wendy and I flew back to the city/country last weekend. After getting off to a rough start (our plane was delayed almost 4 hours, making us miss our hostel check in), catching a few hours of sleep/quiet time at our “regular” spot in the Singapore airport (pretty pathetic when you’ve spent just as much time in the Singapore airport as you have in Singapore itself), we took a taxi into Little India (near where our hostel was located) at 6am. Our mission for this weekend trip was to indulge in as much shopping, fabulous foods and other Western luxuries not available in Vietnam, so we started off our trip the best way we could – with a visit to the 5 storey Mustafa Centre, a 24 hour shopping center. This place sold everything, and Wendy and I had a great time wandering the aisles and making a few random purchases (Wendy’s ring watch was by far the best!) before we set out to find our hostel.

On our walk through Little India to our hostel, we stumbled upon one of the coolest buildings I think I’ve ever seen. The former confectionery house turned yoga studio was vibrant and colourful, and looked even more incredible set against the bright blue sky and morning sun. Finally at 9am, our hostel (set above a small Australian pub in Little India) opened and we were able to get a few hours of sleep before our shopping fun began again!

buildings in Little India

colourful creation

more of the colourful creation

colours, colours...everywhere!

I'm now obsessed with colourful buildings

palm trees and pretty colours

With our sights set on finding a delicious lunch, we hoped on the MRT (mass rapid transit) and wandered in and out and past malls searching for a specific Chinese vegetarian restaurant. After finally locating it, we sat down for a wonderful (and expensive) lunch! But one can’t put a price on a meal that doesn’t end up giving you food poisoning!

veg pineapple rice...yum yum!

The afternoon was spent sipping sweet treats from Starbucks, browsing and buying in real malls, and taking in all the Christmas sights. One of the sweet treat highlights was a Singaporean ice cream sandwich, which they apparently take quite literally!

mmmmStarbucks...guess I won't be growing younger this year!

Christmas in S'pore

calm traffic and Christmas trees

lots and lots of Christmas trees

ferrero rocher feeling festive

Wendy getting her ice cream sandwich

Singapore's take on the ice cream sandwich...an ice cream bar wrapped in a piece of colourful bread!

At night, we wandered around Clarke Quay, and headed for dinner at one of the well known hawker centers. A hawker center in Singapore is an open air food court, with delicious cheap eats. Compared to our $25 lunch, my dinner of chicken rice cost $4. Saving on this meal allowed me to splurge on an $18 Singapore Sling drink back in Clarke Quay when we revisited after dinner.

Clarke Quay

building with colourfully lit windows by Clarke Quay

dinner at a hawker's center

one of the bars in Clarke Quay...waitresses as nurses, wheelchairs were seats, and drinks came in IV bags hung from poles...check out the prices!

Wendy at the bar we picked to have drinks at...for the music that was playing!

my $18 Singapore Sling...it was worth it!

In a “just because we can” moment, we decided to walk back to the Marina Bay area after a taxi driver told us because we were foreigners that we could get into the casino for free (it costs Singaporeans $100 if they want to go in), and that we could also access the observation area at the top of the boat building (this massive boat set across three towers on the far side of the bay). I lost $2 in the slot machines, and we lost hope that we could get up to the top of the boat pretty quickly. It was only upon getting into a taxi to take us back to the hostel that we realized we weren’t even in the right building! Our taxi driver did try to comfort us by telling us that it would have cost us $20 each to get up to the top!

Marina Bay skyline at night

Back at the hostel, we settled in for a good night’s sleep, and woke up relaxed and refreshed the next morning. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hostel before heading out again. A quick tour of Chinatown, and back to more shops! Before heading back to the airport, we stopped at the Expo center to check out a flea market that Wendy had heard about. Two dresses were purchased there, one for Ms Wendy, and one for my dog…as a joke and because finding dog things in Asia is proving to be difficult! Then it was off to the airport on MRT to repack our bags with all of our purchases, and check into what we would soon discover was another delayed flight. With close to 4 hours to kill in the Singapore airport, we found some dinner, got another Starbucks and relaxed. We officially shopped until we dropped! Singapore was very good to us the second time around!

Chinese medicine shop in Chinatown where I made some purchases

temple in Chinatown

another temple in the distance

in Chinatown

more colours in Chinatown

Chinatown