Sunday, 30 January 2011

Tet

Almost ready for Tet

Tet is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. It coincides with Chinese New Year. And it totally closes Ho Chi Minh City down. The government in fact declared a 6-day holiday, from January 31 through February 7. Everyone celebrates with their family, and most shops and restaurants are closed down for most of the week too. We were advised to get out for a break.

So we decided to slum it out and go to Bali for the week. I am writing this from the poolside of our private villa there. Life is hard...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Rain in the Dry Season?

This was supposed to be the (relatively) cool and dry month of January, well into the dry season. Clear skies and no rain. Well, I've seen clear blue skies only once since arriving - this morning. And both yesterday and this afternoon it rained... Not much, more like an English drizzle than tropical rain, but still. Global warming?

Still Raining

This is a shot from last October in Singapore, but it could have been taken here yesterday:-)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Australia Day

Yesterday, we went to the Australia Day event here in Ho Chi Minh City, sponsored by the Australian Chamber of Commerce. There was a slight shortage of Australians (maybe because it was 4 days early?). And that included the entertainment:

Australia Day

Juram and His Band, I believe. Not bad at all, by the way.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Vietnamese Coffee

I am surprised there is no Starbucks here yet. Vietnam must be the perfect country for them - there really is a coffee house culture. And it is not limited to a coffee: breakfast buffet, lunch menu, cakes, ice cream, you name it. They're places to hang out, and to see and be seen.

Luckily, most have true Vietnamese coffee - a slow drip, brewed at your table, and very strong. A bit like Turkish coffee without the deposit (I am probably insulting two countries now). You can get it hot, but also iced, which means you also get a glass of ice to poor the coffee over. Tasty. In almost all places, you also get free and endless supply iced tea. Though once I got hot tea with my hot coffee; the rest of the place got ice tea with their cold drinks.

Vietnamese Coffee

To get back to Starbucks: the biggest chain (Highlands Coffee) is very similar to Starbucks. Espresso drinks only (allegedly they have drip coffee, but they are always out), about $2 - $3. Not the best place for local colour (though it is filled with locals). My favourite chain is Trung Nguyen (eight different roasts of Vietnamese coffee, and cool places) but I also like trying all the independent places. Spoilt for choice.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ho Chi Minh City Rush Hour

In case you đid not think the Saturday night traffic was manic, here's a shorter video of rush hour traffic.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

For those who follow me: Smart Phones (Part 1)

The good news: you can get 3G data on your smart phone, even on a prepaid account (which is all you can get without bank account etc.). And it is cheap. Data charges are about $12 for 3.5GB at decent speed, and are capped at about $25 (all per month). Calls are about $0.06/min. Call quality and data speeds here seem comparable to the UK, if not better.
The bad news: adding these services is done by sending multiple SMSes to a service number, or dialing odd numbers like **61*980#. Instructions are an outdated and Google Translated Vietnamese text and/or depend on the (helpful) local operator staff. Keep Google Translate handy for the responses from the system:-) The opposite approach to the endless different calling plans on offer in the UK, but equally complicated and intimidating.

Then I kept receiving Vietnamese invites to gamble on UK Premier League matches, and pop-ups with live Entertainment news. A Google search found this, which solved the problem. (It is a SIM Application; on my phone at Settings > Phone > SIM Applications > LiveInfo.)
Getting voice mail going is an ongoing battle. So that'll be part 2.

To lighten up matters, I'll end with a nice picture of the traffic here. This one's from last October (rainy season).

Cyclist in the rain

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Night Traffic

Here is a slightly too long video of Saturday night traffic in Ho Chi Minh city centre. Lots of families coming to see the lights for the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet). This is not nearly as manic as rush hour:-)

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Electronics Shopping

Went shopping for some electronics last week. Not quite the same as stepping into Curry's or Best Buy.
Elegant shopper

At the entrance you will be greeted by some multimedia system proving there is an 11 on the volume knob. For example, I bought a mobile phone at Wonderbuy, where I had to shout over a well attended screening of King Kong.

The phone then turned out to come with a case of Heineken, a tombola ticket, and a scratch ticket. No luck, only a sponge was added to the beer. I didn't take the offered opportunities to share the case with the locals on the way home. Another missed opportunity to integrate...

At Nguyen Kim it was a battle scene of Pearl Harbour making any communication other than with hand and feet impossible. At least it drowned out all the big screen TVs also blaring at 100% volume.

Paying and picking up the goods is also an interesting event, involving multiple tickets and receipts, and usually three different counters (select, pay, and pick-up). Luckily I've always found someone speaking decent English.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Good Morning Vietnam!

I have relocated to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Good Morning Vietnam!

I will be posting some of my experiences in this vibrant and exciting country, together with some pictures. I may even try to incorporate some general photographic stuff...

I am looking forward to spending an exciting time here!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Goodbye UK, Goodnight London

After a long break from blogging, I am going to give it another go. This post is a little overdue - I am no longer a Dutchman in London. But here's an 'announcement' anyway.

Goodbye UK!
Leaving

And Goodnight London
Good Night London...