Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cat Tien National Park

I'm be going on a week-long field trip with our 8th grade students to Cat Tien National Park this week.

Cat Tien is located in the Dong Nai province of Vietnam, northeast from Ho Chi Minh about 180 kilometers.

I'm excited for the trip and have heard from teachers that went last year that it's a lot of fun. It should be really good for the students to see the 'country' and get to another part of Vietnam. ...For many of them, it's their first time away from home! I've even given a student my cell # to give to her parents... she's a bit worried.  :P

Postings will be stalled for 4 days, as I don't think I'll have Internet access in Cat Tien... but I'll post photos when I return!

Street food fun...

Durians (the really smelly fruit) must be in season now because they are all over! 

I found one of my favorite street snack carts today! 
...The roasted banana in coconut tapioca sauce. Mmmmm...

(Sprinkling sesame seeds over the top...)

Then I was on the hunt for a roasted popcorn cart... and I found one! 
This lady was super sweet; 
she seemed to like my attempts at Vietnamese... 
gave me a fair price... 
and then proceeded to try and sell me everything else on her bike o' goods!

I didn't really know where I was after the roasted popcorn bicycle on a side street... so I drove around a bit, turned right at one point... and luckily found myself near the river! Across the river, I saw the temple (shown below) that's in my neighborhood... perrrrfect! I like that I'm at a point in which I can drive for a bit and (usually) run into a spot that's familiar enough to me to find my way to a specified destination.

Street meat

I drive through a couple street markets on my way to school (and the gym... like this Sunday morning)...

The big building you can see in the distance is the Manor -- a huge apartment building down the street from my school and where I work out...

I usually try to look straight ahead as I make my way through the crowded streets, as the street meat isn't my favorite... (in sight nor smell)...

I feel like we're kind of buddies...

I pass this guy in the wheelchair every morning on my way to work. Some afternoons I'll see him wheeling around the market near my neighborhood. He sits and sleeps under this bridge (not sure how... as it's really noisy). Usually his head is hanging off the side of his chair...

I wonder if he was in the war... it's crazy to realize how recent it all was... and how many people around me have a background with the war...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dog on bike

This dog was just chillin' on the side of Hai Ba Trung this Saturday morning...

...There are so many random bicycles and motorbikes weighted down 
by various items to be sold! You never know when or where you'll find 
that specific 'something' you've been looking for.

Friday, February 24, 2012


I love the pho place in my neighborhood -- Pho Van. I had been in search of a good pho place in my area... and one day I saw a new sign going up stating it was the "best pho in town"... and the next day the place was open! They understand me when I ask for vegetarian pho ("pho an chay") AND even gave me takeaway one night... all for about $1.25 -- Perrrrfect.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Art Hair: Beautiful and Spa

Quite the sign...

...Too scared to brave a local salon for a haircut ...I took off about 4 inches myself.  :P  Good thing the curls hide the lack of knowledge in this area!

Neon green

The light in my bathroom went out... and Mr. Nhan replaced it for me...

Uhhh. No likey.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


The main street in my neighborhood, Phan Xich Long, is filled with hotels... the "Phuc Vu Hotel"...

Most of them, however, are not hotels I would ever like to experience... 
as they have hourly rates. Hmmmm. 

Here, 1 hour is 50,000 dong (about $2.50)... 
or stay for 2 hours and it's just 70,000 (...breaking the bank at $3.50).

A few doors down, Hotel Cali is a bit more expensive...

...But Cali 2 is cheaper!...
Qua dem means 'overnight' ...$7.50

Hmmm... actually, I don't think the Cali 2 fared too well...
Good thing there's a 24/24 next door!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Street sleeping... way of life

All over the city, you can find cyclo and xe om drivers taking a nap...

Some really settle in...

I love to find them reading too!

Ca phe sua da

Mmmmm... every now and then I love a ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk). Sometimes the coffee will come ready-to-drink... but this time I got the drip form with hot coffee and then you pour it over the ice...

...The condensed milk makes it taste more like a milkshake than an iced coffee!

...And some good lookin' parking guys across the street!

Monday, February 20, 2012

My new air guy...

I've been meaning to put air in the tires of my motorbike for a few days now...

On the way back into my neighborhood tonight I saw an air pump on the side of the street! -- Perfect!

I worked my way over to the right and comically backed-up about 1/2 a block... said, "Xin chao!" to the guy standing there... and pointed at the air pump and then to my tires.

A different guy came running up... I realized that he was the guy who owned the air pump... so I said "Xin chao!" to him... and "Xin loi" [sorry] to the other guy.

WELL... my bits of Vietnamese put the guy into a fit of giggles! He kept laughing and repeating xin chao and xin loi to the first guy as he put air into the tires.

He then told me it would be 2,000d for each tire (or so I think that's what he was telling me... and that's what it usually is... which is about 10 cents). I nodded and said, "Yeah... hai and hai" (the only Vietnamese word in that 'sentence' was the number 2 - hai... but again, he burst into excited giggles).

The guy then started saying something to me in a burst of Vietnamese... to which I gave him the 'Vietnamese shake' and said, "I don't know what that means!"

When I paid him the 4,000d, I said, "Han gap lai!" [See you again]... which just put the guy over the edge! He LOVED it. He yelled to me as I sped off... "See you again!"

...I know where I'm going for air next time... this guy was awesome AND appreciated my attempts with the limited Vietnamese I do know.   :)


I don't think I'll ever get tired of being called "Madame"!

...That's a piece of the French influence in Vietnam that I love.   :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I drove past the beginning of a cockfight and had to pull over to get some pictures (...a mixture of feeling as if I didn't want to see what was going to happen and can I pass this by without getting it on camera?! ...I got a few pictures and drove on before things got nasty.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Banana cyclo

Banana cyclo!

Bicycle truck...

Pretty floor in Highlands Coffee  :P

Heading down to the parking garage in the Manor...
(I liked this squashed flower... Nina thought that was kind of weird)  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Co Ba Vung Tau - restaurant

Patrice took me to a fabulous Vietnamese restaurant the other night! It's located in District 3 - just west of where I live. I'll definitely be back here soon.  :)

We ordered banh xeo (literally meaning, 'sizzled cake')... a thin pancake stuffed with whatever you order (Patrice got a mushroom one... mine had shrimp, sprouts, and onions). ...You tear a piece off, wrap it in a piece of lettuce, and dip it into a spicy sauce. ...Deeeelicious!

We also had a specialty from Vung Tau (the 3 circle pieces on the plate in the middle, shown below) - banh khot... a small, fried, coconut pancake with meat or shrimp on top.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Neighborhood Temple Time

There's a beautiful temple in my neighborhood, right along the river. There are a few by me, actually. I first visited the one shown below with my brother, Lenny, while he was in HCMC. There was some big event/day going... there were a ton of people and food all over the temple. We were even offered to sit down and eat!

I found this temple a while ago but hadn't gone in...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Flip Flop Lost-and-found

There are a lot of things in this crazy city that I've grown accustomed to... but I still laugh a bit inside at all of the stray flip flops and baby shoes on the roads... mostly left in intersections or round-abouts.

Even funnier is when there is a flip flop on the road... and then a few meters away... the matching flip flop! Haha... If you lose one, you may as well kick the other off and at least someone will gain a new pair of footwear.

Flips flops of all sizes and shapes... even little baby-sized sandals all over.

After school deliciousness...

I paused by a fruit market on my way home from work to take this shot... I love the pink flowers on the balcony above the market and against the gray sky...

THEN I noticed that I was beside a street cart selling the coconut dessert shown below: 

I've tried looking into what this is called for a while... but am not finding anything. I asked one of my students and she wasn't sure of the real name for it but said that she refers to it as banh dua in Vietnamese. Whatever it's called... it's pretty delicious. It's made with coconut (or coconut milk?) and very spongy. 

You tear off a puffy section at a time. The piece above is about the size of a decent dinner plate. I paid 10,000 dong for it (about 50 cents)... which is definitely the foreigner's price.   :P

(Lenny - I wish we had seen a street cart with this while you were here, as it's great street cake!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day in Vietnam

Happy Valentine's Day!

And happy 7-month anniversary to me and Vietnam  :D

(Wendy... thanks so much for the wonderful Valentine's decorations! 
They have been a hit in the library!)

Vietnamese lunches...

I realized I should post some pictures of 'traditional' Vietnamese food (more in the 'basic' sense than 'traditional' I suppose). ...Well, what better place than food from our school's canteen?! haha

Lately, I've been buying lunch from the canteen a couple times a week... it's cheap, convenient, tastes good, and is clean (which is a nice comfort here!).

Each day there are a couple choices for the students... like fried frogs (truly... they've served whole, fried frogs before and the kids love them). I choose to go with a plate of rice, cooked vegetables, and an egg. The veggies change each day and with some soy sauce on top, I'm all set!

I usually pay about 16,000 d for a lunch like the two shown below (...less than $1.00).