Thursday, May 31, 2012

Crab's for dinner!

The food at this place is amazing.

We ordered a number of different dishes and went family style.

Here's some of what we ordered (that I can remember and/or took a picture of)...

cua lot chien bot - soft-shell crabs deep-fried (on the right...)
on the left is glass noodles (vermicelli) with crab

cua lot xao me - soft-shell crabs with tamarind (crab claws)

morning glory cooked with garlic and oil mmmmm... 
a Vietnamese staple that's one of my favs!

cha gio cua - crab stuffed egg rolls
(these were awesome, as they don't mess around... the egg roll is mostly crab and not random fillings!!)

Good lookin' dinner table!

And cheap too! We had at least 5 dishes... and plenty of drinks...
for a total of about $40 USD

Restaurant name: Quan 94
Address: 84 Dinh Tien Hoang St. District 1, HCMC
(Yes, those are different #'s... in the name and the address... just go with it...)

Quan 94 - Crab Place

I've been to the "crab restaurant" a few times now and have loved it each time.

This is truly a local Vietnamese joint - filled with locals... sitting crammed together on red plastic chairs at small metal tables... and the food seems to just keeps coming!

The big sign outside the restaurant says "Quan 94" ...although the address of the building is really #84.
84 Dinh Tien Hoang, District 1... to be exact.

The first time I was going to this restaurant I was given the following directions in an email:

"The address is 84, but the sign says 94.  And it is the first 94, not the second one.  If that sounds confusing, its not, just drive along Dinh Tien Hoang till you see a bunch of crabs outside of a restaurant, and that's the place."

Hilarious... but true!

There's a kitchen in the back but also this makeshift kitchen up front...

And truly - if you look for the crabs outside... you'll find the restaurant.

We ate upstairs. A girls' dinner date was fabulous for this Thursday evening!

Sarah's on the left... then Jen in the middle... and Kat on the right! ...Sarah and Jen are both from England and Kat's from Sweden... I love these girls. I've met each of them separately and tonight's the first time we've all gotten together as a group! 

Sarah is moving to Kathmandu, Nepal!!! I'm so excited for her to go on this new adventure... but I definitely don't love the idea of her not being here next year.  :(

I'm going to MISS. THIS. GIRL. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

mousey number 6

Poor mousey wanting to live in my apartment.

No! No, gracias!

These are the two lovely cleaners in my apartment building. They live here since it's a serviced apartment... and are as awesome as Mr. Nhan (well, almost as awesome). (Their PJ-outfits are awesome!)

Ms. Luan and Ms. Dep helped me out with the mousey-on-a-sticky-pad the other night since Mr. Nhan was at his hometown. I called him when I saw the mouse under the fridge... all I could say to him that he would understand was "mousey!" and he called the ladies for me.

Of course, when the came into my apartment, the mouse was in hiding and we couldn't find it.

After a few "cam sau's" (basically meaning, no worries), they left and I went to catching this guy.

I put some granola on the sticky pad... and within 60 seconds, I heard him!

The sticky pad isn't my favorite... it sits under my couch... permanently, as this is the 6th mousey and I doubt it'll be the last. BUT I do really believe that they take the mousey off and let it go free outside.

I also think that they see me as a little spoiled brat who is afraid to live with mice. (Well... Ok!)

...I'm not too worried about them ...but if they were RATS ....OOOooooOOO, then I'd be having problems!

weather forecast...

Hilariously... the weather forecast is basically the same every day in Ho Chi Minh City.

I hardly ever actually look up the weather forecast here... as it's always hot, humid, and (this time of year) chance of rain.

The WORST was yesterday afternoon when the power was out at school for two hours... meaning no AC!!!

The power had cut out in the morning, which is not unusual and the generator kicks on a minute or two later. ...The generator was then on for most of the rest of the day ...kicked off in early afternoon ...usually this means that the power has come back on ...

...But we waited and waited for the power to come back on and it did not. No power meant no lights, no computers, and no bells to change classes... which was fine. The kicker was no air conditioning.

No AC in HCMC is dangerous.

Everyone was dripping with sweat. Seriously.

The power did then return about half an hour after school ended (most of staff was in a meeting... and the AC was turned on full blast).

THEN... this morning as I walk into the library... the hallway was pretty cool but the library felt like a SAUNA. There was power throughout school but our AC was out. D'OH!

A maintenance guy got it back on... but, come to find out, it was simply blowing air... not cool air. So, once again, I'm sitting in a sauna filled with thousands of books and about 15 students... all of us sweating and attempting to mop ourselves up with Kleenex.

It took 6 maintenance guys and security guards about an hour and a half to get the AC working again. I don't know what the problem was... but I was thankful to have it on!

One month Sarah was late paying her energy bill (which is easy to do since they literally throw the piece of paper into her yard and expect her to find it each month... although it never turns up on the same day of each month...). She had to go to a hostel for the night because it was be too unbearable to sleep without AC or, at least, a fan.

Saigon is one HOT place!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

favorites on Nguyen Huu Canh

I curled up on a lounge with a book yesterday at the pool after brunch... it was the perfect Sunday afternoon activity.

Nguyen Huu Canh is the street that my school is on... as well as the gym and pool... there is one section of this street that usually has 4 or 5 motorbikes lined up... selling fish. [Poor fishies.]

I thought this guy was awesome... working hard... texting while lounging in a hammock... and ready to sell the beautiful orchids on the back of his bike.

Au Parc, HCMC

Patrice and I met for a lovely brunch yesterday :)

Au Parc is a lovely Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of District 1... near the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The pictures below are both in my favorite upstairs room in the restaurant.

Friday, May 25, 2012

hard at work...

Awesome parking guy doing his job well...

Granted... this was on Sunday... day of rest at it's best!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Princess and the Pea cafe

Sarah and I went by a cafe that we had heard about... Princess and the Pea.

It's cute but has a lot of fixing up still to be done... workers were there the entire time hammering and drilling away... at one point, the wifi box fell on Sarah!

The cafe is located in the midst of a maze of very narrow back alleys... which was pretty awesome. The colors in this area were really beautiful.  :)

The detailing was great! This is in the stairwell on our way up to the cafe... 

THIS is the entrance to the maze of alleys! ...You can see the sign for Princess and the Pea, right?! Haha... We almost missed it too (it's small, brown, and above Sarah's head...)! This point is actually on Pasteur (a major road in District 1... so the location is awesome, if they can fix the place up a bit more).

beautiful girls... yummy foods!

Last weekend (just after being pulled over!), I met Sarah at a new restaurant in the city... good Mexican food is hard to come by here, so we were excited to try out Khoi Thom - a new Mexican restaurant (same owners as Au Parc, I believe) in District 3...

We were both happy with our food! Above is Sarah with our 'guacamole' order... although it was really a spread of various dips/salsas. I also had a fabulously delicious drink of vodka, vanilla syrup, and fresh passion-fruit juice! Mmmm... THEN... live music started up! I will definitely go back to this colorful place again.

Last Sunday morning, I went to Mekong Merchant in An Phu, District 2 - I love this place! It was Kat's birthday and a group of us met for brunch to celebrate. Below is the beautiful birthday girl (25!!) and beautiful birthday cupcakes!

AIS Teachers' Next Stop(s)...

I'm an advisor for our school's Student Council and the kids are pretty awesome... they came up with the idea to make a world map, put it up on a bulletin board in school, and show where all of the departing teachers are off to next! [Very sweet!]

I think it turned out really well...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

how to make Vietnamese Coffee

My brother, Lenny, sent this video on to me and I love it!

Well-made and the song is awesome...

They did this right!

Trung Nguyen really is like Vietnam's Starbucks... and the coffee's pretty good. There are Trung Nguyen cafes all over the city.

You can visit the Trung Nguyen website by clicking here.

I do love a ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk) every now and then... it tastes like a coffee milkshake! ...but more often, I'm drinking a latte. Vietnam knows how to make a good latte.  :) 

I will even admit that Sarah, Michael, and I have lattes delivered to school every morning! [Cringing a bit over admitting that... but it's a flaw that I've come to terms with here, as it's a nice perk in the AM, and hey -- I'm living abroad!] Before moving to Vietnam, I was strictly caffeine-free for over 5 years... that's out the door now. --But I do plan to take that up again when I move back to the States.

Now... play the video again and bop to the music!  ;)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I got pulled over...

I'm surprised that I made it in Vietnam, driving all over the city for more than 10 months, without being pulled over until this past Saturday night!

My friend, Elizabeth, was pulled over this past Fall and she started speaking in rapid English to the cop... how she was going to pick up her Vietnamese license that coming week... how she was going to go buy bananas after work... etc. etc... anything! The cop just let her go (we assume because many of them are uncomfortable with their English skills...). Awesome!

My experience was a bit different... but same outcome (thankfully!).

I was turning left from a one-way street onto another one-way street, just as the light changed to red for me... I continued my turn and then saw the cops on the side of the road up ahead of me about 15 or 20 feet.

Uh oh.

(BUT... I must mention that it IS a plus that I was even going the correct direction on this one-way street... as this is often not the case for drivers in Vietnam... anything goes... until, perhaps, a cop is in sight!).

I put my blinker on, slowed down, and pulled over to the right side of the road next to the cop.

Unlike Elizabeth, I didn't say a word (not even a polite, Xin chao).

And... he didn't say a word to me either!

I was thinking two things...
  • When he says something to me, I'm going to ask, "What did I even do wrong?!" and...
  • Oooo... I get to show him my Vietnamese driver's license!
Well... there was no need for either, because the cop waved me forward with his baton. (Yes, a baton.) I thought he was telling me to pull up in front of the other guy they had pulled over... but then realized, [Sweet!] he's telling me to just go away! haha

So... I drove off and met Sarah for dinner!

I assume that the cop told me to just drive on when he noticed I was a Westerner... who knows, really... but I do think that's probably it. Whatever the reason... Awesome!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

San Art - I left my hoof behind...

And then there were some weird-but-awesome animal creatures...

(Notice the little piggy's hoof left by the chair! D'oh!)

Floating brains...

Lookin' guilty...

San Art mask face!

Another great piece at the San Art exhibit was a hanging mask, lit up from the floor, and then reflected in a mirror about 3 or 4 feet in front of it... very cool.   :)

San Art exhibit

I met up with my lovely friend, Jen, and some of her teacher friends this weekend to go to an art exhibit... it was interesting!

San Art is showing this particular exhibit for about a month and includes pieces by one artist...

This piece is located just inside San Art's front door... and it's on a silk screen!
It doesn't seem see through when you first look at it... but standing on the other side (see next picture...) you can see straight through it! ...Very cool.

This one was cool... it's made with paint and... toothpaste! 
(And, yes, I tried to smell it... but no minty-fresh smell...)   :P

The San Art space even has a library!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Happy Birthday HCM!

May 19th is Ho Chi Minh's birthday... born in 1890 as Nguyen Sinh Cung and now, his embalmed body can be seen in Hanoi (I think Lenny and Lexey did this while we were in Hanoi and Mom, Dad, and I went looking for Candy Strret and Scarf Strret!).


Thinking back to one year ago today, I was still working at Leroy Drive Elementary in Northglenn, Colorado but knew my position was being cut and I had accepted my current position in HCMC, Vietnam. My mom had thoughtfully sent me Learn Vietnamese language CDs as a Ho Chi Minh Day present!! Ha, loved that.

A year ago, I couldn't picture what this city would really be like, how my life would change from living abroad in SE Asia, or that I would be sitting in Jaspas Cafe right now blogging about my current life and daily activities. Pretty incredible.

I read a quote earlier this morning which sums it up nicely:
"Growth demands a temporary surrender of security." -Gail Sheehy

Notre Dame and around...

Two cyclos looking for work in District 1...

After this photo we started yelling, xin chao, at one another! (Hello's!) haha... they were all excited.

Saturday wedding photos at Notre Dame!

One of my favorite intersections in the city! I often take this route leading into District 1... this is the back of Notre Dame Cathedral... Tham Ngoc Thach Street leads to this spot from District 3 and then becomes Dong Khoi from this spot on...

Mary statue in front of Notre Dame Cathedral... with the Vincom Center behind...

rooftop get-together

Sarah had a get-together at her place this past Friday night. Her house has the best rooftop! It was nice to hang out up top... overlooking the river and the city :)

rain, rain

Sarah's prepared for the rainy season!

hair washing... a VN best-kept secret

A best-kept secret in Vietnam?? -- getting your hair washed!


For 70,000d (about $3.50) I just got a 45-minute head massage... which also included a shoulder massage and even a hair wash and hair style.   :P

The massage is the best... AND when you actually get your hair washed, there is no awkward leaning back in a chair with the edge of the sink going into your neck...

...No lay down in a chair-bed, which conveniently leads onto a pillow in the sink!

(There was even a girl curled up, asleep on the chair-bed next to me.)

Pure awesomeness.

Mom - you better believe this is on the list of things to do with you while you're here this summer!

There's a lovely little salon (very local) in my neighborhood on one of the side streets... this salon, unlike most in the area, actually has doors on the front of the shop and even air conditioning!

One woman did my hair/massage... and the other two girls in the shop sat next to us the entire time looking at me... looking at my hair... giggling... and even trying to touch my weird hair here and there.   :P

Hilarious. Awesome. Will definitely do this again.

Then... I bought these beautiful flowers on my 2-block walk back to my place...

I love my neighborhood.   :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Amazing Race in Vietnam

I've never seen the television show, Amazing Race, but this one looks awesome!

This video was uploaded to YouTube in November of 2009... so it's an old season but the part in Vietnam is interesting and shows some great parts of the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City...

I'm surprised that they were able to get clearance to tape a television show in Vietnam... especially in 2009! (It would be hard enough to do so today...)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

[gross] STREET CAKE!

Below is a picture of street cake from a lady's cart that is usually on Tham Ngoc Thach Street, which runs into the roundabout at Turtle Lake and then leads right to the back of Notre Dame Cathedral...

I recently decided to pick up and try some of these treats... and now I know that I don't ever need to buy this kind of street cake again! Haha. It was pretty gross... especially since the lady poured (what I think must have been) MSG into the bag before handing it to me.

The plain-looking cake on the right isn't so bad... more tasteless than a bad taste. I believe it's made with coconut milk.

The pastel colorful treats are the gross part. They are gummies and coated with coconut shavings... but the gummy part is no bueno.

Tip: If you're in Vietnam and want to try some street cake... go to a lady who's making pitzel-looking flat waffles and small pyramid-shaped cakes that you can buy in a little bag... now those are delicious. They are usually cooking them right in front of you... on a small burner that is inside one of the baskets connected to the long stick used to carry her 'street cake shop' on her shoulders. There is usually a lady selling such cakes right outside the main post office ...(when facing the post office, she's on the left).   :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This is on the day calendar that I bought in Bangkok... yellow is my favorite color... but I'm pretty sure the grammar issues will continue to bother me [in a good way, actually] throughout the year of 2012...  :P  

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

normal miscellany...

I'm rather used to seeing flattened rats on the street... but this frog caught my eye.
(Just typing that sentence demonstrates to me how much my life has changed since moving to SE Asia.)

I'm not sure which is worse... seeing a frog like this... or on our school's lunch menu (because that happens too...)