Sunday, December 23, 2012

SAIGON: Exploring the City, It's Culture, and Food


“Nobody gives way to anybody. Everyone just angles, points, dives directly toward his destination, pretending it is an all-or-nothing gamble. People glare at one another and fight for maneuvering space. All parties are equally determined to get the right-of-way--insist on it. They swerve away at the last possible moment, giving scant inches to spare. The victor goes forwards, no time for a victory grin, already engaging in another contest of will. Saigon traffic is Vietnamese life, a continuous charade of posturing, bluffing, fast moves, tenacity and surrenders.” 
(Andrew X. Pham, Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam)

What are the things that come to your mind when you hear Saigon? For Filipinos, it will be Miss Saigon thanks to Ms. Lea Salonga who played a significant role to this famous musical-theater show. For the Westerners, it cannot be denied that the Vietnam war will come into mind. For travelers & backpackers alike, Saigon is very known as the motorcycle city and for it's traffic. If Saigon is just known for it's traffic; then, this is certainly nothing new in the Philippines. 

Why did my travel party ever consider of going there? Admittedly, Saigon or now known as Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) was the first leg to the ultimate agenda in the trip and that was Siem Reap, Cambodia. When we booked the flight, we did not have any idea what to do and where to go in HCMC. I realized I was in deep trouble when I drafted the itinerary, I got a lot of travel information of the nice places to see in the other parts of Vietnam. I had a hard time moving on from the attractions I wanted to visit in Halong and Hue. Alas, I told myself that the HCMC trip would not be one to visit the natural wonders and the UNESCO heritage attractions of Vietnam, but rather it would be to explore the city, to get a taste of the famous Vietnamese food, and to experience its culture. 

In a series of Vietnam travel post, I will share with you our itinerary and tips, starting with... LANGUAGE - It's nice to know the most common and basic Vietnamese words and phrases. As a back-up plan though, it's important to bring a map or a pen & paper to use when asking for directions or informing the cab drivers where to go. CURRENCY - The Vietnam Dong is the country's economic currency. It's in big denominations so don't be surprised to be carrying millions worth of Vietnam Dong in your wallet. They don't have coins as well so oftentimes when you pay for something the cost is rounded up to a whole number so change will not be difficult. ARRIVING at the AIRPORT - Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC is where you will disembark. There is no immigration or customs card to be filled in so don't be surprised. The immigration officer will only look at your passport and stamp it for the allowed duration of your stay. For nationals of ASEAN member countries, VISA is not a requirement. TRANSPORTATION - We took a cab most of the time to transport us from one place to another; except of course for those of walking distance only. The reason was to avoid the hassle and trouble of finding the bus stop and which bus would go to where. As per advise by most travelers, we took the Mai Linh taxi so as to eliminate a bad taxi experience. Getting a taxi at the airport though was a long queue & confusing; that was because we were partial to the Mai Linh taxi. Be sure to approach a Mai Linh employee (you will know because he is wearing a uniform with Mai Linh name) and register your name with him so he will list you up as a waiting passenger. We incurred approximately $15.00 each (for a party of 4) in transportation within the city and to/from the airport. ACCOMODATION - We booked the Saigon Mini Hotel 6. We got the top floor and Suite room. At a room price of $130 for 3 nights/2days - we had a deal. The room is very spacious, there are 2 queen beds & a twin size, it is clean, and as an added bonus it is overlooking the Bui Vien street in District 1. Bui Vien is a backpacker's street and it is teeming with tourists. The street comes to so much life at night where all the restaurants are full of patrons. One thing to be aware of is that most patrons are dining or drinking alfresco and are mostly facing the streets. It's a bit disconcerting for passersby who are new in town. After the first night, curiosity may win over and you may just be one of those who will be at the side-street enjoying the busy street life. 

Herewith are some shots at the streets in HCMC, Vietnam. Up next will be the Walking Tour. 

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Full Post: Jasmine {Simply Her}


"Be yourself. No one can ever tell you you're doing it wrong." 
-James Leo Herlihy-


"Everyday is so wonderful."


"I am beautiful no matter what they say.
Words can't bring me down"


"I am beautiful in every single way. 
So don't you bring me down today."


"No matter what we do. 
No matter what we say. 
We're the song inside the tune."


"And everywhere we go. 
The sun will always shine. 
We are beautiful no matter what they say. 
We are beautiful in every single way."



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Friday, September 21, 2012

Sneak Peek: Jasmine {Simply Her}

"A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear."

This is a sneak peek of a session with a beautiful person who is celebrating her natal day today. Happy Birthday Jas! You are so blessed with kindhearted friends who want to make you special on this day. 


More to come in the following weeks and with a surprise :)

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Tasha and Ben {Engagement}


"love builds up the broken wall and straightens the crooked path.
love keeps the stars in the firmament and imposes rhythm on the ocean tides
each of us is created of it and i suspect each of us was created for it”
-- Maya Angelou --


Tasha and Ben, have a great wedding next week. Thank you too for allowing me to capture the moments on how you relate with each other. It was a great honor. 

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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Currently Working On...


I cannot wait to see the print out and deliver the book to the great couple whose wedding is within this month. There's more to come soon. 

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Romel & Leni {As One, The Wedding}


I'll paint a sun to warm your heart. Knowing that we'll never part. 
I'll draw the years all passing by. So much to learn, so much to try. 


I'll paint my mood in a shadow blue. Paint my soul to be with you. 
I'll sketch your lips in shaded tones. Draw your mouth to my own. 


I'll trace a hand to wipe your tears. And trace a look to calm your fears. 
A silhouette of dark and light. To hold each other oh so tight. 


I'll paint the stars in the evening sky. Draw the light into your eyes. 
A touch of love, a touch of grace. To softly fall on your moonlit face. 


And with this ring our lives will start. Let nothing keep our love apart. 
I'll take your hand to hold in mine. And be together through all time. 


From this day forward, you shall not walk alone. 
My heart will be your shelter, and my arms will be your home. 

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Poem is from The Colour of My Love by David Foster/Arthur Janov
 and From This Day Forward - Anonymous

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