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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Memories of Saigon: A Photo-Essay (Part I)

My parody of a popular and well-known poster. Some of you might appreciate the tongue-in-cheek relevance!

Lets go back in time about a three years ago, in November 2009, at the annual Singapore International Salsa Festival. To cut a long story short, I befriended some of the dancers from the Vietnamese contingent. one of them was a lovely girl by the name of Thanh.

Lets go forward in time to early 2011. Thanh has been seconded by her established multinational employer for six months to the their HQ in Malaysia. From the time of her arrival to the date of her return, we as Malaysian Ambassadors took Thanh and her friend, Chan, all over town, eating up a storm wherever we went. Our Vietnamese friends were total foodies, as were we, you see. Sadly, we didn't have a chance to properly see her off since we were on vacation to Guangzhou, China, when she was schedule to return home in August 2011.

The story doesn't end here. When we got home from China, six of us sat down, agreed on a travel date and proceeded to purchase return flight tickets to Saigon from a popular budget airline company. The tickets were relatively affordable since we planned to travel in August 2012.

Now fast forward this story to August 2012. By now one of us, Jerry Lee, had to pull out due to work commitments. However, another decided to join in at the last minute, Arin. Team Saigon unofficially from Havana Estudio, Malaysia now consisted of myself (Dominique Kee), Emily Chua, Raj Subramaniam, Adela Ida, Chui Mei, and lastly Arin Askandar. Due to complications in the flight tickets, four of us would arrive in Tan Son Nhat International Airport approximately 4 hours before the other 2.

Friday, 10th August 2012 (1630 hours local time):

Emily, Raj, Arin and Myself touched-down on Vietnamese soil at about 1630 hours (local time) and in about just over an hour, we had already checked into the designated hotel.

It wasn't THAT dark when we arrived. This picture is just for reference.

I'm not in the habit of taking photos of my hotel room but I can assure you, it was absolutely lovely at the affordable price we were paying. A tad small perhaps but I expected less. We dumped the bags in the rooms and we started to explore the area surrounding the Hotel to look for something to eat, while waiting for the girls. we walked about 2km in the Saigon humidity until we found ourselves at the popular Ben Thanh Market. As the night market We quickly sat down in one of the stalls for food before we walked any further.

Waiting to eat!

One of the only ways I could ever get in a picture.

The dish consisting of cubed beef was magnificent!

After eating, we wanted to walk of dinner and maybe get some shopping in. After all, we were in the area of the well-known Ben Thanh Market. Ben Thanh was closed now of course, but when Ben Thanh closes, the streets surrounding Ben Thanh comes alive, reminiscent of our very own Petaling Street.

The girls were arriving soon. As we walked back to the Hotel, we stopped by a familiar ice-cream parlour and proceeded to make funny faces as we savoured on fattening desserts.

I really don't remember what I was thinking when I did this.

As we were walking back, we couldn't help but notice the notorious Saigon traffic which is infamously filled with motorcycles. There is a well-known technique to crossing Saigon streets though, which involves closing your eyes, walking across the road and not stopping.

This is merely a dramatization of the actual traffic. In reality, the traffic is crazier.

The girls, Adela and Chui Mei, arrived safe and sound at the Hotel. Thanh, who stays nearby, met us at the Hotel and brought us all out for a good and proper dinner (second dinner for some of us...). We arrived at Pho Hung, a restaurant selling the popular Vietnamese Beef Noodles, Pho (pronounced as 'f-er-h').

Chui Mei, wrestling with her beef noodles.

Pretty Emily waiting with her coconut.

A close-up shot of the famous beef noodles in Vietnam.

Arin tussling with his Pho.

Raj is waiting for me to finish my shot before he begins to eat.

Adela devours her noodles.

A dear friend, Thanh, our local friend and friendly guide!

After dinner, we actually proceeded to the Friday Night salsa joint in town. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the place, although in retrospect, I wish I did. Anyways, we were all too tired to drop it like its hot, but it was good nevertheless! An amazing start to our Saigon Adventure!

Saturday, 11th August 2012 (0800 hours local time):

Vietnam is one of those countries where the sun rises at about 5:30am and sets at about 6:30pm. Hence, when I got up at 8:00am, the entire Saigon was already up and running. I had my hotel breakfast, along with Raj and Emily (the early birds) and started to wake up the others. We had a long day ahead of us.

Our first stop was Ben Thanh Market. This time we were heading in the actual market. Thanh informed us that the locals rarely shopped in Ben Thanh due to the excessive 'tourist' prices. But she did like to purchase fruits from Ben Thanh, as well as to frequent a one of the many food stalls located there. Since the 3 girls wanted to go wandering and shopping, the 3 guys and Thanh decided to check out the local food scene!

After that little snack, Thanh brought us boys to a nearby dessert stall. The famous dessert sold there was very very similar to our very own Ais Kacang, except that it was eaten from a glass. They also had a particularly scrumptious banana dessert. See the photo below.

This is one AMAZING banana dessert with sweet sauce dessert!

As we were leaving Ben Thanh for our next destination, the tourist in us could not help but take some 'touristy' shots.

View of Ben Thanh Market from the island across the street.

A bronze figurine on the island across the street from Ben Thanh Market.

A bunch of wacky tourists from Malaysia.

Thanh (L) and Mary Poppins, slightly tanned.

Walking around town, we took a leisurely stroll, frequenting many of the stall located next to the sidewalk.

I like how my tee shirt sprays profanity all over Saigon.

We strolled past the Saigon Opera House (Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater).

We dropped by this quaint cafe/restaurant called L'Usine located in an obscure location on Dong Khoi Street, deep in the Art Arcade. Too bad we couldn't stay as the place did look really nice for chilling out with coffee on a balmy Sunday afternoon. Instead, we took photos for the cover of our upcoming pop-music album.

Scratch that. I think we're making a Hindi film instead.

Where did SHE come from? She wasn't there a frame ago...

Street art found on the walls of the Art Arcade

The outer facade of the Art Arcade on Dong Khoi Street.

Lunch then, at this place called Wrap & Roll, or something like that. It appears that the Vietnamese love wrapping stuff in green veggies. In fact, they do it all the time and with different kinds of foods too! Makes you kinda realize, that is how Vietnamese women stay so slim! Imagine, no Nasi Lemak in sight!

After lunch, and some more walking, we found ourselves at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon.

I was told that the statute of Mary here once cried tears. Local Catholics after that went absolutely nuts.

Something about Mary?

'Queen of Peace, Pray for Us'

I'll be filling in for the position of 'Cathedral Hunchback' (Swinging Optional)'

(to be continued)

For those of you who like statistics:
Vital Stats for August: 3 post 112 pics
Vital Stats So Far: 159 posts 5,961 pics

Disclaimer: The views published in the above photoblog are the author's and the author's alone. If readers are not agreeable with the above views, well, you can bugger-off. All rights are reserved for the the photos and/or articles itself. This article may be reproduced with permission for the author or private or public usage, or other forms of general mayhem. Any unauthorized usage of the images and/or article contained therein is expressly prohibited and violators will be prosecuted with the full force of Malaysian law applicable. Thank you for reading this disclaimer.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to view Saigon as seen by you through the lens! Eagerly awaiting the next few episodes of your photographic journey.