Saigon Coffee Scene

Saigon Coffee Scene

Before I went to Vietnam, I’ve done quite a few researches on what to expect in this country. I tried to find out how life is in Vietnam, especially Ho Chi Minh city since I’m planning on staying there. And one of the top things that enticed me more into coming to Vietnam is its vibrant coffee scene. I didn’t know then that Vietnam holds the second spot in the best coffee-producing countries in the world. I didn’t even know how Vietnamese coffee actually tastes. But I must admit that just looking at the interior shots of those coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh city is already enough to make me want to go there.

And they didn’t fail me. Having been in Ho Chi Minh city for almost 9 months now, I could say that the coffee scene in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) and in Vietnam as a whole is really vibrant, fascinating and so chic. I love how coffee shop hopping is such a fun thing to do here. My fondness for chic and thematic designs is being indulged in this country, especially in Saigon. I love how the ambiance of each cafe is different from each other.

I must admit, I’m really impressed. And surprised. Never had I imagined and expected that Vietnam has this really huge, vibrant and artsy cafe scene. I thought that these kinds of coffee shops can only be seen in South Korea or in Japan. Not in Vietnam. Definitely not in Vietnam. 

And yes, I was totally wrong. Man! I don’t need to travel all the way to South Korea just to have that chic coffee shop scenes I’ve always imagined myself to be in. I am actually having those scenes here, right in the heart of Vietnam — Saigon!

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Ngoi Nha So 7 Cafe, District 3, HCMC

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ID Cafe, District 3, HCMC

 

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Fig Cafe in Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

The styles of the coffee shops in Saigon range from traditional Vietnamese designs to chic, artsy, and modern ones.

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Vung Oi Mo Cua Cafe,  District 3, HCMC

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Cafe Coi Xua, Phu Nhuan District

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Cosmo Cafe, District 1, HCMC

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The Morning Cafe, District 1, HCMC

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She Cafe, District 1, HCMC

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Koneko Cafe, District 2, HCMC

Plus,there are also garden coffee shops that are nature-inspired to add a more relaxing, calming feel.

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Du Mien Cafe, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

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Mien Dong Thao Cafe, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

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S Cafe, Phu Nhuan District

These are only some, and I mean just SOME of the most fancied coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh city. There are still a LOT more! Believe me, my 8 months here is not yet enough for me to visit all those charming fascinating coffee shops in the city.

And yes, these coffee shops are one of my top reasons why I’m enjoying my stay here in Vietnam. I always feel like I’m in a K-drama whenever I’m in a coffee shop here.

Yes. That is weird.

Aside from having really eye-catching cafe designs, Vietnam also boasts off its world-renowned coffee taste. It is just so addicting-ly good and definitely for the win!

Being a self-proclaimed coffee lover, this city and this country is really satisfying my coffee taste bud and my love for chic designs. I just know that I am exactly where I should be at this moment of my life.

Thanks for the awesome coffee, Vietnam!

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Crossing Cultures in Vung Tau

Crossing Cultures in Vung Tau

Living in Vietnam for more than 8 months now, I could say that this country is not done yet surprising me with its stunning and charming places. I could honestly say that I have never expected Vietnam to be this lovely.

Just last weekend, a Vietnamese colleague and friend, Rosie, invited me to her hometown in Ba Ria – Vung Tau province. This place is just two hours away from Ho Chi Minh city and could easily be reached by bus, van or even motorbike. And yes, even though it’s just near the city center, I didn’t have the luxury of time to visit this small province before. Not until last weekend. All thanks to my good Vietnamese friend who was kind and hospitable enough to invite me to her place.

On the road to Vung Tau

When the clock struck 6:00 last Friday, me and my friend  hurriedly turned off our computers, got our stuff and went straight to the ground floor and waited for a cab that will take us to the bus terminal going to Vung Tau.

It wasn’t actually a bus but a van that brought us to Vung Tau. A smooth, comfortable less than 2 hours ride for only VND 80,000. There was one stop-over on the way for those who want to go to the comfort room or buy something to eat.

We left Ho Chi Minh city around 7pm and we arrived at Rosie’s house in Vung Tau around 8:30 pm. While approaching the town proper of Vung Tau, I kept saying to my friend that that was not how I imagined Vung Tau to be. Before I had my eyes laid on this small town, I imagined Vung Tau to be very rural — like grass fields on both sides of the road, traditional wooden houses, not much people on the streets, and all the countryside images you can think of.

But the Vung Tau I saw last weekend was way different from what I’d imagined. The town is more like a small city within the suburbs but very vibrant and full of life. You wouldn’t even feel you are away from Ho Chi Minh city, except for some areas where you can only see the sea and mountain.

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For a starter, my friend’s house is really gorgeous! It’s the type you usually see on TV series. It’s a modern Vietnamese house with really yummy colors. I even joked Rosie that her house is like a big ice cream for me.

The next day, my friend and her parents toured me around the town and tried various types of Vietnamese food I fondly call “Vung Tau hits.” I tried Banh khot for breakfast and Rosie’s mom’s special version of mon cuon  or rolled in rice paper dish, and cha ca or fish cake. Then for dinner, we had seafood hotpot that’s really ngon (delicious in Vietnamese)! And before we capped the night off, Rosie and her friend even let me have that Turkish ice cream and the banh bong lan (cheese cupcake) I’ve been raving to have! It was such a tummy-filled night!

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Banh Khot

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Enjoying my Turkish ice cream:-)

 

A memorable trip

The whole day might not be enough to see all the wonderful tourist spots in Vung Tau and experience swimming on its beach waters, but nevertheless, it was a tour worth having. Aside from the fact that it was a free tour– all thanks to Rosie and her family — I was able to see Vung Tau from the local’s perspectives. I actually felt not a tourist that time but more of a visiting relative from another part of Vietnam. That was what Rosie and her family made me feel that time. They were so welcoming, warm and hospitable. Perhaps, that was what made this trip really memorable. It might just be a usual tour along the countryside of Vietnam, but the people who welcomed me there made a lot of difference.

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with my Vietnamese friend, Rosie:-)

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That short Vung Tau trip made me appreciate Vietnam more, especially its people. It made me see the Vietnamese people in a different light. It was also a good chance for me to really get to experience the local’s way of life and how the local family treat each other. I realized that the Vietnamese and Filipino families are not really very different when it comes to how they value their families. Both countries give high value to family relationships and have a really close ties among the members. If not for the language difference, I would have felt that I’m actually just spending time with my close relatives.

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with Yen while buying my favorite custard cupcake:-)

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Vung Tau may not be as stunning or as famous as the other tourists destinations in Vietnam, but it definitely charmed my heart with its simplicity and laid-back feel. Moreover, the people who welcomed me there and let me in their humble abode made me realized how blessed I am to be able to experience another culture and be treated like I’m actually a part of the family. This trip is definitely one for the memory box:-)

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Nap Time Thoughts of A Preschool Teacher

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Nap time. One of my favorite parts of the day in school right now. A lot of random thoughts usually run in my mind during this time as I watch my students sleep beside each other,

I wonder how many of them will actually meet again maybe 15-20 years after their kindergarten days and fall in love with each other? What are the odds? Probabilities?

I wonder if they will ever remember that they once slept beside each other during nap time in preschool before. Will they ever remember that they once shared a spoon of ice cream just because the little boy still wants some ice cream and the little girl was kind enough to give him a spoonful of it? Will the little boy remember that he once grabbed the toy truck from the little girl just because he thinks trucks are just for boys? Will the little girl remember that she once cried so loud because of that little boy or will she just remember how she laughed at the funny antics of the little boy when they were playing with the wooden blocks at the construction corner? Will both of them remember how they made a good team trying to build a tower with those blocks and not letting their other classmates join in on the fun just because that moment was exclusively theirs?

How many of these kids will have their hearts broken before they even reach their puberty stage? The kind of heart ache that seemed just a tiny piece of wound but could actually give so much effect in his/her growing up years? The kind of wound that you thought you have forgotten already but could actually haunt you and make you remember that pain once you meet someone again and try your chance on falling in love again. I wonder who among them will end up best friends for life? Or who will end up as “just friends” just because they tried it but they realized they are better off as friends?

I have more than a dozen young, innocent souls in my classroom of happiness now. Each of them has a distinct personality that makes them different from one another. Each is special in his/her own way. Each of them amuses me in their own lovely way. Sometimes while waiting for them to close their eyes and fall asleep during nap time, I just can’t help but imagine how the romance part of their lives will turn out to be. Who will fall in love with who? Who will have his/her heartbroken by who? Who will end up getting married to each other? Will there be someone from that class who would actually try to look for his/her classmate after so many years just to let him/her know that he/she once a had a huge crush on him/her? Will there be someone who will be bold enough to confess his/her feelings?

Maybe I am just a plain hopeless romantic that even at those down times when I can just rest my body from half a day of extensive work in school and prepare myself for the next half to cap off the day, I just can’t hold off my mind from thinking about those random stuff.

Or perhaps, deep inside my heart, I just want all of them to experience the kind of wonderful love they all deserve. Because they all deserve to be loved in a special way. No matter how they piss me off sometimes with their rowdiness, I have to admit that I’ve grown so fond of each and everyone of them. And yes, I do love them. I love the fact that I am their teacher and they think of me as their mommy in school. And like a real mommy, I want them to find the love they all deserve in the future. If only I can shield them from heartbreak by teaching them about the Dos and Don’ts of falling in love, but even me myself is still a student of that lesson. I am still learning. I haven’t mastered that yet, and perhaps I never will. I just hope that no matter how many heartbreaks they will experience or how deep the pain they would experience in the future, my little angels will still continue believing in love and that they will not lose hope that they can also find and experience true love. I hope that when they get their hearts broken, they will remember how they were in Kindergarten — cry so loud and then move on like as if nothing happened. I hope they will not dwell too much on the pain but instead, use those pains to become a better person in life and in love.

If only I can tell these to them. But I’d rather not spoil the mystery of life and love to them. I will let them discover on their own how wonderful it is to live, to find love, to fall in love, to lose it and find it again. Anyway, they are still too young to fathom the complexities of it all. For the meantime, I will just let them play and enjoy the simplicity of life in their little perfect world.

Of Sunday Mornings and A New Heart for Vietnam

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Sunday morning. Some couple of months ago, Sunday mornings meant a lot different to me. It meant waking up early and prepping up to attend Sunday service in our church in Medan, Indonesia. It meant preparing the sound system to make sure that the audio works well and some minor preparations before the service starts. It also meant meeting and spending time with my spiritual family there. Most important of all, Sunday mornings meant hearing God’s word and listening to the preaching of our pastor there.

Well Sunday morning took a kind of different turn for me now. Instead of prepping up to attend a Sunday service, I woke up early to wash my week’s worth of clothes and met my new Vietnamese friend who will take me to the street where our church is located here in Ho Chi Minh City. Well we did find the address but Im still not sure if my church really holds service there so I still have to go back a little later for the English service schedule. My friend had to leave me since she has a scheduled date with her boyfriend so I had to brave the streets of District 3 going to District 1 alone.

Almost 5 months and a lot of things have changed. From always having someone to be with me wherever I go, I now find myself doing everything on my own. Well, I do have some friends here who were kind enough to drive me around the city but still, there are just some things you got used to that you will long for every now and then. I’m missing those times when just a single call or text and there’s already someone who’s very willing to go with you wherever.

Being on your own has its pros and cons. Well, I could go out anytime now without having to think about whether someone’s waiting for me to go home or not. I can go wherever I want randomly. I can choose to eat or not. I can choose to sleep the whole day or just go around the city the whole day. Everything is totally up to me. Sometime ago, I dreamed of living this kind of life and I’m totally experiencing it now.

When I first set my feet on Vietnam, I didn’t know anyone. Everything is really unfamiliar to me. I haven’t even been to this country before. I don’t have any idea what’s in store for me here. I just know that I need to take this certificate course if I want to teach overseas and Vietnam’s a good choice. It’s like I’m in one of the biggest and exciting challenges of my life and I only rely on God’s grace every single day. But from Day 1 up to this day, I think I am loving how I am seeing myself now. I am discovering things about myself which I never thought I could be before. I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit in with the group of people from other nations, but it turned out I could and I could even be just as weirdly normal to them as I am with my other friends. I thought I’m kind of shy when speaking in front, but I realized that I could very well do it when the need arise and I don’t feel uncomfortable at all. Never mind if I have to speak to a group of people with different nationalities, personalities, and perceptions. If I need to do it, I would do it.

I have to admit, though, I still miss the people I used to share my Sundays with in Indonesia. A big part of my heart is still longing that one day, I would still be able to attend Sunday services with them again. I miss hearing people talking in Bahasa because Vietnamese language is really different. I couldn’t understand a thing since there’s almost no similarity with the Filipino language.

I am praying to God to give me a new heart for this nation. I want to have a new heart for Vietnam and I want to love this country as much as I am loving Indonesia. This is just my first week, though. I know that there are still a lot about Vietnam that I have yet to discover and love. I am opening up my heart to this nation and I’m pretty sure God has a special reason and purpose why I am where I am now. I’m just excited for I know that wonderful things are up ahead of me:-)

I am alone in this city but I am not lonely. I’ve gained a lot of new friends in just a matter of week and I know I will still have more as days go by. And who knows? Maybe finding a new love will be on its way:-)