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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stroll at Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens with Hoa

When I was staying in Manila before my departure to Saigon, I always wanted to visit Manila Zoo. However, because of my busy schedule then (processing my employment requirements for abroad) and some other circumstances… I was not able to fulfill it.

Lucky enough, the time I got here in Saigon I was so ecstatic to find out that they have a zoo called Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, located in District 1 at 2B Nguyen Binh Khien Street. It is considered as one of the oldest zoos in the world (ranked no. 8th) that was established since 1864. The zoo is home to many species of animals including mammals, reptiles and birds and at the same time to various kinds of floras and faunas.

A very good friend of mine in the person of Hoa, took me there last year to see this awesome place. An entrance fee of 20000 VND is required before you can enter the zoo’s main gate, which gives you all access to the zoo facilities namely the house of reptiles, the circus show, botanical garden and etc. Below are just few of the photos taken during that date with her on a rainy, Sunday afternoon. :D

It was a weird coincidence that we were wearing matching outfits (top & bottom) & umbrella that day

Also the same hand gestures??? Could this be destiny? LOL
death defying balancing act 
knife exhibition
sweet elephant couple 
"i'm so damn handsome!" 
Honestly, it is a bit dreary to see some wild creatures in captivity, instead of letting them have their freedom in the wild. Though, the animals are well-taken cared of by the zoo keepers, however, so little spaces are allocated to their so called pseudo home. I really pity some animals like the lion, tiger, monkeys, reptiles and especially the birds because they don't have much space or room to move or fly around just like the normal things they do when they are in their natural habitat. If you are sensitive enough, you can really feel and witness that aura that they are not as happy and animated as the ones you've seen on TV shows like NGC. How I wish that their present condition be improved... hopefully.   


Friday, April 13, 2012

Sugarcane juice for the summer

Summer is officially here in Saigon. The weather is so hot and the sun never gets tired of its consistent self-appearance. In this time of the year, dehydration is undoubtedly your worst dilemma. In order to prevent that from happening, we need to make an extra effort to always hydrate our body by drinking lots of water. However, to most of us, drinking water is something we don’t love to do since water doesn’t appeal much to our taste buds. Instead, we resort to drinking soda & other over-the- counter carbonated drinks to quench our thirst and replenish our fluids, which in turn only makes the problem of dehydration worse.
Sugarcane juice is extracted from pressed sugarcane and can be used as water alternative to beat the summer heat and dehydration.  Although sugarcane juice is made out of entirely sugar; still it is considered safe and healthy since it is unrefined sugar. Not only does it hydrates the body, but also provides the energy that we need to stay active under the sun. Sugarcane juice, or nước mía in Vietnamese, is a very popular beverage here in Saigon. Luckily, foraging for nước mía here is never a pain in the neck because you can see sugarcane juice stalls almost in every corner of the streets. It taste really delicious and very refreshing. They always serve it with a lot of crushed ice, while some add lemon juice to balance the taste. More than anything else, it only cost 3000 VND or $ 15 cents per 250 ml so getting another cup is not an issue.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 Spring Flower Festival

If you already have decided to make a visit to Saigon but still not sure when or what time of the year; then I suggest you do your travel during the tet holiday. Tet spans the 3rd and 4th week of January and is considered as the biggest holiday in this city, even bigger than Christmas or any other celebrations.  Throughout this celebration, the Spring Flower Festival is one of the major highlights. It is an event wherein they showcase hundred varieties of flowers, fishes, trees, grafted stones, wood sculptures, bonsai plants, cacti and the list goes on. The festival happens in various parks in the city. One park you should not dare miss is Tao Dan Park, which featured a humungous size pair of dragons made from various plants and flowers this year. Below are some photos of assorted flowers that I took during that said event. 


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bitexco Financial Tower : Tallest Skycraper in Saigon

This is the tallest skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh City. It is located at Ha Trieu, Ho Tung Mao and Ngo Duc Ke Streets. If you are familiar with Benh Thanh market then you would definitely see it from there and going to the tower is just a breeze of walking.  There are 68 floors in this building excluding the 3-floor basement. This tower measures 882.56 feet and holds the record as the tallest building in Vietnam in 2010. However at present, Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower is now the tallest building in this country (since January 24, 2011).

This tower in not only used for office spaces and as a convention center but is also used for tourism. From a distant view, you can easily notice the helipad facility of the building, which is located on the 50th floor. Just below that floor (49th floor), there is an observation deck where visitors can see the 360-degree view of the city but visitors can’t enter this floor without buying a ticket that costs around 10 USD. 


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Coconut candies: Sweet treat for a sweet tooth

Sweets are not really in my favorite list. Probably because I am not one of those people who are born with sweet tooth. It is quite strange because most people would say that everyone is a candy lover with me as the exception. That doesn't make me abnormal right? I'm just different. The inclination that I would eat candies and similar stuffs is so rare. If ever that I would, it would just be either for a taste test or out of courtesy, or both. I am not fond of eating foods that are overly sweet for the following reasons:  

To ward off...

1. Diabetes. My family has this long history of diabetes. I could still remember my grandparent's (in the father side) ordeal from this genetic disorder many years ago. Bottom line is I don't want to suffer the same dreaded disease. My body reacts so differently after eating sweets. Whenever I consumed a lot, I feel so thirsty afterwards. I am not sure if this is really the body's normal reaction to it or could it already be an early symptom of the disease. 

2. Cavities. They are visible pits or structural damage in the teeth. Some people just don't mind about them  but I do. Our mouth can be considered as an ecosystem. It is an ecosystem of microorganisms, which feed on sugar. When you eat candies and failed to brush your teeth soon after, they will have a feast! Aside from its unsightly effect,  cavities could also lead to more serious dental problems like toothache, gum disease and etc. We don't like that, right?

Ironically, this blog post is not about convincing you to avoid sweets but on the contrary it is about an introduction of a new candy, which I happened to discover yesterday. Everyone meet  'mut dua'! 

According to my colleague, mut dua is the vietnamese translation for coconut candy. Obviously, it is made from coconut strips and sugar with the addition of milk and some food colorants. They sure look colorful and vibrant in the outside and they taste yummy too. One thing that I kinda like about mut dua is the taste... not too sweet, just perfect. So anyone who does not have a sweet tooth like me can tolerate some  substantial amount without the minus guilt. I think this could be a nice valentines gift. It just cost around 150,000 VND ($ 7) per kilo, so it doesn't hurt much on the budget. Happy valentines day everyone! 


Friday, January 20, 2012

Tour at the Reunification Palace

I had the opportunity to visit one of the most important landmarks in Vietnam this week. The Reunification Palace, formerly known as the Independence Palace, is said to be important because of its historical value... it is the very place where Vietnam war ended on April 1975. The place is located at the center of the city @ 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghiad Street, District 1. It is very near Saigon Notre Dame Basilica, in fact it is just a 5-minute walk from the cathedral. 

The palace opens from 7:30 am to 12 noon and 1:00 to 5pm from Monday to Sunday. Yes! It is open all the days of the week and open to both tourists and locals alike. Before you can get inside the place, an entrance ticket worth 30 thousand VND is a requirement. You can buy the ticket inside the souvenir shop at the left-most side of the main gate. FYI, you need to keep your ticket with you while you are inside the place because there are security personnel on bicycle who randomly checks if you really paid the entrance fee or not. The ticket is inclusive of guided tours in different languages such as English, French, Chinese or Japanese; a film viewing on  “Independence Palace – Witness to History” and an access to the garden. Truly, the money that you pay is really worth it because you actually get more than what you paid for.

From the outside of the main building, you can see the water fountain (in front of the palace), the F5E fighter plane, which bomb the palace in 1975 and the 843 and 390 tanks, which led the final assault to the palace gate in the same year (in the right-most side of the palace).

In the first floor you can see the meeting room, dining room (somewhat), social hall and the elegant stairway to the second floor. According to the tour guide, some of the rooms here are for rent to be used in special occasions such as meetings and banquets. Furthermore, the palace also has facilities for celebrations such as weddings and birthday parties. The stairway is just for viewing purpose only. You cannot use it to go to the other floors, instead you can take the elevator or the other stairs on the side. 

The former president's office, a room filled with maps, a small garden with some antique collections on the side, a beautiful room covered with laquer paint, the majestic carpet and an outside view from the veranda are only some of the interesting sights that you can find in the second floor.

In the next floor, you can see the theater room, the projector room (you can see this on your way to the 4th floor), the palace library and yet another collection of fine furnitures. 

Finally, you will have a glimpse of a piano, an open area with some bonsai plant on both opposite sides and a humongous helicopter in the last floor. 

There are only four floors in the palace excluding the basement, which I never bother to see. I was in the place for almost 3 hours and to tell you honestly I really enjoyed the different views that I saw there. Indeed, this tour was definitely fun-filled and educational. 


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Saigon : World's Motorcycle Capital

I could still remember the first time I laid eyes on Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. We were inside the taxi with my other Filipino lecturer and academic head while on our way to Cach Mang Tam 8 Street, where FPT Greenwich Centre is located, from the airport. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing that time.  With my jaw dropped & my eyes popped out, I was so overwhelmed with the street scenery.

motorcycles on a stop
Arguably, I think 90% of all the vehicles that occupy and use the roads in this city are motorcycle. There are some four-wheeled vehicles such as bus, car and truck on the road but these are no match to the number of motorcycles. According to one of my Vietnamese friends, a brand new motorcycle costs, more or less, 25 million Vietnam dong or 1200 US dollar. If you think about the one time price, you could probably say that it is expensive. However, many locals can still get one because motorcycles can be owned through different installment plans/schemes. On the other hand, owning a car here in Vietnam is said to be very luxurious. Aside from the price of the car perse, which is clearly costly already, car owner “wanna be” also need to pay the 200% tax. The flexibility of motorcycle's purchase option and the expensiveness of the cars  probably explain why there is such a big difference in their numbers.

Aside from their personal use of their motorcycles, some Vietnamese have made business out of it too. “Xe Om” or motorcycle taxi is truly one of its kinds. There is no fixed price to this type of transportation. The amount that you will pay really depends on the distance and the type of passenger that you are. For the locals, xe om drivers ask a minimum of only 10 thousand VND but for foreigners like me the asking price falls between the range of 20 to 50 thousand VND or even higher.

xe om driver looking for a passenger
The roads here are not that broad. It is quite similar to the one we have back home, commonly four lanes.  The traffic situation can be really terrible at times especially during peak hours  considering the size of the road and the multitude number of scooters. With some four-wheeled vehicles plus tons of motorcycles, you could simply imagine the result. 

four-lane road
Even though wandering around Ho Chi Minh City can be accident prone sometimes, it is still okay in general. For your safety and protection, just remember the following as they are very important:

 ü  Crossing the street can be very dangerous and scary. Motorcycles virtually come everywhere; even along the pavements so you need to be very careful.

 ü  Riding or driving without a helmet here in Saigon is strictly not allowed. So if ever you made that bold decision to ride the motorcycle taxi at your own risk, you should always ask for a helmet.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

People's Committee Building

The French colonists who occupied Vietnam many years ago have imported their architectural styles in the city. The People’s Committee Building, formerly known as the Ho Chi Minh City Hall or Hotel de Ville de Saigon, is truly one of the living heritages of the past colonization era. Built between 1901 to 1908, this landmark is situated at the northwestern end of DL Nguyen Hue. In front of this building is a park where you can see the statue of Ho Chi Minh. Unfortunately, the building is not opened to either the public or tourists but people can still take photos of it from the outside. 


Monday, January 2, 2012

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

This is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in Saigon. The cathedral was constructed with red bricks imported from France in the 19th century between 1863 and 1880 by the French people. It is situated right at the center of Ho Chi Minh City at Dong Khoi Street, District 1. Despite its old age, it has still remained beautiful on the outside. This landmark is considered as one of the most famous tourist destinations by many travelers in the city. 


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