Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Traffic in Saigon

Traffic in Vietnam is the typical third world chaos. There seems to be no discernable traffic regulations and many intersections don’t have lights. The most common form of transportation is scooter. Anything that can be balanced on a scooter will be. We saw cages of piglets and chickens, ten foot lengths of rebar, boxed small appliances and entire families on scooters.

If you look carefully at the video, you can see some large parcels on the backs of few scooters. Small children usually stand of the frame of the scooter between the legs of the driver. In the center of the circle were I took this video is a statue and five roads feed into the circle. There are no traffic lights and vehicles from bicycles to buses just merge and weave around each other.

This video was taken in the Cholon section of Saigon near the market. The Cholon district is the city’s Chinatown era and has a long history. In the market, the stalls offer anything and everything at wholesale prices. My wife found a stand selling beaded cell phone ornaments. She bought a couple of dozen at about US$0.50 each. She has seen similar items in the mall for over US$5.00.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Guest Rooms

Alley of guest houses
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
We stayed at what are considered luxury hotels while in Vietnam. There are a lot of other lodging options. At the other end of the spectrum are guest houses which are very inexpensive. My mother-in-law stays at these places when she visits for a month or two each year.

A guest house building is a narrow midrise building about five stories high. The ground floor is a lobby with offices. A central stair runs up to each floor. At each floor there are two rooms off of the stair. The room is about 10 feet by 15 feet in size (3m by 5m). The room will have two beds and a small window and an air conditioner as well as other amenities such as phone, a refrigerator and television . There is a bathroom which has a sink, toilet and shower head, but not a separate shower stall.

The rooms cost about ten dollars a day and are very popular with European backpackers. Because of this, they are sometimes called backpacker hotels. Travel agents work in this area offering travel arrangements to outlying cities. These agents offer open bus tickets on frequently traveed routes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Starbucks of Vietnam

Trung Nguyen Coffeeshop
Originally uploaded by yellojkt.
One of the many capitalist innovations that Vietnam is allowing and adopting is franchising. One of the most common chains is Trung Nguyen, a chain of coffee shops. We saw the brown logo of this brand throughout Vietnam, making it the Starbuck of the country. According to this article, there are over 400 of these shops in Vietnam. High tarriffs keep Starbucks and other chains out.

Since French colonial days, coffee has been an important part of the Vietnamese economy and culture. Vietnamese coffee is a very strong espresso style beverage.

One popular method of serving coffee commonly found in Vietnamese restaurants in the United States is iced coffee with condensed milk. Condensed milk is poured into a glass of ice and then a small pot filled with coffee grounds is placed over the glass. Hot water is poured into the pot and when the coffee is finished seeping into the glass, the coffee, milk and ice are stirred.

In any third world country, tourists are warned not to drink the water. In Vietnam, we stuck to bottled water, but ice is just as dangerous.

One morning I saw a local shop preparing their ice for the day. A large block of ice had been delivered to the shop and one of the workers had set it on the dirty sidewalk and was chipping it with a rusty machete. That sight kept me from drinking any beverages that involved ice. I stuck to refrigerated cans of soda and fruit juice.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Badminton Saigon Style

In all of Vietnam, lots of people exercise in the morning and badmintion is a very popular game. On one of my morning walks I came across a park near the Ben Thanh Market in Saigon. People were doing everything from tai chi to aerobics to just walking. The group in the video was playing a very competitive game of badminton. Nearby kids and teenagers were just practicing with rackets but no nets.