Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stuck in Saigon

This is another late post just to recall that I actually had gone to Vietnam before, for the first time in my life. Earlier last year, I was tasked to put together a conference for HoChiMinh City. Initially, I was super excited to be trusted to handle a Vietnam project. Difficulty wise, the project was indeed more challenging than any other countries that I handled before due to the language barrier, cultural difference and the fact that it was our pioneer event in Vietnam in a large scale and in partnership with the local authorities.

My expensive ticket to Vietnam.

I remember for four consecutive months I had to work extra hard to make sure everything runs smoothly on the D-Day. Unlike any other overseas conferences that I ran before, there were a lot of hiccups along the way. Indeed my 'free' ticket to Vietnam cost me so much, physically and mentally. Nearing the D-Day, due to the amount of continuous stress that I encountered for this particular event, I somewhat lost of interest in visiting Vietnam. Yet, the show must go on and I had to be there.

I flew to Vietnam on Sunday morning in the last week of June with heavy heart and arrived in HoChiMinh in late morning. My first impression of the city was similar to any other city in Indonesia. Chaotic, polluted, traffic jam and lots of motor bike. Luckily, that day, my mood came back to explore some of Saigon's landmarks. I mean it was my ex-colleague's and my first experience in Vietnam. After we checked in the hotel and dumped our stuff there, I took a stroll with my ex-colleague, Elisabeth. We walked around the city center, shopped a bit and tasted the real authentic Vietnamese cuisine for the first time, ever. This part was fun and interesting.

The Municipal Theater, only steps away from my hotel.

Shopping at the famous Ben Thanh Market.

My first lunch: Beef Pho at Pho 24. 
Can't have it elsewhere.

Lime Juice from Street Stall.

Yamcha in Vietnam!

The HoChiMinh City Hall.

Me in front of my hotel after shopping in Ben Thanh Market.
Bargaining ain't easy job there.

 The Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica.

Thien Hau Pagoda: Built in 1760.

Speaking of food in Vietnam, throughout our three-night stays in HoChiMinh, Elisabeth and I always had dinner at the same restaurant which was located just somewhere in front of our hosting hotel. We ordered the same food, again and again. It is maintain by this Malay lady who has been staying in Vietnam for a long time and most of the Vietnamese waiters spoke Malay language fluently. How weird is that?

Favorite restaurant so far.

Halal Beef Pho.

Mango Salad.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

With the Halal Saigon Crew on our last night in Vietnam.

On our last night in HoChiMinh City after we're pretty much done with our business there, Elisabeth and I decided to take a cab and catch the infamous Vietnam's traditional water puppet show. It was really interesting and amazing. I would recommend to anyone new to Vietnam to watch this show. I think they run the show several times a day, every day.

The venue for Water Puppet Show.

 A snippet from the show.

The artists behind the show.

The Municipal Theater at night.

By the way, the conference itself was pretty much well-organized despite the dramas in the beginning of the event. However, as usual, I very much enjoyed meeting interesting international people during the event. Speaking of Vietnam, now I feel like going to Vietnam again. It's actually a nice place to visit, minus all the dramas though. Maybe, exploring Hanoi would be a good choice for the next trip, should I ever set foot in Vietnam again.


  1. The mango salad looks very interesting, seems like plenty of similarities in the type of food found here.

  2. I must say this mango salad beats Thai's mango salad. Best mango salad I have ever eaten thus far.


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