Friday, February 27, 2015

Life in Vietnam...questions and answers




When I was told we were moving to Vietnam I went into full Google search mode. Who, what, where, when, how...lay it on me. I searched out other expat bloggers living in Ho Chi Minh City, sent my list of questions and waited patiently. One person answered and I was grateful to her for taking the time. It was a start.

So here I am, nearly three years later and now the questions are coming to me. I feel like the expat "Dear Abby" of Vietnam. What goes around, comes around. I like that. 



Taking a moment...Saigon

I started
 Expat Diary: Viet Nam before we moved to Saigon, as a place store all the information from my Google searches. Since then, I have written sporadically.... but it seems to be enough for people to reach out.


"Fruit for Sale"...Saigon

My most recent request came from Esteban in Argentina in response to my blog post.. A Love Affair..with Vietnam


Hi,

I'm thinking to live in Vietnam for a year to change the air, imbue my in their culture and break with my actual routine. I'm independent translator and I have many happy and loyal clients, so it I can work in any place in the world with Internet.
I like nature, sailing, reading. I consume tons of silence, makes me happy :)
I don't want to be travelling like a tourist during this year, so my plan is to rent a place that will be my home during the entire year. Eventually I wish to visit on some weekends other places in Asia: Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, other places in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. 
My wish is to live alone with my wife in a place near some river, beach or sea, with kitchen (I like to cook every day, this make me feel in home), minimum comfort. Nightlife is not for me, I prefer family lifestyle.
Can you recommend me some cities in Vietnam to do this?

Thank you very much!


Best regards from Argentina,

Esteban 


"Fruit Juice for Sale"...Saigon

Did I mention how much I enjoy receiving notes like this? I think Esteban has the making of a great story. I wrote to him with a few suggestions. I am curious to see if he makes his dream a reality. 

The questions I recieve vary...

Do Vietnamese eat dogs?
Should I bring mine?
What is compound living like?
Which schools do you recommend?
How do you find the medical care in Vietnam?
Do you drive in Vietnam?
What is it like living in a Communist country?
How do I find house staff? How much should I pay them?
What should I bring with me...food, medicine, beauty products?
I am looking for a job, what should I do? How does it work?
How much money do I need to make to live comfortably?
Where should I live?
How do I find an apartment, house?

and from future Vietnam travellers..

I want to travel to Vietnam, where should I go?
Can you recommend shops, restaurants, places to stay?
I want to have furniture made, where should I go?


I admit, some questions are beyond me and some are to complex to answer, but for the most part, I try to answer them the best I can. I am now to the point where I can copy and paste information in response to the most popular questions. I wonder if "Dear Abby" does that..  ;)



"Park Here"...Saigon


So.. in the spirit of powering along with my 28 Day Writing Challenge (the one I am five days behind on).. I thought I would ask if you have any questions for me about life in Vietnam or any other topics that interest you. I find that when you live in a place for a time, you start to forget about the gems that intrigued you when you first settled in. The questions coming my way keep it fresh, allowing me to make the most of my time here.

If you would rather write to me, please do! jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com




Sending you a big "Beep..Beep" 
from Vietnam 
for a wonderful weekend!

Jeanne xx

From Saigon...."Beep..Beep"

Photos above taken along my travels
around Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hanoi in the Pink, Vietnam


I was in Hanoi this past weekend.
Grey and rainy weather could not overshadow
the beauty on nearly every street corner, shop and home.

The Vietnamese are getting ready for the Tet holidays.
 Commencing February 15, 2015

Pink peach flowers are the celebratory flower in Hanoi,
the first sign of spring and symbol of good luck.

It was wonderful to see...Hanoi in the pink.

On bicycles..





and along the curbside,
peach blossoms are for sale everywhere.





 I spotted this lovely stylish woman 
waiting for a bus,
peach blossoms in her arms.



If you visit Hanoi 
this time of year
be sure to have a wander 
and bring your camera.

Find a busy street corner,
hold on tight to your camera
and wait for passing traffic.
Be ready...you will not want to miss 
a single peach blossom. 



I was tempted to purchase a bunch for myself
but decided they might be unruly 
in the overhead storage on the airplane.




The pink peach blossom is a specialty 
in the northern areas of Vietnam.
The climate is cooler and more suitable.

If you travel to Ho Chi Minh City 
during the Tet holiday,
be prepared for happy faces of sunshine.


Either way, you are in for a treat!



Friday, November 14, 2014

A love affair...with Vietnam





It is so easy to have a love affair with food in Vietnam. Since moving to Vietnam nearly two and a half years ago, we have had it at least five out of seven nights of the week. All your senses are on full alert from the moment you first contemplate a menu. Walk through a Vietnamese market and you will fully appreciate the feeling. The sights, sounds, scents, touch, taste..they are all there, some exhilarating..some surprising...and all of them unforgettable. Just give me a stick of lemongrass, a whiff of lime, a crunch of Vietnamese mint and I will be beside myself with joy at the possibilities.

I recently had the chance to share it all with a friend, Paula, who asked to see "my" Saigon. She was coming to Saigon for a few days, post business trip, and said she wanted to experience the "tales" that I write and speak of. It was a challenge I wholeheartedly welcomed as I knew it was going to be  easy. I had a feeling that no matter what I suggested, she would be up for it...and she was. Best memory was when we were both on the back of a Vespa, riding side by side in Saigon, grins as wide as can be as she exclaimed "Amazing! I love this!". I was on the right track...and suggested if she loved riding around Saigon...then we had to take the day tour to the Mekong. I had done it before and loved it...especially the mussels and little pipi's in the photo above. We sampled, we sipped and both exclaimed at the same time when something was delicious...always a wonderful feeling when you share the same enthusiasm for travel and food with another.


If you plan to travel to Saigon...here are a few of my favourites.

I have tried a few cooking classes around Saigon 
and this is my favourite.

I highly recommend both. We took the day trip around the city
with XO Tours and the Mekong trip with Vietnam Vespa. I have also
taken the day trip with Vietnam Vespa around Saigon and thought it was great. 
You can not go wrong with either. 

I am partial to the spa treatments at the Hyatt.
 I know I can always count on them for offering
a great experience every time. 


As for the food...there are so many great options.
 I have listed a few here.
Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Atmospheric light..in Saigon


Le Duan Street, behind Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon

Atmospheric light...it is one of the things I love about Saigon. 
You never know how the light is going to catch you. 
It is magic to behold.



images by Jeanne Henriques


Friday, September 19, 2014

Wellness and jet lag... #saigon


They say that to fully recover from jet lag you should allow one day for each hour of difference between time zones. For me, an eleven hour time difference between Saigon and Boston means I should be hitting my usual stride...about now. It has been ten days since I returned to Saigon.

We all have our ways of coping with jet lag. When I travel to the USA, I hit the ground running and do not look back. It never seems to hit me that hard, I am to busy to think about it. When I return to Saigon it comes in with a wallop. Throw in the heat and a slower and more limited pace to life and I feel like someone sedated me for days on end. I have learned to give in and take it slowly and gently...because I can. 


Slipping into something light and cool is the first order of business.




And then I walk...


around the compound where we live.


Looking for curious sights.




I always manage to find something.



If not walking, I hop on my bicycle for a spin...



or make my way to the pool.



and then...
a Vietnamese iced coffee
followed with a chaser of iced water...
because it is that strong..but oh, so good. 




It is all about the moment...and staying within it.




Healthy eating followed up by lots of water
and more water and more water.






and most important of all..
spa time.

Hyatt Xuan Spa

Sure to cure the worst case of jet lag,
wellness and beauty treatments.
Works every time.

I love to share...
If you live in Saigon or plan to visit,
Here are a few of my "go to" places...
you might enjoy them too.

Spa Treatments

 Massage

Wellness


 If you have places to recommend I would love to know!
You can write to me jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

From where I stand...


I count the days and months by the sun, 
the moon and rainbows.
It is a glorious thing to watch, 
no matter where I stand in the world.

Sunrise over Chateau Mango in Vietnam.

 I have been away these past four months, 
doing what many expats do during the summer months,
spending time back in their home countries with family and friends.

A few key moments are highlighted here.

No matter where I am,
all I need to do is follow the moon, the sun and a rainbow 
to stay connected to the people I love.

From our home in Saigon, Chateau Mango..


Rainbow over travellers palm..

To our home, Tahilla Farm in the USA...


Alongside a mountain...


Over a meadow...

A rainbow comes to call.

It was lovely to be there, 
it is lovely to be back in Saigon.
I feel restored...I am ready.

Beep Beep Saigon...
bring it on!

Dodging traffic yesterday morning in Saigon.


 Photos by Jeanne Henriques

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Foodie Tour- Saigon, Vietnam

Image via XO Tours

Like many other expats, I have escaped the heat and rain of a Saigon Summer for a few months. I have been back nearly a month in the USA and I have to say, Vietnam is always on my mind. I miss Vietnamese food in a big way and am already planning my TO DO list for when I return in September.

One of the many items on my list is the Foodie Tour by way of a motorbike around Saigon. If you are living in Saigon or planning a trip, check out this website..it looks like fun and I am sure it will be delicious!


Read all about  The Foodie Tour  here
Read tripadvisor reviews here


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When parasites come calling...

via


It took me a while to find an image that would convey my message in the nicest and simplest way possible. Trust me, when you are diagnosed with a species of parasite, which is somewhere in your body, and then go on a google search of said parasite, you are in for a shock. With a case of information overload, I backed out of the image search as quickly as I could and decided to stick with text.

Now here is the thing, a few weeks ago, my very able fitness trainer, asked if I was having regular blood tests for parasites. I wasn't and I panicked...sort of. I have been living in Ho Chi Minh City witha few minor tummy grumbles and count myself lucky. Let's just say I have been knocking on wood, frequently, since moving to Vietnam.

I made an appointment to see the doctor. I asked about a blood test, wondering if I needed it. He asked if I was sick, did I have any symptoms? etc... I said no. He said..you don't need it if you are not showing symptoms. Since I needed a blood test for something else, I asked if we could still order the test, more for my peace of mind than anything else.

Three weeks on, the results are in, the little buggers are there. So...I am sending this message to those of you who live in Vietnam, expats, like me. Speak to your doctor about parasites, ask about having a regular screening. I know I will...from here on out.

My doctor said it is most likely resulted from consuming fish, possibly that was not fully cooked. We eat a lot of sashimi. I am rethinking sashimi while in Vietnam. I am very selective about where I eat and how food is prepared. You have to be. It just goes to show, you never know.

With thanks to Stephane for bringing it to my attention. It is one of those occasions when your trainer  knows best and I am glad he suggested it.

I am currently packing for a four month trip to the USA with a 21 day supply of medication. I have 40 boxes to contend with. I think a re-pack is in order. Dratz!

If you would like to prepare for a trip to Southeast Asia, you can start here .

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Two birds taking flight at Chateau Mango


From my favourite chair...

From my favourite chair,  I caught it out of the corner of my eye, a little flash of motion and a chirp...then silence. I was so involved with what I was writing that I thought it must have been my imagination. It could not possibly been a bird, not in a house that has barely seen the crack of a window in months.

scribbled thoughts...


I went back to my writing and then it happened again, a little sparrow bird, a baby, was flying frantically looking for an escape. I did what any person would do, I opened all the windows and doors hoping for it's safe flight home. I turned off the AC and put on the ceiling fans. I now recognise that was not one of my wiser moves. No, I did not accidentally take the life of the wee thing.

an open window...


Fortunately for me, it sought safe haven on my bookshelf..it is WHERE it took haven on my bookshelf that astounded me. I have three iron birds, dipped in gold, who travel with me from country to country. This clever little bird decided to queue up right behind the third one on the left. If ever there was a Kodak moment, I had it...but I did not have my camera.  I was to busy flapping about trying to encourage the little fellow to take flight..and he did..a happy moment.


Once there were four...


As I collected myself and went along to close the windows, I thought how rare an occasion it is to see an open window at Chateau Mango. If we are lucky, we might catch a few semi-dry breezy days in December but certainly not now, with the rainy season looming. The days are as hot and sticky as they come.

On the times I have opened the windows, Huyen, our helper, has been on my heels closing them again, warning me of mosquitoes..the kind that bring dengue fever. She explained that in our compound we are relatively safe, the management is regularly active with pesticides to combat mosquitoes. I always assumed that living in Ho Chi Minh City, we were safe from the ills found in the Mekong and other rural areas of Southern Vietnam. The only time I wear bug spray is when we are sitting on our veranda at the end of the day, when the little nips come out to play. I have been fortunate to have steered clear of mosquito bites. You only need to pick up the local Vietnam English newspaper to see that it is a very real threat in other areas of the country.

a view from our window..

So...on this Saturday morning, as my little friend took flight, I enjoyed looking around our rooms of open windows, took a few photos before locking them up. I could see my little friend happily chirping from a ceramic pot in our garden...we were both ready to start the day.


That's my morning, from Chateau Mango, along the Saigon River. The red dot is where you will find me..at least for three more days before I take flight to the USA for four months. From there I will contend with more mosquitoes and black flies..nasty little nippers, but fortunately, you will always live to see another day.

Chateau Mango...along the Saigon River, Vietnam


Friday, May 2, 2014

Finding beauty in Vietnam...



I love looking through Asian fashion magazines. 
I do not understand a word but that's ok.
The images speak for themselves.

In a recent issue of


A fashion shoot in the northern region of Vietnam,
mixing the earthen elements of the land with
the vibrant colours of the culture.

If you understand Vietnamese, 
the following will tell you more.


If you are like me, 
you will just enjoy the beauty of each image.









Finding beauty in Vietnam. 
Fall/ Winter 2014