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Friday, January 12, 2007

Ho Chi Minh 20 ~ 21 Dec 2006

More meetings in HCM regarding the setting up new company and viewing of potential new office locations. Just work.

What was interesting was the food and shopping:

Yeebo steam boat restuarant
The newest and most popular steam boat restuarant in HCM.

Nice muted modern chinese style deco with LOTS of waiters and waitresses to serve you, not only helping to cook the food for you, but even deboning the pork knuckle that had flavored the soup so that you can get at the meat and the jelly stuff without dirtying your fingers.

We ordered lots of stuff, but i wasnt paying any attention until a dish that looked like drained beans which like they from canned beans baked in tomata source was placed in front of me. Kidney shaped, bean sized, pale orange color. What were they?

"Chicken testicles" they told me, expecting me to squirm (me squirm? hello, me queen of eating all weird stuff, even a balot OK?)

"Wow. How many chickens had to die for this dish?'

They laughed.

"Wait, it should be how many roosters had to die for this dish?"

They squirmed.


They were going to a second round of drinking, and i begged off with a couple of colleagues. We wanted to check out the pasar malam / night market. The guy took the car, and i left on a scooter with the local girl.

Riding Pillion on a bike in HCM at night
I had thought it was chaotic previously when being driven in a car, THIS was something else.

No helmet and we were zipping through the traffic at 30km/h (it felt like 70km/h) but with 100 bikes all honking at one thing or another, pedastrains criss-crossing the road every which way, almost no traffic lights and no hard-and-fast traffic rules, and huge cars, in a left-hand drive country, made my heart stopped several times.

And it was belatedly well into my journey that my rider pointed out, "Ms. J, see? No left side mirror. I came out from church last week and it was already broken, and I didnt have a chance to replace it!" silence.... "no worry! i have license!"

Night Market
The night market 2 streets away from New World Hotel is kinda like all other markets such as china town in KL, or women's street in HK, just less crowded with carts/ semi-permanent stores/ selling food, clothings, shoes, costume jewelry, bags and stuff. Everything was bargainable, maybe up to 40% for foreigners and 10% for locals. because they start with a higher price for foreigners... duh!

But i like the culture, it is a relaxed no rush for time bargaining style, they will even point to a stool for you to eat and renegotiate the price should you come to a stalemate after 5-10min. Very unlike say Chiangmai/ Phuket where you get the evil eye for touching merchandise and asking for the price and not buying. No such hostility here. In the end i bought some santarina dresses S$2.40 and christmas hats $0.70 for the kiddies (which my angels wore in the Christmas Eve party) and au-dai $15.00 for the kiddies.

Roadside store
Shopping done, we had a supper at a real road side store, where you sat on knee high plastic stools and plastic tables, and the proprietor was cooking over charcoal in a square metal container with a wire mesh on top.

We had 2x bbq clams in shell, fried clams in shell with garlic, fried diced scalloops with garlic and herbs, and bbq gong-gong, served with a lime-salt-grated ginger-cut chilli-sugar-fish sauce dip (i gotta try replicate the dip at home), and washed down with beer.

It may have been a health risk, but the food was fresh and good. My best meal in HCM, costing just 28000VND which is about S$25 for 3 of us, compared to the US$90 that the 6 of us had at yeebo not counting the wine which were BYO.

Rip off
My young male companion wanted a smoke and went to the street corner seller, where they still sell cigs in a glassed covered wooden drawer, and you can buy just 1 stick.

He was quoted VND 7000 for a pack, being unfamiliar with the currency he pulled out the whole bundle of cash to count them, while the seller asked if he wanted a lighter, he said yes.

Lo and behold the seller plucked out 2 x 20000VND from his hand and told him 23000VND. I thought something was fishy and went to pluck out the money from the seller and asked my companion how much were the cigs, he said 23000VND, me not knowing the market rate for cigs since i dont smoke asked him if that was ok. He was probably dying for a smoke cos he said ok and passed the 40000VND back to the seller, and i made sure he got back his 17000VND.

It was only when puffing the first cig that he realised that at 7000VND (S$6+)for the pack, that meant 16000VND (S$15+)for the small plastic disposable non-refillable lighter... quah quah... and when we checked with the locals, a pack PLUS lighter is probably 6-7000VND. Darn expensive lighter that, i'll advised to frame it up.

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