Tag: vietnam

Commuting in Ho Chi Minh City

My motorbike in Saigon

My motorbike in Saigon

Last month I spent 12 days in Vietnam’s biggest city – Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. It was great to see the other major city in Vietnam after living in Hanoi for three months at the beginning of the year.

Saigon definitely seems more “Americanized” than Hanoi, with plentiful fast food places and chain stores. But it also has a strong Vietnamese character, with lots of local places to eat great Vietnamese food – including my personal favorite, pho.

The preferred mode of transport in Saigon is the motorbike. I was able to rent a bike for 500,000 Vietnamese dong (about $23) for one week. The rental service even dropped off and picked up the motorbike from my Airbnb apartment – very convenient!

The video below shows what it’s like to ride through the streets of this southern Vietnamese metropolis. It follows the route from near my apartment in District 3 to a Starbucks in District 1. As you can see, it’s a very vibrant city and without a doubt one of the top spots to visit Southeast Asia.

55 Days of Coffee in Hanoi and Siem Reap

Gloria Jean's Coffees in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Gloria Jean’s Coffees in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ever since the beginning of March, I’ve been recording certain details whenever I visit a coffee shop. Specifically, I make note of these things:

  • Date
  • Time rounded to nearest half hour
  • Name of coffee shop
  • Geocoordinates
  • My drink
  • Price of drink
  • WiFi download speed
  • WiFi upload speed
  • Speedtest results

Below is the data I’ve gathered over the last 55 days and provides a snapshot into my coffee shop migration patterns.

A few of the speed measurements around the middle of March seem inaccurate due to issues I had with the Speedtest.net tool. (I’m not sure if it was my computer or the website that had the issue.)

3/114:30Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND7.415.83
3/219:30Oriberry CoffeeAmericano28000 VND0.951.94
3/220:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee35000 VND49.9224.77
3/222:00Cong CapheYogurt coffee40000 VND36.9328.98
3/311:30Highlands CoffeeAmericano54000 VND7.459.65
3/313:30Cong CapheTea by the pot30000 VND50.4734.89
3/317:00Highlands CoffeeVietnamese black coffee29000 VND5.673.43
3/321:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee smoothie45000 VND32.3134.35
3/412:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee35000 VND11.884.41
3/414:30Highlands CoffeeVietnamese black coffee29000 VND6.113.78
3/422:00Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND9.149.72
3/511:00Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND4.948.89
3/514:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee35000 VND27.7615.07
3/517:30Oriberry CoffeeShort black28000 VND3.490.75
3/614:00Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND7.999.79
3/616:30Oriberry CoffeeEspresso28000 VND8.31.76
3/714:00Oriberry CoffeeCappuccino45000 VND4.543.6
3/718:30Cong CapheCoconut coffee35000 VND31.425.84
3/719:00Oriberry CoffeeVietnamese black coffee28000 VND1.930.38
3/810:00Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND9.151.63
3/811:30i-Feel CoffeeVietnamese black coffee35000 VND22.515.95
3/914:00Oriberry CoffeeAmericano28000 VND1.680.71
3/918:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee smoothie45000 VND13.296.26
3/919:00Cong CapheCoffee with fresh milk35000 VND28.7225.75
3/920:30Cong CapheTea by the pot30000 VND32.9834.72
3/1013:00Trung Nguyen CoffeeMother Land coffee50000 VND9.568.3
3/1014:30Trung Nguyen CoffeeL'Amour coffee50000 VND8.758.05
3/1015:30StarbucksCoffee of the day50000 VND43.3335.71
3/1017:30StarbucksCoffee of the day50000 VND22.8718.81
3/1020:00StarbucksCoffee of the day50000 VND44.3747.86
3/1111:00Oriberry CoffeeAmericano28000 VND0.765.59
3/1113:00Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND2.152.1
3/1213:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee35000 VND2.484.05
3/1313:30Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND0.640.05
3/1319:00Oriberry CoffeeAmericano28000 VND6.651.38
3/1320:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee smoothie45000 VND49.2434.78
3/1419:30JomaAmericano30000 VND34.10.99
3/1615:30Highlands CoffeeVietnamese black coffee29000 VND3.150.4
3/1714:30StarbucksCoffee of the day50000 VND9.146.18
3/1716:30StarbucksCoffee of the day50000 VND14.279.59
3/188:00StarbucksCoffee of the day50000 VND0.290.08
3/1812:00StarbucksAmericano55000 VND278.157.1
3/1912:00Cong CapheCoconut coffee smoothie45000 VND12.824.11
3/1919:30Cong CapheCoconut coffee smoothie45000 VND0.980.44
3/2014:30Highlands CoffeeAmericano44000 VND3.127.44
3/2017:30Cong CaphePassion fruit yogurt smoothie50000 VND347.361.88
3/2220:00Cong CapheSoda water30000 VND0.2422.1
3/2913:30StarbucksAmericano55000 VND3.077.99
3/2914:00StarbucksCoffee of the day50000 VND9.510.35
3/3012:00Oriberry CoffeeBrewed coffee50000 VND1.120.04
3/3013:00Highlands CoffeeAmericano54000 VND3.179.21
4/215:00Costa CoffeeAmericano3.3 USD2.033.41
4/315:00Common GroundsCoffee1.25 USD3.142.98
4/611:30The 1961 Coworking and Art SpaceBrewed coffee2 USD8.6212.4
4/711:30Gloria Jean's CoffeesAmericano2.85 USD4.8422.7
4/911:30Gloria Jean's CoffeesAmericano2.3 USD4.821.16
4/913:30Gloria Jean's CoffeesCaffè Latte2.55 USD3.9719.9
4/914:00Gloria Jean's CoffeesCrème Brûlée Chiller3.45 USD4.4621.82
4/920:00Gloria Jean's CoffeesCookies 'n Cream Chiller3.25 USD9.7318.27
4/1011:00The 1961 Coworking and Art SpaceBrewed coffee2 USD7.610.67
4/1111:00Gloria Jean's CoffeesCoffee of the day2.85 USD9.6924.12
4/1319:00Gloria Jean's CoffeesSalted Caramel Matcha Chiller3 USD9.1611.82
4/1414:30Gloria Jean's CoffeesAmericano3.1 USD3.889.63
4/1515:00Jean's CaféAmericano2.25 USD3.363.1
4/1516:30Gloria Jean's CoffeesCoffee of the day2.3 USD4.8122.79
4/2019:00Gloria Jean's CoffeesMint Chocolate Bomb Chiller3.35 USD7.1915.82
4/2313:30Gloria Jean's CoffeesVoltage Chiller3.25 USD3.2220.2
4/2318:00Gloria Jean's CoffeesVery Vanilla Chiller3.25 USD9.6724.06
4/2411:30Gloria Jean's CoffeesAmericano2.85 USD4.3122.4
4/2413:30The GlasshouseCoffee3.5 USD4.884.76

A Trip to Northern Vietnam

On the northern frontier

In the northern Vietnamese hinterlands

A couple weeks ago I took a motorbike trip through Hà Giang province in northern Vietnam. It is considered one of the most beautiful parts of Vietnam with its rugged, mountainous terrain and breathtaking views. It is also one of the least explored areas of the country, having been largely inaccessible due to a lack of reliable roads until recently.

The weather was mostly overcast and included some light rain with temperatures in the 60’s Fahrenheit. There were some warmer spots, but the sun was hidden the majority of the time. The views were constantly amazing and it was really neat to see all the ethnic Hmong people in their brightly colored outfits along the mountains. They continue to live a very traditional lifestyle of subsistence agriculture.

Below are a few unedited videos I took from the trip. The other person in some of the videos is Gita, my (former) housemate from Canada.

Driving in Hanoi, Part 2

Morning commute in Hanoi

Morning commute in Hanoi

I had heard about the crazy traffic in Hanoi before coming here. But experiencing it first hand gives you a better appreciation for it.

What’s interesting is how orderly everything seems beneath the chaotic surface. Drivers here don’t follow “formal” standards like obeying traffic lights and stop signs, driving on the right side of the road, etc. But people are actually pretty cautious if a different way.

There is a lot of honking, which serves as a helpful warning that drivers are passing or just letting you know that they are there. Cars seem to honk the most because they take up the most room on the road and therefore need to alert people of their presence.

There also appears to be no road rage whatsoever, which is strange considering how everybody cuts each other off all the time. I guess since everyone does it nobody takes offense. As far as I can tell, honking is rarely intended as malicious or aggressive. Driving here is generally less anti-social than in the U.S. where everybody jealously guards “their” territory on the road and is quick to get upset about “those other idiot drivers”. Driving in the U.S. (or driving cars in general) can be a stressful and isolating experience.

In contrast, driving in Hanoi can actually be fun and exciting. It can also be stressful and tiring as well, but more in terms of having to be constantly on alert. Driving during rush hour and in crowded areas like the Old Quarter is also much more demanding physically and mentally with the amount of other bikes, motorbikes, cars, and pedestrians. Since I live in the “suburbs” of Tay Ho I don’t experience this heavy traffic very often.

A factor that makes driving in the city less dangerous is that the speeds are generally quite low. My motorbike, for example, tops out at 30 mph, but most of the time I am travelling at a much lower speed. Most people wear helmets here. I would estimate around 80% or so, although some helmets are so thin I doubt they would help much in a serious crash.

Overall, driving in Hanoi is a unique experience that makes you appreciate the city!

Impressions of Hanoi, Part 5

Intersection by Hoan Keim lake

Intersection by Hoan Keim lake

Welome to the fifth and final edition of this American‘s impressions of Vietnam’s second largest city. In no particular order, here are yet more observations of my adopted city for the past two and a half months.

  • Bills are paid in person
    Every now and then a random person will ring the doorbell and ask for money for the water, electricity, or Internet. Apparently this is how bills are paid in Hanoi.
  • There is little separation between indoors and outdoors, public and private
    This was especially noticeable over the Tet holiday (Chinese New Year) when a lot of families were at home. Walking around the streets you could hear the sounds from inside peoples’ homes (TVs, music, people talking) and even look into their living rooms and kitchens from the street as it is common to leave the doors open.
  • It helps to be able-bodied
    This is probably true for travelling and life in general, but having good overall fitness and flexibility makes life here much more enjoyable. Being able to negotiate traffic and roadside obstacles as well as make do with tight spaces is quite useful. Motorbiking can also be physically demanding. Hanoi would be a difficult city for a handicapped person.
  • Lack of religion
    As an officially atheist nation, there is not much open display of religious belief. Since religion is a non-factor in my life, I find his charming.
  • Public urination
    It is an infrequent, yet not uncommon sight to see men standing by a wall to relieve themselves. If this were any more prevalent it would probably be off-putting, but it’s not a rampant occurrence and usually quite discreet.
  • No beggars
    Even though Vietnam is not a rich country, I have yet to encounter a classic “beggar” here. I’m not sure if this is because of the communist system taking care of everyone or if Vietnamese people have too much pride to ask for handouts directly. Or if it’s culturally taboo in some other way. The closest thing to “beggars” are the occasional people offering to shine your shoes for a small fee.
  • It’s easy to get lost
    Google Maps exists here and I use it on my smartphone to get around the city, but often I end up turned around. My sense of direction has improved over time, but navigating the streets can be confusing.
  • Motorbike taxis
    It took me a while to realize that the people waving at me shouting “moto-bike” were not offering to sell me a motorbike. Rather, they were offering me a ride. As far as I can tell, motorbike “taxis” are just regular people offering to drive you from point A to point B on their bike. Kind of like an informal Uber. I have never taken one but I hear they are much cheaper than regular taxis.