Here today, Saigon tomorrow

A family from California moves to Ho Chi Minh City. Hilarity ensues.

September in Saigon

While a chill in the air and neon leaves on trees it is not, autumn in Southeast Asia has brought a few surprises including dog show birthdays, invertebrates in places you wouldn’t expect, and excuses to dress up like someone else a whole month early.

Our school just finished spirit week.  We dressed (sorta) like hippies, wore our house shirts (go Cobras!) [No- go DRAGONS!], wore pajamas, and found twins. The rules of opposite day stipulated that students should dress like teachers, showing their school spirit by avoiding the school uniform.


Who taught you to tie a tie?!?!  And put some shoes on!


Much better.


I like how the brown, orange, and black in the tie brings out the…uh…


Teachers, uh, like stripes?  

And the teachers, of course, dressed like students.

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This is me and my fellow math teacher Clara from Alhambra in Southern California.  I swear she’s not a student!


The twins got to attend another birthday party at Bee Bee Land, this time complete with dogs jumping through hoops!  Don’t you want to hire a dog show for your next get-together?

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Some teachers at our school have a monthly meat night where the guys get together and share a carcass or twelve.  Or in the case of the vegetarian among us, a plate of tofu and noodles (which looked pretty good, actually).  Upon arriving at the very local place complete with charcoal grills set up at all the tables, we discussed which of the 78 distinct species on the menu would grace our table.

Octopus is always on my list, and of course beef and pork were discussed, but I wasn’t party to the actually ordering process.  So picture the look on my face when this arrived.

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I needed to build up to the scorpion with a bit of that crocodile on the same plate.  But then came the moment of truth.

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I made the mistake of nibbling.  A claw here.  A bit of face there.  Andrew (to the left below) was much smarter, just shoving it all in at once.

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In case you’re wondering: crunchy (obviously), smokey, not too meaty (again, obviously).  The body/abdomen actually did have a bit of meat in it, but it was gray.  GRAY!  Overall, not as bad as I would have thought, though not really something I’ll be seeking out on a regular basis.

To top it all off, the crocodile was a bit on the chewy side.  I’ve found that there’s a reason exotic meat is exotic.

And that reason is texture.


The grown-ups also got to celebrate a friend’s birthday, but instead of a dog show we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at a fancy hotel which happened to have a wedding shop inside.


Sarah and Beth, the birthday girl.


Many lunches during the work week are spent across the road at an establishment which serves a fantastic soup called mì quảng.  It really is a great soup, so great that a few expats in Đà Nẵng wrote a fun song about it (though it has a few savory words).  One of my Vietnamese coworkers said that the mì quảng at this place isn’t anywhere as good as a place she knows downtown.  So to round out the month Milo and I accompanied Martin to investigate these allegations of otherworldly soup.

As always, the place was difficult to find, even with the address and GPS on our phones.  We wandered down the road a bit, looking for 10/14, but only finding 10, 12, 12B, 12E, 14, 14D, 14F, 14H, 16…

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Lunch with Martin and Milo 007

“Now where did I leave that case of assorted hammer and sickle pieces?”

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…before deciding to try this alley:

Lunch with Martin and Milo 010

And low and behold it eventually opened up into a nice pedestrian (well, plus motorbikes) thoroughfare brimming with restaurants, including the Đo Đo Quán.  Upon sitting down Martin immediately suggests the pupas, which are just what you think they are.

Lunch with Martin and Milo 014

Milo politely refused.  The Brit ate three and I was a close second with two.  Again with the texture…

(Yes, they do indeed pop in your mouth.)

Lunch with Martin and Milo 016

While the mì quảng was good, perhaps I’m just a silly gringo, but I think the place across from school serves better soup.  And it’s a much easier commute.  Though this neighborhood did offer some nice ambiance.

Lunch with Martin and Milo 037

Lunch with Martin and Milo 026

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I haven’t yet captured the complex beauty of Ho Chi Minh City’s electrical wires.  The picture above just hints at it.  Perhaps one day I’ll get it…


– Warren


P.S.  As I was finishing this up I heard a loud chirping which sounded like it was coming from just a few feet away.  I emptied the hamper of clothes next to the table, but found nothing.  Half an hour later I heard it again, maybe coming from the wall.  Loud enough that you really, really can’t miss it.  Was it coming from the painting on the wall?  I picked up the painting and a three-inch gecko scurried down the wall.  Perhaps I knew they could chirp.  Did you?

One comment on “September in Saigon

  1. Carol Gannon
    October 3, 2014

    Just when we think you can’t possibly gastronomically top yourself……

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This entry was posted on September 30, 2014 by .
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