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Jan 25, 2014

The next time you're in Sài Gòn...

The next time you're in Ho Chi Minh City, take this post along in case you need:

Optical Assistance
Cửa Hàng Mắt Kính Optical Shop, 195 Dé Thám, District 1
I brought three pair do glasses with me because I figured that traveling extensively would take its toll. So far, I overpacked. It took 8 weeks to render the first pair pretty much unusable. The frame broke, and the lenses (one prescription ago) are still okay. Terrance told me about a shop a few blocks away that'd helped him out in a similar situation, so I wandered down there this morning... and in 30 minutes they put my old lenses in a new frame for a bit under $30. If they were my #1 or #2 pair, I would've gone for the $60. frame, but these will be just fine. Everyone I dealt with was very helpful and there is an optometrist on-site. 
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The World's Freshest Fruit Drinks
Smoothie & Fruit, 19 Đổ Quang ĐẩuDistrict 1
This tiny shop just opened this week and is run by a very nice young couple. Since the fruit is fruit until you ask them to make it into juice or a smoothy, you can't find any fresher juices anywhere. 

Prices range from 15,000-20,000 VND (US$0.75-1.00), so you can drink a couple every day as I do...
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The best Phớ (pron. Faa) I've Found
Phớ Quỳnh, 323 Phạm Ngū Lão, District 1
With four HCMC locations, one will probably be near where you're staying. Very fresh and flavorful, this corner location means it's always busy. You may get to share a table with a stranger, so pull up a stool, order a hot bowl of this ubiquitous noodle soup, and dig in. Conversation optional, though most natives I've met talk before and after, but rarely during the meal... Unless they're quite well off.

Note: Slurping your noodles is both necessary and standard phớ-eating etiquette.

Phớ Ga and drink <70,000 VND (~US$3.50)
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Two Nice Hotels
Havy Hotel, 16-18 Đổ Quang ĐẩuDistrict 1
The owner is almost always on-site and both she and many of her very capable staff speak good English. Very clean rooms at fair and reasonable rates AND, if you've rented or purchased a motorcycle or scooter, there is 24-hour indoor, secure parking. If you want a western-style shower, let them know when you make your reservation. Tell them I sent you (show the picture from the blog) and she may come down a dollar or two on the rate.

Kim Hai Hotel, 17 Đổ Quang ĐẩuDistrict 1
Across the street from the Havy, is another good hotel. Owner Kim and the reception staff also speak good English, the rooms a bit smaller, and rates are comparable to the Havy. If you do not need parking, this is an equally good choice.

Note: I was able to walk into both hotels and secure a room for that night and beyond. There may be times that a reservation is needed. Both hotels are in the US$20/night range. 
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iPhone Assistance
ĐTDD HOÀNG PHÁT, 358-360 Trần Hưng Đạo, P2, District 5
As I wrote about a month or so ago, I screwed up and updated the software on the iPhone3GS--which then would not finish rebooting--rendering it useless. Until today, when I finally decided to spend some time seeing if any of the shops calling themselves "Apple Specialists" could figure out WTF was wrong with it. The first shop spent 20 minutes or so working on it, with the bottom line that they "don't have the equipment to fix it because it's too old." No fix, no charge. 

Next, I wandered down the street to another shop a kilometer or so away. Their Specialist handed it back to me about 30 minutes later and the only thing I needed to do to use it was ask him to switch the language from Vietnamese to English. Total cost: 100,000VND (less than US$5), plus the 40,000 VND tip I gladly gave him. It's working just fine, now, thank you!
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Clothing Repair
Street-side Clothing Repair, between 145 and 147 Bùi Viên, District 1

This guy is great!

My favorite shorts had a ripped seam for a few years and I was frequently less than careful about putting things in the right front pocket. The rip's gotten larger since I've been here and when this street-side repair "shop" appeared last week, I decided to give him some business. 

He was working on some jeans and I want, but he stopped working on them put them aside any song. I handed in my shorts, showed him the lack of scene, and he went to work. After choosing almost exactly the right shade of green for the thread, he wound a bobbin, loaded the thread, and two minutes later had the seam completely repaired. When he asked for 10,000 VND I shoot my head 'No,' and handed him 30,000 (US$1.50). He smiled broadly, thanked me, and I went happily on my way.
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Massage and/or Manicure
Như Sương, 32 Nguyển Cư Trinh, District 1
I first met Trang (pron. Tran) when she was one of a two-manicurist team who did a very good job on my left hand. When I returned the next day for a massage, she remembered me and asked if she could be my masseuse. Absolutely. 

The one-hour massage was extended a bit at my request and was one of the best I've had in-country. She was very good and extremely professional. The massage was 200,000 VND and I tipped her 300,000 VND to make it an even 500,000. Money well spent, because two days later I'm still feeling good.

Another choice is Khả Hấn, 40 Nguyền Cư Trinh, a couple doors to the left of the shop above. I went there when I first arrived and had a borderline negative experience, but when Như Sương closed for the Tèt holiday, I thought I would give it another go for or a neck and shoulder massage. Fortunately, I drew a very nice and professional young lady named Thu (pronounced "to").  She did a great job and, although her English is limited, she was able to understand what I wanted. As a woman who depends on tips to live, she chooses to up-sell with a manicure instead of the additional private massage options often offered by others. I said yes, and my fingernails look as good as they ever have. She also offered a pedicure, but I was running late for another engagement, so I returned the next day. 

If you go, make sure to ask for Thu and be sure to stay away from Trang. She's the tall one who smiles like a snake...

See my post "Tạm biệt (goodbye) Việt Nam... for now" for a photo from that session.

I'm getting spoiled by the Customer Service here...
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See Sài Gòn, Random Thoughts, Phần Ba dated 21 January for a few more restaurant suggestions.

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