Category Archives: guilty pleasures

How to Make the Most of Two Days in Ho Chi Minh City

WARNING: This post is
specifically inclined to appeal to coffee lovers.

I have two words to describe Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC):


Or, as I told a friend, my version of Heaven and Hell on earth.

Being the kind of person that starts panicking when there are only two remaining bags of coffee beans in the pantry, I was deliriously happy to discover the cafe culture of HCMC. I found it mind-boggling that there’s a cafe on practically every single block across the entire metropolis. When you see a block without one, you can be certain that the next block will have two or three.

Take a look at these photos of about a quarter of the cafes I passed just walking along a couple of streets:


Trung Nguyen Legend, known to be the Starbucks of Vietnam (albeit with better coffee)


Another popular chain
Two cafes side by side, and a Dairy Queen, right beside a park. What else can you ask for?
This pretty one’s right beside the historic Post Office.
A fine-looking house converted into a fine-looking cafe, also right across a park.
This cafe-cum-pub is a few meters away from the famous Ben Thanh Market.
Cafe with a view

Other random cafe shots:


Oh wait, where was I? I was supposed to give a guide to making the most of a two-day stay in Ho Chi Minh City. Sorry I got carried away with the photos; coffee does that to me.

Anyway, if you are in fact a coffee lover, you can definitely spend an entire day (and night) just exploring the cafes of the city. There are literally dozens upon dozens of them, mostly small, independent ones, some in obscure alleys. Depending on your taste (steaming hot coffee while quietly reading a book? coffee in a garden? a curio feel? coffee in a party zone?), you may do an online search in advance for specific cafes to visit. Or, you can just let the wind (and local word-of-mouth) take you on a cafe adventure once you get there.

The rest of the Ho Chi Minh City sights can be covered in a day. If you want to go the mainstream tourist-y route, make sure to include the following in your itinerary:

  • Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
Ooops, I only got a photo from the back 😦
  • Central Post Office
This guy was actually the highlight of my Post Office visit 😀
  • Ben Thanh Market – For the shopaholics! I got my coffee beans here for $2/100 grams. It closes as 6 P.M., but that just means the stores become mobile and are transferred right outside the market building, where a night market then springs up!

You’re also sure to enjoy the food. Vietnam, after all, is known for heavenly pho (noodles), seafood and street delicacies. So go and explore, taste and see to your heart’s content.

Mmm, mmm, Street Food Market. But first: How to get to the other side? Them motorbikes are out to kill ya! 😀

Note that you can get around and see all the above on foot. And, if your soles get tired, you can always so easily head over to the park, or the nearest cafe!



It’s show and tell time!

I just realized that I have quite a lot of notebooks. Here are some that I use for journaling:

My Little Book of Blessings

I started keeping this one in early 2006 (yes, you read that right, it’s more than ten years old!) to note down each day’s blessings. Oh, the things that are written here! It’s amazing how a huge chunk of how God kept me afloat and joy-filled through some of the most difficult years of my life are chronicled in this tiny notebook. Only thing was, I’d always stop after a few weeks or months, and have just recently resumed writing on it again, so half the pages are still waiting to be filled.

My Faith Walk Journal

Now this notebook used to contain the highlights, or the briefest possible summary, of my every day. (See the very old entry above? Yup, this notebook’s been around for a while, too.) These days, I use it specifically to chronicle aspects of my daily faith walk that have to do with obedience to God’s word, and dealing with temptations, trials and challenges.

THE Cattleya

Ah, this gigantaur! It contains several notebooks, in which I write my Obedience-Based Bible Study notes, other Bible study or Sunday message notes, my personal workshop notes from devouring Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and my prayer items.

My Bring-Almost-Everywhere Notebook 

This precious one is for random scribblings such as the gem(!) I came up with whilst touring Egypt.

Over the last couple of years, however, my most relied upon personal note-taking tool, one of the most wonderful inventions of all time, has been none other than…


How I survived before I had it, I really don’t know! I put everything on Evernote, from receipts and to-do lists to memory verses and quick personal journal entries, to web clippings and photos. I use it from my phone or my computer or my iPad. And it’s just been very reliable (that is, except when I use it for work–I wonder why?!).

What about you? How much are notebooks (whether of the old-school or the digital kind) a part of your daily life?


Kape Tayo!

I can’t readily count how many cups of coffee I’ve had over the last seven days. Indeed coffee is so much a part of my life coffeethat I can structure a summary of my week’s highlights around it. Let me give it a shot:

  • Coffee of the day: pressed Sumatra coffee for breakfast at home, which meant we were unable to attend the Sunday morning service at church. Our usual routine is to leave home early and have breakfast at the church cafeteria, but the hubby fell ill so we did live streaming instead. We observed the Sabbath for real, spending most of the day catching up on much needed rest.
  • Woke up at 4 A.M. on Monday and left home before 5 so I was able to enjoy the breezy drive to the clinic with the hubby — of course by “breezy” I meant I was able to go 40 to 50 KPH, a virtually mythical speed range in Metro Manila where the traffic can run as bad as 2 KPH on a weekday rush hour. At the clinic I got to enjoy the only instant coffee I am able to appreciate a bit, Kopiko Astig (Yikes, that sounded like a paid product endorsement).
  • Had more of my Sumatra coffee to start my busy Tuesday right. The caffeine load served me well as I gave a short talk on social work/non-profit work at The Master’s Academy’s career day forum, and later co-facilitated (with the hubby) our small group session on the Pray-Care-Share movement of our church.
  • Wednesday: Coffee. Work. Repeat.
  • On Thursday, I had very little sleep and another early morning at the clinic, which meant another date with Kopiko Astig instant coffee. Then a meeting with my boss — I was so sleepy I had to order Vietnamese coffee just prior to lunch! A couple of hours later, was treated by a friend to a cup of iced latte at Tully’s while prepping for a networking business opportunity presentation. (This may be a subject of a future post.)
  • Finished off the last grains of my Sumatra coffee on Friday, and got to share my brew with guests. Later tried the Coffee Dreams signature brew to ensure I’d be awake through the Heneral Luna screening. It was a good cup, and it was a wow of a movie.
  • Got to hold the coffee off until after the delicious and pleasantly chatter-filled thanksgiving lunch today among our church magazine volunteers. Did end up giving in to a cup of brewed coffee at Coffee Belle, but it was just perfect to keep me up for the work I had to finish this afternoon.

So I wasn’t kidding, see? Cups of coffee can actually serve as life markers. Care to try? 🙂