HCMC Photography

As I’ve been living here for nearly 2 years now, I thought it was probably about time that I shared some scenic photos of the city that I’ve grown to love. Here are a few of my favourite snaps, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I’m renowned for taking blurry/slanted photos due to shaky-hand-itis … Although I do think I’m improving …

All photos belong to CoKerri, please do not use them for other purposes. Please report back if you see these photos used on any other website.

Roses Are Red

I’ve largely been focusing on pronunciation and phonetics in my classes this past week, as all my students have their ‘dreaded’ oral tests next week. And after the shocking performance of last month’s tests (here) I’m determined to bring home some high scoring results this time.

The students really struggle with pronunciation; the sounds that tend to elude them the most include; Th, Ch, Sh and any word that ends in S or a hard consonant. As a result, lessons on the subject can become really quite tedious for them. So to help ease their boredom a little, I usually have a few extra activities up my sleeve. Tongue twisters are my first point of call, but they don’t make for an interesting blog entry. So we’ll move onto my next ‘golden nugget’; poetry. Now, I’m no Shakespeare, but I’ve studied enough of the genre to know that ‘Roses Are Red’ is a true classic (ehem).

So, it goes a little like this. I put the basic structure on the board:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You are beautiful,

And I love you!

Then, after explaining that you must only change the final two lines, and that the final word must rhyme with ‘blue’, I leave them to create their own versions in pairs. Here are some of the results (some more entertaining than others):

1: Lack of Imagination

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You are gorgeous,

And I like you!

2: Tear Jerker

 Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You broke my heart,

Now I hate you!

3: Sweet Dreams

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

I met Brad Pitt last night,

I want dream to come true!

4: Animal Instinct

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You are crazy,

Like monkey in the zoo!

5: Food for thought

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

I like pizza,

And hamburgers too!

6: Macabre

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You kissed her?

I kill you!

7: Fashion, Darling

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Sandals are comfortable,

But I like high heel shoe!

8: Lost the Memo

Roses are pink,

Violets are white,

I love you,

You love me!

Their homework is to create their own 4 line poem which includes at least 2 lines of rhyme. I’m sure these will be even more entertaining, so look out for a follow up.

In the meantime, here’s a little flashback for you to enjoy …

The F Word

It’s a rarity, but as I write this, I’m a little lost for words. So, without beating around the bush, I’ll just get straight to the point.

Last night, during one of my classes, a young female student looked directly into my eyes and said ‘F**k You Teacher’.

I genuinely could not believe my ears. I got home and was really quite emotional. I know, I know, the first rule of teaching, don’t take things too personally. But really, a Vietnamese student just swore at me … in English! This is the one reason why I chose to teach in Vietnam in the first place; to avoid the disrespectful youth of the UK.

The girl in question is a part of one of my more rowdy classes; a group of 25 young teenagers where the boys are just interested in fighting each other and the girls are preoccupied wasting their flirts on the uninterested boys. I’ve been teaching this class for 7 weeks now though, so the boundaries have been set and my good cop/bad cop routine has perfected itself. By this point, we all know where we stand inside Room 103.

Last night, the class were a little more hyperactive than usual. So to calm them, I presented them with a ‘pop quiz’ which they had to complete in silence. All the students obliged and each offered a polite ‘Thank You’ as I handed out the paper, except for this one 15 year old girl who produced the venomous words proudly. The rest of the class died in a sea of laughter which immediately put me in a vulnerable position, something which was, until that point, extremely unfamiliar to me.

Teachers in Vietnam have poll position in the respect ladder, they even rank above parents. So much so, we even have a Public Holiday dedicated to our efforts (roll on 20th November). I’ve never let this respect go to my head though; I am the friendly teacher, the one that tries (probably too hard) to be best mates with all of her students. As a result, I’ve always had a great rapport with my students and I use disciplinary methods very rarely. So this latest incident has really quite shaken me.

Regardless of the events that followed, I’ve since been preoccupied with de-constructing the whole lesson in my head. I have so many questions that need answering.

Did this young girl know the true meaning of what she was saying?

Was it just a phrase she picked up from the latest Hollywood release?

Did she just want to impress the boys around her?

Is the Vietnamese translation seen as jovial slang in their culture?

Maybe she just overheard a foreigner saying it in the street and thought it sounded ‘cool’?

Or could it have been a way for her to vent her teenage worries and frustrations? (We’ve all been there).

Or am I just creating excuses for her? Maybe she knew exactly what she was saying and was happy to suffer the consequences?

The latter of which poses a worrying thought: what hope is left when students of a different nationality are insulting you, their teacher, in your mother tongue?

Anyway, not one to whine, it’s probably time to brush the incident under the carpet and move on!


The show must go on!

My First Love

A bit of a curve-ball post here and totally unrelated to my life in Vietnam, but I just couldn’t help myself:

Check out this guest post I did in response to “Who was your first love?” – it’s my witty take on what were actually very traumatic and emotional teenage years.

And yes, unfortunately, it is all true …


Where the magic happened ...

Where the magic happened …

Meet the Faces of Vietnam

Real People. Real Stories. Real Life.


Avoiding the Midday Heat

Last week was one of those rare weeks where I found myself at a bit of a loss of things to do. Consequently, I spent a lot of time enjoying some of Saigon’s millions of cafés, whiling away the hours with coffee and snacks. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to review some of my favourite mid-afternoon hideouts.

1) For the Working Lunch

ID Café, 61B Tu Xuong Street, District 3, HCMC (http://www.idcafe.net/)

This café is hidden away down a small alleyway off Tu Xuong Street. When you enter the main gates, you are greeted by a gorgeous rainforest-style patio. Heading up to the second floor, it is clear that this place is popular with the locals, more specifically, young professionals; I imagine the free Wifi keeps them coming back for more. The reason I keep returning to this wonderful café though is for their ‘bún chả giò’ (deep fried spring rolls on a bed of Vermicelli noodles, covered in a blend of fish sauce and peanuts). It sounds strange to the untrained eye, I know, but it’s actually considered one of the more ‘boring’ Vietnamese lunch dishes. For me though, it hits all the right spots; carbs, tick! Greasy goodness, tick! Nuts, tick! What’s not to like? Similarly, their fruit smoothies are to die for. I usually opt for either the coconut or passionfruit but the menu is well and truly endless.

Not the best representation of ID, but I'm a little obsessed with the Oile Pastel setting on my phone!

Not the best representation of ID, I agree, but I’m a little obsessed with the Oil Pastel setting on my phone!

2) The Guilty Pleasure

Kesera Café Bar, 26/1 Le Thanh Ton, District 1, HCMC (http://www.keserakesera.com/)

This is another ‘back-alley delight’ and is my (not-so-secret) guilty pleasure. Cheesecake is the culprit here. I have never, in my entire 25 years of living, ever tasted such divine cheesecake as I have in this café; a New York style baked cheesecake with lightly whipped cream cheese and a perfectly crunchy biscuit base. I usually order this along with a hot Italian coffee (very rare in Saigon!) because it is served in the cutest ceramic cup and saucer with a tiny wooden stirring spoon and a minute piece of shortbread on the side; the perfect size for my Hobbit stomach. This is the place I go to when I need to escape Asia for a moment and indulge in some home comforts. All that’s missing is the cosy fire and the slippers!

3) For Value for Money:

Cuc Gach Café, 79 Phan Kế Bính, Đa kao, District 1, HCMC (http://www.cucgachcafe.com.vn/)

This is actually part of a chain of ‘countryside’ restaurants; there are 3 dotted around the city. I regularly go to the restaurant on Dang Tat Street (District 1) for dinner, but have only recently been introduced to the lunchtime hang out in the same District. The set up is the same as the restaurant; an old converted Vietnamese house, with antique furniture and a homely vibe. I come here mainly for their set lunches which they have every Friday. For just 80,000vnd (£2.50) you receive a 5 course lunch consisting, usually, of 2 types of fish, 1 type of meat and 2 vegetable dishes. Accompanying all this, you also get a huge bowl of rice, a light soup/broth and unlimited green tea, what a bargain! Also, on the first day of each lunar month, they offer a vegetarian version for the same price, with equally as delicious food; the garlic mushrooms and the fried tofu are my particular highlights.

Amazing drinks presentation at Cuc Gach!

Amazing drinks presentation at Cuc Gach!

A small sample of the (non-vegetarian) set menu

A small sample of the (non-vegetarian) set menu

Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns have added some colour to the place recently

Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns have added some colour to the place recently

4) For a Taste of Europe

Une Journee a Paris, 234 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1, HCMC

I think I spoke too soon when labelling Kesera as my ‘Guilty Pleasure’. This small French patisserie offers some of the most delightful pastries, baguettes and cakes in Saigon. We’re talking buttered croissants, lemon meringues, macaroons, croque monsieurs, melted brie and camembert on a variety of freshly baked loaves and some wonderful fresh salmon; my mouth waters just at the thought of it. I imagine this café offers the perfect setting for a continental breakfast, however I only ever really venture there for a late afternoon snack. The decor is light and airy, plenty of bright colours and simplistic furniture; it’s an extremely peaceful atmosphere which is very necessary, as just outside, you are thrown back into the chaos of Ben Thanh Market. It’s definitely worth battling the hyperactivity for though, if not for the food, then for the very attractive French owners!

5) For Something Unique

Bazaar, 175 Vo Thi Sau, Ward 7, District 3, HCMC (https://www.facebook.com/BazaarCoffeeShop)

This has fast become my favourite afternoon hideout. I actually only stumbled across this cafe about a month ago, which is surprising as it is directly next door to CEFALT. Embedded into a crumbling wall and battling with a huge tree directly outside its main windows, it’s not hard to see how I’ve missed it previously. It is the quaintest little place though; split across 2 floors, there’s a small shop on the ground floor and a coffee lounge area on the second. However, by Western standards, the entire building is the total height of just one floor. Even as a 5ft1 woman, I struggled to negotiate my way up the minute winding staircase to the lounge. But this just adds to the charm of the place. The decor just screams vintage, the moment you enter you just know you are about to overload Instagram with snaps. There are brightly coloured shutters, along with a curtain made purely of coffee mugs, a painted brick wall where people can leave notes and the smallest wooden chairs and benches. It’s a pure Hobbit heaven; I’d say a maximum of 5 Western-sized individuals could squeeze into this place. Caution:  Any visitors over 5ft should probably be wary of low hanging lights, door frames, shelves and bird cages!

Me on the 2nd floor!

Me on the 2nd floor!

Cute birdcage decorations

Cute birdcage decorations

Curtain of Mugs

Curtain of Mugs

Cool stools

Cool stools

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day 02/09/13 HCMC



It would seem that I’ve neglected my little ol’ blog over the last couple of weeks, so to my loyal handful of followers, I send you my sincerest apologies.

Many of you already know that I recently had a friend visit from Blighty. We went to Nha Trang together when she first arrived (deets here), then she continued on her merry way up the country while I returned back to work.  However, last weekend, she came back to HCMC where we spent 5 days of, well, a whole lot of nothing to be honest. The words ‘Lounge wear’ and ‘tea’ were seriously overused and a new obsession was born in the form of the HBO show ‘Girls’.

As a result, I have very little to tell you about our time together, other than, I bloomin’ miss the UK! Here are a few of my reflections as I said a weepy goodbye to my buddy:

1: Gossip

I love a good gossip. Go on, judge me, I don’t mind. Problem is, I literally have no one to gossip with here. Where are all my fellow female expat friends I hear you scream … long story short, I have none. This isn’t for want of trying, really. Ok, I’ve been a little lazy on the old hobby and exercise front, so that’s probably restricted my friendship growth a little. And I probably did set some unrealistically high hopes of making a bunch of Vietnamese friends. I had hoped that I’d gather at least a few workmates that would see me through. However, short of the bitter Australian Grandmother who hates her life in Vietnam; I’m surrounded by middle-aged American men. Strangely, they don’t really want to know what Miley Cyrus was up to at the VMAs or even that we’ve got a new Prince *sigh*. UK girlfriends, you are missed terribly.

2: Tea

Ok, a stereotypical point from a stereotypical Briton, but seriously, Asia just doesn’t do tea. The milk is all condensed, the tea is all ‘lotus’ or ‘green’ and it is always offered with ice. No no no no no. Thank God for friends and their mind-reading:

Thanks H!!

Thanks H!!

3: Smiles

I come from a very small village in Cheshire. It’s one of those typical English villages; you know the type, 1 pub, 1 post office, 1 shop, 1 school and 1 church; I’m thinking ‘Hot Fuzz’ meets ‘Broadchurch’. Everyone knows everyone and people always smile and say hello when you walk by (unless you head down to the council estate, but that’s a whole other story). I promise I’m not looking through rose-tinted glasses; in fact, I’ve always considered myself more of a city lover anyway. But even in some of the big cities (London is understandably excluded from this comment), you walk past someone in close proximity and they at least offer a smile. Similarly, if you accidentally brush past someone, an apology is made. Not in HCMC though. Smiles are replaced by vacant stares, brushes are replaced by violent shoves and hellos are replaced by points and grabs. I do enjoy the old ‘photo-opportunity’ grabs made by over-enthusiastic students though I must say.

4: Carbs

I love Vietnamese food, I really do, but where are the potatoes?! I’m no Gwyneth Paltrow. I need chips, mash and a good roast. And bread, why do all the loaves have sugar in them? Where’s my wholemeal? And don’t even get me started on the cake selections. What I wouldn’t do for a crumpet right now …

5: Queues

I hate the prospect of getting the tube at rush hour in London. It sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it. But after 2 years of experiencing what has to go down as the worst queue etiquette in the world, surely I can take on London. Surely? A woman literally went out of her way to push in front of me and 5 others in the supermarket queue the other day. The joke was on her though when the cashier pointed out that all her veg had to be pre-weighed. HA – Take that! Getting a bus in the centre of HCMC is just carnage too, I don’t know how more people don’t die with the ‘cram as many people in as you can’ approach. People literally fall out as the doors reopen again. Getting the lift at work is always a challenging experience too; personal space invasion is a real issue for me. In the last 2 years, I have had full bodily contact with every one of my colleagues, not a sexy as it sounds when you consider the 8 hour working days in the 35 degree heat.

6: Toiletries

Oh how I miss body wash that isn’t ‘whitening’ and deodorant that isn’t a roll on and tampons (full stop) and dry shampoo and women’s razor blades and non-fragranced face wipes and perfume that actually lasts the entire day and hair dye that doesn’t turn my hair orange … the list goes on.

The perks of visitors

The perks of visitors

I could go on but I really don’t want to turn into the aforementioned Australian co-worker. Sorry Saigon, I really do love you, but Chester most certainly wins on this occasion.

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