Staying Sleepless with Saigon, Why Not?

This article is the last-minute tip for those passengers or tourists who aren’t able to find accommodation for the first night travelling to Saigon. Don’t worry, Saigon will kindly host you a safe place somewhere. Follow my lead, I’ll show you the spots to rest your exhaustion.

Saigon – the generous night owl’s nest.
Saigon at night. photo; lozi.vn

I am as young and wild as many of you. I enjoy travelling and partying and sometimes when the night gets too wild, I have no choice but waiting outside until the dusk activates the city’s busy flow. I am sure this happens to all of you once in a while, regardless of wanderlusts or party-animals.

Here in Saigon, staying outside the street at night is not safe, at all. Dear wanderlusts, don’t even think of this idea – it’s my sincere advice. But where will you stay in Saigon at night for free if you are yet to find your lodging? Or if you have to catch a plane/bus in the early morning? Don’t worry! I’ll show you some (secret) tips right away!

24/7 cafes – Seeing Saigon nightlife in the box.

You can easily find many of those cafes around the town. Some even offer benches for night owls to have a quick nap. All you need is to order a drink, and stay as long as you want.

SNOB coffee chain:

These cafe shops open 24/7 with great interior designs and Saigon views. However, since the cafe shops are so well-known to the Saigonese youth, they can get crowded sometimes very late at night. But if you’d like a nice place to get to know the local’s nightlife, this is the place to be.

Seeing Saigon nightlife in a box @SNOBcoffee
photo: @zacmillionie

Address: – SNOB Coffee Trần Hưng Đạo  –  147A Trần Hưng Đạo St, District 1.
                – SNOB Coffee Minh Khai           –  185 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai St, District 1.

Opera Tea Club:

Opera Tea Club offers benches and cushions and a fairly quiet space to sleep. Feel free to enjoy these amazing benefits because you are exhausted enough from a long travel day.

Opera Tea Club – A Feel-Free-To-Sleep Coffee
photo: @wilbowoarry

Address: – 1st Floor, 39 Lý Tự Trọng St, Bến Nghé Ward, District 1.

Thức coffee chain:

The chain is quite popular in town. You can find one of their stores in many places around Saigon. The places are quite small and often stuffed. Thức cafe is suitable for late night football match audiences. You’re a big football fan? Welcome home! Come, enjoy the matches and get as much wild as you can. The more, the merrier!

A small and cosy box full of Saigonese to warm your soul through the night.
photo: dendau.vn

Address: – 37/11 Lý Tự Trọng St, Bến Nghé Ward, District 1.

               – 48 – 50 Huỳnh Thúc Kháng St, District 1.  

               – 182 Pasteur St, Bến Nghé Ward, District 1.

KAI Coffee: 

Let me tell you a small story. Last year, I had a crazy night outside partying. When it finished, it was 2:00 in the morning, and by chance, I stopped by this place. Not only that I had a place to stay for the night, but I also received the cutest paper heart from the barista working at KAI coffee. Even though I was too drunk to remember anything had happened before, the paper heart was still the most memorable gift that it made me drop a smile every time I rode my motorbike cross this cafe. 🙂

🙂
photo: me

Address: – 139 Nguyễn Thái Bình St, Nguyễn Thái Bình Ward, District 1.

Convenient Stores – The ideal place for your late night munchies!

Convenient stores such as Family Mart, 7 eleven, B’s mart, and so on are ubiquitous in Saigon. Many stores have tables for customers to stay in. Moreover, most stores have wifi, air conditioning and a large number of food items including warm serving food. I stayed in those stores overnight sometimes when I partied too hard that my mom locked me outside the street! That’s why I recommend you those stores. It’s not a problem for the staffs if you stay in for long hours. Please kindly enjoy the food and drinks, and get yourself some rest. It is often quiet at late night in these stores.

Convenient stores are ubiquitous in Saigon. You can bump into them without even seeking one.
Challenge: find a 7eleven in Saigon!
photo: @traammiao
Other Choices:

Airbnb, Couchsurfing and other travel websites such as Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia, etc. are not strangers for wanderlusts, plan your trip to Saigon beforehand and get greatest deals from them. Prices for accommodation in Saigon is quite affordable, starting from $9.

Enjoy your time in Saigon! Don’t forget to spend some crazy wild nights in this sleepless town. I hope you’ll have one of the most wonderful memories here.

.Levi.

Coconut Religion – The Unique Ritual Power That Once Ruled the Kingdom of Coconut.

Đạo Dừa/ Hòa đồng tôn giáo (Coconut religion or Religion of Unity) was once famous in Cồn Phụng (Phoenix islet), Bến Tre. Nowadays, even though the religion is almost dead and only a few old people follow it, many people are still curious about its unique name as well as its founder.

The origin:

Coconut Religion was founded in 1963 by Mr Nguyễn Thành Nam (1909-1990), as known as Sir Coconut Monk. In the 1900s, Mr Nam was a scholar born with a silver spoon in his mouth. After having graduated with a diploma of Chemical Engineering in France, he came back to Bến Tre and started his soap business. The company shortly went bankrupt. Soon after that, Mr.Nam left his family to start his own religion. At that time, people reported him meditating on tops of coconut trees and consumed mostly coconut water for daily nutrients. That’s why he’s got his name Sir Coconut Monk.

Ông Đạo Dừa – Sir Coconut Monk
photo: https://dongsongcu.wordpress.com.

In 1963, Sir Coconut Monk started spreading his doctrine to the locals. The religion is based largely on Buddhism and Catholic beliefs, along with the preaching of Sir Coconut Monk. It quickly adapted to the community and soon gained followers. At its peak, Coconut religion had around 4,000 followers.

The practice:

The advocates of Coconut Religion were mostly men. They practised praying and consuming only coconut products for their daily diets. However, polygamy was allowed for advocates as they could get married up to 9 wives. Under the government of the former Republic of South Vietnam, monks were exempted from joining the national army. For that reason, Đạo Dừa had gained so many followers, mostly young men at the age of 18 to 35 whose desires weren’t to serve the country’s service.

Advocates praying for peace in the temple.
photo: mapio.net

The advocates donated a large sum of money for Sir Coconut Monk to build his own temple in Phoenix Islet.  The temple is named Nam Quốc Phật (Vietnamese Buddha). Along with the temple, there is a large square with nine dragons columns – which stands for Cửu Long (the Mekong region). Behind, the Peace tower consists of two tall buildings which stand for Hanoi-North and Saigon-South.

Nam Quốc Phật, the temple of Coconut Religion.* photo: https://mapsights.com, taken by Lance and Cromwell

*The gate, with Crucifix on the left and Vietnamese Buddhist sign on the right, expresses the will to unify the two main Vietnamese religions.

The (phantom) legacies:

Sir Coconut Monk had been notorious for his so-called “ultimate” religion since the Southern Vietnam government existed. In 1967, Southern Vietnam began the new electoral campaign. Sir Coconut Monk, with his willing for peace for the humanity, had stood for election for Presidency! He promised to pacify the Vietnam War within 7 days had he been nominated Presidency. Nonetheless, he refused to answer how he could make that happen. Sir Coconut Monk had been then sent to Biên Hòa asylum to run a mental health check.

Sir Coconut Monk at Chợ Quán (Biên Hòa) asylum after his mental health check.
photo: baomoi.com

After that “historic” event of Coconut Religion, the government had banned him from seeking intervention from other countries to help develop his religion nationwide. Despite having sent many letters to President Diệm, President J.F.K, President Charles de Gaulle, and so on,  he never had a reply from any of whom he asked for help. Moreover, both the governments: the Republic of South Vietnam and Communist Vietnam had identified him as a threat of rebellion and had banned him from going abroad. Sir Coconut Monk had been caught at the border trying to pilgrimage to Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap (Cambodia).

Sir Coconut Monk and foreign reporters.
photo: https://blog.nfb.ca/blog/2017/04/28/photo-friday-different-view-vietnam-war/
The tragedy:

During the end of Vietnam war, Sir Coconut Monk had failed to flee outside the country. Thus, he had been forced to go to a rehabilitation camp. After a short while, they had released him on bail because of his mental issues record. Ever since the fallen of South Vietnam, the new government had identified Coconut Religion as a cult. Sir Coconut Monk continued to run Coconut Religion under the law despite the government’s strong attempts to prevent it from expanding.

On 12/05/1990, while the crowd were practising Coconut religion at Sir Coconut Monk’s private property, the government broke into his house and issued Coconut Religion a ban from spreading superstition to the community. At the tipping point of the conversation with the government, Sir Coconut Monk left upstairs to “pray for peace”, but one of his followers pulled him back to confront the government. Unfortunately, the pull was too strong for Sir Coconut Monk that he fell off the ground. Sir Coconut Monk departed the next day of a serious traumatic brain injury, aged 81. Since the death of the creator of Coconut Religion, the number of followers has ceased drastically from thousands to very few people.

Sir Coconut Monk’s stone stele at his own temple.
photo: doisongphapluat.com
Ending:

For the locals, Sir Coconut Monk was an “accidental legend” of Bến Tre. In the kingdom of coconut, people do not worship this ‘creator’ anymore. Instead, they will tell either ridiculous or odd anecdotes about him. You can witness his legacy when coming to Phoenix Islet by coming to the temple and talking to his followers. I am sure there are yet things to learn about this interesting religion. If you haven’t registered on our upcoming trip to Bến Tre, do not hesitate to contact us! We wish to bring you the best discovery experience in Vietnam.

Levi.

The Evolvement of Vietnamese Pottery through History

You might know that the origin of porcelain and pottery dates from 20,000 years ago in China, and the word China is, indeed, used to regard such clay and porcelain items. However, the ancient Vietnamese had also developed a great industry of pottery as soon as it appeared. Hence, the development of pottery reflects both historical and aesthetic aspects of Vietnamese culture.

In this article, let’s track the traces of shaping clay from the earliest to the latest changes to have an overall look at the Vietnamese pottery culture.

Prehistoric period

Vietnamese pottery began in the Hòa Bình- Bắc Sơn culture and was known as the Neolithic/ Stone Age era. The first traces of pottery found in the Viet territory age 6,000 to 7,000 years old.

Later on, the Bronze and Iron Ages ( 2000 B.C – I century) had given birth to many cultures such as Phùng Nguyên, Gò Mun, Đồng Nai, etc. In those periods, the pottery industry had evolved and expanded widely over the region so-called as ‘Vietnam’.

Pottery vase under Sa Huỳnh culture ( 2000-2500 years old) photo: Wikipedia

The Chinese domination period (I-X century)

For over 1000 years, the Chinese culture had spread its enormous influence on the southern land (Vietnam.) The pottery industry in this period inherited the original methods and also adapted some Chinese techniques such as ceramic glazing, making pottery by the ceramic turntable or in molds, and so on.

* The Lý – Trần dynasties (XI – XIV century) – the independence period.

During 4 centuries, under 2 dynasties: (XI-XII century) and Trần (XIII-XIV century), the pottery culture developed independently from Chinese culture, which opened the culture rehabilitation stage for Đại Việt (Vietnam). Ceramic products in this period had reached perfection in shape, decoration and colouring. They represented the quintessence of the arts in ceramic, especially items from the Hoa Nâu Lý Trần collection.

glazed-jar-from-the-hnlt-collection
Glazed jar from the Hoa Nâu Lý Trần collection photo: gomdonga.com
*The dynasty ( XV-XVI) – the era of exporting Vietnamese ceramics.

In the XV century, the dynasty boomed in prosperity. During this era, the pottery industry organised in good order with the establishment of several pottery trade villages. Ceramic products from Bát Tràng, Thổ Hà and Phù Lãnh trade villages expanded their markets to foreign countries. There were official records of mass trading pottery to Japan and some south-east Asian countries. Within the years 1596-1873, Japanese potters had adapted Vietnamese ceramic technique and called it Kotchi (Giao chỉ) ( La ceramique Japonaise – Oneda Tokomosouke).

swan-hoa-lam-vase-under-the-le-dynasty
Swan ‘Hoa Lam‘ Vase under the Le Dynasty photo: baomoi.com
* The Nguyễn dynasty (XVI-XVIII century) –  the Blue era of ceramics.

There wasn’t any innovation in the pottery industry in this period. The only remarkable collection was “Bleu de Huế” (Blue of Huế), containing sophisticated blue-white patterned porcelains which belonged to the royal Nguyễn family. These products were marked with Chinese characters: Nội phủ thị (Vietnamese transcription, meaning for internal (royal) use). Sadly, the products weren’t authentic Vietnamese pottery. They were indeed exclusively ordered from China for the royal Nguyễn. The pottery industry suffered in blues as it failed to make a change.

wine-bottle-from-bleu-de-hue-collection
Wine Bottle from Bleu de Huế collection. photo: khanhhoathuynga.wordpress.com

In the modern times:

In the modern times, Vietnamese pottery is competing with other strong competitors such as Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese pottery in the market.  The hidden cards of Vietnamese pottery to succeeding in such a competitive environment lie in the rusticity, simplicity, yet, elegance and more importantly, durability in every product. Some famous Vietnamese ceramic brand names are Bát Tràng, Minh Long, Đông Triều, etc. are working their best to provide products to meet the domestic as well as international demands.

Bat Trang pottery (Photo: hanoi.for91days.com)
Minh Long pottery (Photo: sbf-neu.edu.vn)

Overall

Over the centuries, the Vietnamese pottery culture has been through peaks and bottoms. From the sophisticated minds and hands of our potters, many legacies had been made and kept with our utmost respect. We take pride in the culture that the ancestors had gifted to us, and with much appreciation, we wish to develop Vietnamese ceramics more well-known to the world.

Levi.

The Anecdote of Công Tử Bạc Liêu

The Cochinchine region (former name of southern Vietnam) in the French colonial period was very prosperous due to the boom in agricultural economics. In Bạc Liêu at that time, the number of landlords held 2% of the population. However, their possessions including private farming lands seized 95% of Bạc Liêu province. Therefore, this period had given birth to the lavish spending lifestyle of many sons of money-bags landlords.

During the 1900s, a few profligate sons living in Bac Lieu were notorious for spending money limitlessly. The term “Công Tử Bạc Liêu”, indeed, referred to this specific type of “rich” guys. The most well-known “Công Tử Bạc Liêu” was Trần Trinh Huy (1900-1973).

The Father Built

The Trần Trinh family had their fortune built by Trần Trinh Trạch (1872-1949), who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Nevertheless, he was fortunate enough to go to French schools as a replacement for a son of a rich family he worked for. After graduated, the lucky scholar was a secretary at Bạc Liêu mayor house and was then admired by Sir Phan Văn Bì – a wealthy landlord. Sir Bi married his fourth daughter to Mr.Trach and gave the couple a large number of farming lands in Bạc Liêu. Mr.Trach quitted his job as a secretary to manage the landlord business of Sir Bi.

Mr.Trach had a good sense of business. Not only he developed the landlord business for his father-in-law,  but also dictated the salt market over the Cochinchine region. Later on, Mr.Trach began doing real estate. He had several buildings in Bạc Liêu as well as Saigon. However, the man wouldn’t be satisfied with his success, he switched to banking enterprise and became the co-founder of Vietnam National Bank (1927).

Despite being a trillionaire, Mr.Trach and his wife lived a simple life. They didn’t fancy luxurious things, but indeed, always saved money for investment.

statues-at-the-altar-of-their-villa
Mr. Trach and his wife statues at the altar of their former villa.
photo: plo.vn
The Son Destroyed
*The paradox of Mr. Trach

Tran Trinh Huy, the third child of 7 children of the family, was trusted as the ‘suitable heir’ for the fortune by his father. Hence, Mr.Trach invested the most money in Huy to study and take over the family business.

Of all the children in the family, Huy disposed to be clever. He treated people equally despite superior or lower classes. Huy was a generous guy. He gave money to whomever he felt like need help from him. Overall, it seemed like Mr.Trach had trusted the right child to inherit his legacies. But little that he knew Huy was a real spendthrift.  

tran-trinh-huy-and-his-wife
Trần Trinh Huy and his first lady.
photo: vietfuntravel.com.vn
*The Black Prince of Bac Lieu

In 1926, Huy came back from Paris after 6 years of studying abroad with nothing but an aeroplane driver’s license, flirting girls, dancing and gambling skills. Back home, Huy began the life of a ‘cash burner’. With the limitless money source from his father, Huy could purchase anything he wanted in the world. He became the second person who owned a private jet, after King Bao Dai. People at that time had witnessed Huy driving his aeroplane just to watch over the family’s farming land property. Huy also liked to drive supercars around Saigon and dived in luxurious parties with champagnes (temporarily the fanciest drink). Huy also spent a vast amount of money on gambling and pursuing beauties.

One of many cars that Huy pursued for his cars collection.
photo: saigonnews.vn
*The Black Prince and the White Prince confrontation.

At that time, there was another ‘Huy’ named George Phuoc, who happened to be the rival against Huy. They were both competitive and extravagant spenders. People set their nicknames by their skin tones. George Phuoc was the White Prince and Huy was the Black Prince. They spent money against each other, mostly to win the girls that the other was dating. There were several anecdotes about the Black and White Princes. Here are the two most famous ones:

_ Once, George Phuoc invited Huy and one of his beauties to the theatre he owned to see a play. While they were watching, the beauty dropped a 5 Bạc note (let’s assume that it was a $5 note). George Phuoc immediately burned a $100 note to ‘make light’ for the beauty to find her money in front of Huy to impress the beauty as well as his rival. 

_ Huy and George Phuoc were very eager to show their fortune and win over one another. They once held a competition in which both of them burnt money to maintain the fire to boil an egg. This anecdote wasn’t proven the accuracy for a long time. However, recently, a son of Huy has declared that it was a false rumour.

*The fallen of the wealthy family

After almost a century, the Trần Trinh family went corrupt under the destruction of Trần Trinh Huy. It is obvious to reckon the day Huy went from hero to zero. For such a great fortune Huy had inherited, it was a shame that he lead that mountain of wealth to completely fall into a black hole. At the end of his life, Huy suffered many diseases resulted from the former abundant lifestyle. On January 1973, Huy died in loneliness, leaving his descendants poverty-stricken, miserable and failure to redeem his debts. Huy has in total 3 official wives and 8 children. Otherwise, the Tran Trinh family also admitted children resulted from his affairs with many mistresses. The children sold the remaining of their father’s property and fleed everywhere and struggled to make ends meet. None of his children returned to Bạc Liêu except for Trần Trinh Đức, the third son of Huy. Đức struggled in debts of his gambling daughter and eventually returned to Bac Lieu in his 50s. He is now a tour guide in his former house “Nhà Công Tử Bạc Liêu” ( Huy’s former villa).

Trần Trinh Đức, the only son of Huy who returned to Bạc Liêu. photo: dailo.vn
*Ending:

The tragedy of Công Tử Bạc Liêu has contributed to the southern Vietnamese people a lesson to educate their children to use their money wisely. If you have a chance to visit Bạc Liêu once, come to Công Tử Bạc Liêu‘s villa to witness his luxurious life. I hope you enjoy reading the story and don’t forget to register for our upcoming trip to Bạc Liêu.

Levi.

Top 4 Must-Check-In Places In Bac Lieu

Heading further southward from Can Tho, you’ll reach Bac Lieu – the land carrying the anecdote of the notorious Công Tử Bạc Liêu (Bac Lieu’s extravagant millionaires). Bac Lieu is also well known for its diverse nature, ethnic groups and cultures.

A bus trip from Ho Chi Minh city to Bac Lieu takes approximately 5,5 hours. It might seem quite a long road, but later on, after your arrivals, Bac Lieu’s favourite food and destinations will reimburse the long trip we’ve spent to visit this land. Now, please follow me, I will guide you through 4 must-visit destinations in Bac Lieu for photoholics.

>>>We will travel to Bạc Liêu in the end of July. If you are interested, please click here.

*Bac Lieu Wind Turbine Field

The turbine field belongs to Bac Lieu Wind Power Station. There are 62 wind turbines placed beyond the sea, connected by a bridge. Here, you can enjoy a spectacular sunset by the beach with lovely sea breeze running through your hair. Please notice that you might have to ask for permission to enter some turbines.  But don’t worry, you’ll receive a friendly nod from the guards. Now, it’s time to take some wonderful pictures.

Address: Ấp Biển Đông A, xã Vĩnh Trạch Đông. The field is 20km away from the centre.

instagram: @hoangphuongdo93
*Nhà Mát Beach

This is a muddy beach, the water is pinkish brown from mud and alluvium. The best time to visit the beach is at dawn when the fishermen catch fish and seafood. Since the water is quite shallow, you can walk very far from the shore. At 5 or 6 in the morning, you can ask to join in the seafood hunt with the fishermen. The work is hard, yet, fun and exciting. And the reward afterwards is the delicious dishes made from you hand-caught fresh products.

Fishers at the beach.
photo: gody.vn
*Hùng Vương Square

The square is open to public since 2014 and has become the favourite meeting point of Bac Lieu people. In the centre, there’s a big model of Đàn Kìm – a local string musical instrument commonly known as the symbol of Đờn Ca Tài Tử ( southern Vietnam singing arts). On the other side, there is also a sculpture of three arches representing the union of 3 peoples Kinh – Khmer – Chinese, by whom the diverse cultures of Bac Lieu are formed. A walk with your friends around the square in the evening gives you a relaxing moment before you head back to the hotel and enjoy a good sleep.

Address: Nguyễn Tất Thành, Phường 7, Bạc Liêu

Đàn Kìm statue at Hùng Vương square.
photo: vietnamtourism.com
*Three Nón Lá Theatre (Cao Văn Lầu Theatre)

The theatre is right next to Hùng Vương square. You can’t find another building more Vietnamese than this one. Now, I’m sure you’re familiar with nón lá (Vietnamese conical hat), the theatre wears three of them on its head, which makes a perfect shade against the merciless sunlight at noon.

The theatre is named after the famous song composer Cao Văn Lầu, who contributed many spectacular songs to Đờn Ca Tài Tử. It is the place that holds local theatre arts performance also a ‘museum’ that keeps pictures and documents of Cải Lương and Đờn Ca Tài Tử.

photo: foody.vn

>>>Make your journey to Bac Lieu complete by trying 6 Tasty Food You Should Try In Bac Lieu

Looks like we have made it through a long travel day. I hope you’ll get many wonderful pictures to fill in your travelling Vietnam collection. Feel free to send us your beautiful photos! We really appreciate your lovely moments with us. 

Levi.