Sunday, December 30, 2007

Where is the HCMC Apple Store?

So I happen to be down in HCMC and I happen to need to price some hardware - trying to see if I should pay the premium here or hand carry stuff back from the States.  As an aside, it's gosh darn warm here in HCMC.  The city is all strung up with lights (more on that later), but it's still too freakin' hot to fully get into the holiday spirit.  I miss the Hanoi weather, and I never thought I would say that about Hanoi.

Anyhow, I dropped by the big local electronics store in D1, Nguyen Kim.  Relatively impressive - not exactly like Best Buy, more like a Circuit City (oops, that place just went into bankruptcy..), but shockingly their computer department doesn't sell any sort of hubs or routers.  Either that or I failed to communicate with the sales staff.

So I headed to the much ballyhooed FPT owned, Apple Authorized Reseller store.  Got the address and phone number off the web and the local news accounts from earlier this year.  And I walked.. and I walked.. and I can't find the place.  Then I called.  Both numbers, and no one answered.  What the heck is up with that?  Everyone and their mother has an iPhone down here in HCMC, yet the FPT Apple store can't keep a location for 6 months?  Or it moved and failed to forward the phone number?  Short FPT stock already.  Oh yeah, the Vietnam market doesn't allow shorting yet.  Dangnabbit!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Crowds

Here are what the crowds looked like while I was walking around on Christmas Eve, 2007 in Hanoi.  It seemed like there were more people (and police directing traffic) on the street than even when Vietnam succeeded in the AFC Cup this past summer.

Intersection of Trang Tien and Hang Bai, at the base of Hoan Kiem Lake.

Nha Tho Lon, around 7pm, Christmas Eve

Random intersection, Old Quarter.  Duong Thanh Street, I believe.

Nha Tho Lon, around 11pm Christmas Eve.

My Christmas Day dinner.  No turkey and stuffing, just some odd Singaporean interpretation of chow fun.  

Christmas in Vietnam

Just throwing up some pictures of Christmas in Vietnam, and Hanoi in particular, circa 2007.  

Fortuna Hotel

Hanoi Hotel

Outside of the Vincom Towers

Inside the Vincom, in Megastar Cinema

And of course, the Sofitel Metropole

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Power of Government

Walking back from breakfast this morning, I noticed something was odd, then it hit me. Mostly everyone on a moto was wearing a helmet. Then it hit me, it's December 15th.

Even the dude riding next to me.. as I was strolling home. I guess the helmet law even applies when you ride on the sidewalk. The only guy that I saw not wearing a helmet was a dude riding sissy on a bike. He was in full army gear, natch.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Do You Know What Day It Is?

I had no idea today is Pearl Harbor Day - just an odd sensation today, every time I wrote something and typed in the date
, I sensed somehow this date is familiar.

Now it's like 6pm here it finally hit me. I've mentioned before how sporting events, and cultural touchstones like this day of remembrance, help one mark time throughout the year in the States, and how I'm somewhat lost here. Is it December, or September, or March? It is very easy to forget while here in Vietnam.

Next thing you know, it'll be time to return home.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Time to Let Go

So it is time to let go.. of a staff member the other day.

I've had a hand in hiring a number of people - the psychic rewards are nice, but sometimes you have to experience the flip side of it.

It is never easy to fire someone. If it were easy, then that means that you made a horrendous mistake in the hiring process. This person was relatively nice and all, maybe a bit too pushy, using her age and the cultural deference towards such, to bully some of the younger co-workers. But she didn't cut it at her job - didn't learn and didn't improve, so we had to let her go.

I tried to do the professional thing by telling her privately, giving her time to digest and ask questions, and time alone. Also gave her ample time to transfer her work to co-workers before leaving at the end of the week.

I headed off to a meeting and came back to find that she flew the coop, collected all her pay, including pay for the next few days for which she wouldn't show up, and, most egregiously, deleted all the work product that she produced.

I was basically flabbergasted. This person got a job through a recommendation from a current manager - a cousin or in-law or some such - so that manager pretty much screwed the pooch on this one.

The deleted computer files was more of an annoyance than anything, after all, she was let go because her work product was severely deficient, but man, that'll teach me. Next time I fire someone, it'll be with ruthless corporate precision - lockdown of computers, 15 minutes of supervised clean up of their work space, security will escort them out, the whole nine yards. It's a shame really, but as the saying goes, fool me once...

Turning Vietnamese

A Brazilian keeper is renouncing his citizenship to apply for a Vietnamese passport, in order to play on the national team. First the WTO, then the Security Council, now Brazilians want to be Vietnamese. These are interesting times..

Here's an F430 on the streets of HCMC. Dang. This was taken by the blogger 'lilmissmeg' at LiveJournal, the now Russian internet company. Found her blog through SaigonNezumi, who commented on some less than savory things she's written about the local populace. I'm more interested in the car than the commentary. So, if you own this thing, give me a lift going 3 kph, will ya?

Monday, December 03, 2007

On China Time

Lately, with the winter in Hanoi, the pollution in Vietnam has finally gotten to me and is causing a slight tickle in the throat and a cough.

Recently I headed to Beijing, China. The last time I was there, summer of 2006, I didn't notice any pollution. Maybe I was just busy checking out the scenery and thought that the grey skies were normal. I've finally figured out that when the sky is that grey and there is no chance of precipitation, something is wrong.

One of the new things to do is to go around town checking out the progress of buildings, some constructed to coincide with the Beijing 2008 games, some just a reflection of the continued economic boom.

I think this one is supposed to be the next CCTV tower. I'm not too sure. Looks interesting, like some uncompleted Tetris pieces. (speaking of media in China, it seems all blogspot sites are blocked, and news sites, such as or, are really, really slow to load, to the point of being unusable. And there is a great fascination with parading foreigners on CCTV, or KBS for that matter, who can speak Chinese. I don't get it - it would be interesting if it's 1907, but c'mon, so what if there is some white guy or some black guy who can recite nursery rhymes? The writer strike is still on in Hollywood - quick, get some Asian people on TV to read Shakespeare. But I digress.)

So going somewhere new means trying new food. The above is some calf marrow. It was part of a hot pot meal.

This is some braised goose heads. Surprisingly tasty.

Went out on my birthday for some scorpions. They're on the left, along with some stinky tofu, chicken hearts and white chicken meat. No, the scorpions didn't taste like chicken. Just a bit crunchy, not bad.

Before dinner, the hotel brought by some birthday cake gratis. Finally, a benefit from handing over your passport at hotels in foreign countries.

This is the way up to the hotel room. No 13th floor for the Westerners, no 4th and 14th floor for the Easterners (or at least the ones that share some Chinese cultural traditions).

Oh, I also went shopping - at the knockoff places and at Sogo, 'cause I heard a lot about it. People were lining up 15, 20 minutes before the place opened. I got there early 'cause I was uninformed about the store hours. And no, this wasn't some Black Friday deal. Weird, 'cause it's only a (nice) department store.

That's pretty much Beijing, in a 48 hr nutshell.