HCMC Dining Guide

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quirky Saigon

This will basically be a response to myself over my last post. There are actually some very entertaining, somewhat offbeat things to do here, and I take part in a couple of them on a regular basis.

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball - Arguably the quintessential sport of American gym classes, dodgeball has had a presence in Saigon for a couple of years now. Run by a Vietnamese-American guy, the open group meets every Monday and Wednesday at the Phan Dinh Phung sports complex (8 Vo Van Tan, D3) at 8pm. Anyone can play, and depending on how many people show up there are either two or three randomly assigned teams. We play on the complex's outdoor basketball court, and word has spread; we sometimes get over 60 people, and it's a healthy mix of expat and local, both male and female. There's no better way to learn about someone's culture than by rocketing rubber balls at them.

This has turned into one of my favorite things to do here, partially thanks to the fact that I've gotten pretty good at it. Even though we play at night it's still plenty warm out, and after dodging and diving for a couple of hours I am always completely drenched in sweat. If you want a good workout and a chance to socialize, look no further.

A drinking club with a running problem - I've written about the Hash House Harriers a few times before, for example here and here. Every Sunday the Saigon branch of this international group meets in front of the Caravelle at 1:45 to pile onto a bus and head off into the rural areas surrounding the city. Expect good exercise, some very nice scenery, and possibly the raunchiest, most vulgar five hours of your life. The members of the Saigon Hash seem to take particular pride in their dirty songs and sex jokes (and names - when you go on ten runs in a row you get named, and here's a sample: Lick My Bean, Jackoff, Pencil Dick, Fuckoffee, and my own, Facefuckerberg), but beneath all the filth they are by and large genuinely good people. The Hash is great for networking as well, since we're a pretty diverse bunch: engineers, development specialists, journalists (me!), urban planners, etc. And it's a good deal - for 200,000 VND you get the bus ride to and from the city, snacks and all-you-can-drink beer (or water) after the run. On on!

Indie flicks - I mentioned deciBel in my last post, and in addition to their weekly movie screenings they sometimes host live music. The movies start every Wednesday at 8, and the restaurant's food is pretty good as well. deciBel is located at 79/2/5 Phan Ke Binh, D1.

Get vertical - The complex where dodgeball takes place also has a rock climbing wall, and though I haven't been in a while I went climbing on a weekly basis for most of last year, and I have the forearms to prove it. I've been dying to go back, but my friend who was always a reliable climbing companion left in March and I haven't found a replacement. For something like 130,000 VND you get an hour of climbing, along with all of the requisite equipment and belayers. The wall is 16 meters (52 feet) high, and routes range from very easy to nearly impossible. You're guaranteed to get a good workout here.

There are numerous other niche things to do here if you know where to look. Photography clubs, samba classes, book clubs, pickup soccer leagues, tennis lessons, etc. Sometimes it would just be nice if these types of things were easier to find.

Changing topics, I've gotten a couple of suggestions from readers recently regarding subjects they'd like me to write about. If there's something you want to know about Saigon (or Vietnam), or something you want to see pictures/videos of, go ahead and let me know. The readers of a blog are just as important as the writer, so if there's a certain subject you want to read about, I'm all ears.

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