Wanderlust Wendy

Saigon Chronicle – Week 3: Home Goods. Maison Marou. Women Meet Tech.

Hello New Home

After over a year of suitcase living, we moved into an apartment that is all ours. For the first time in 13 months, I unpacked all of our suitcases and put them away. Among all of the benefits of nomad living, regaining an appreciation for a physical space that we can call home is on top of the list.

We are only in this new apartment for two months. Perhaps we are still afraid of commitment and need some time to ease into settled life. I am using these two months to gain a good understanding of neighborhoods and allowing ample time to find a longer-term home. For the time being, these gorgeous views are ours to enjoy!

Where to buy home goods in Saigon? 

I had mistakenly assumed that there is an IKEA in Saigon. When I searched it in Google Maps, another furniture shop called IKIA shows up. I had thought this was the Vietnamese spelling of IKEA. Nope. The shop seems to be a sort of distributor that resells IKEA items; it’s just far enough from the city that we have yet to pay a visit. The downside of no real IKEA is no easy one-stop-shop. The up-side is I don’t need to buy the same set of home goods in yet another country. 

Fortunately, our apartment is furnished and has most of the basic necessities. Even still, I searched online and in various Facebook groups to figure out where to buy the few things we needed. I’ve compiled a list, and will add to it as I learn about new places! My tip is to map these out on Google Maps. They are usually clustered together, and you can go to different shops in one particular area to compare prices and selection.

Branded Shops

  • UMA & BAYA – I’m quite sure these two shops are owned by the same company, since I see items cross-sold in both stores, and the branding is virtually the same. The stores have modern furniture with somewhat fancy home goods. The prices are relatively expensive, and the selection isn’t very wide. Multiple locations.
  • JYSK – A Scandinavian home goods store, has all the feels of IKEA. Price a bit more reasonable than UMA and BAYA, but still relatively expensive.
  • Color Living – I was in search of a SodaStream, since we drink a ton of sparkling water, and buying cans/bottles is very wasteful. This little shop in Thao Dien sells them and refills gas bottles, along with other expensive imported coffee/tea gadgets. A second location exists in D7.
  • Co.op Mart – This is a supermarket that sells groceries and some home goods. The scale is noting like supermarkets in the US or Europe, but it gets the job done. Fewer choices is not always a bad thing. Multiple locations all across Ho Chi Minh City.

General Areas or Online

  • Kitchenware Street – Similarly, we came upon this street where multiple shops in a row sell items for the kitchen. It takes patience to dig and find suitable items, but the prices are much lower than in the shops listed above.
  • Furniture Street – We had stumbled upon this street on our stroll back from Chinatown. A street with various shops selling a variety of furniture. We didn’t make any purchase here yet, but will likely return if a need arises in the future.
  • Lazada – Online shopping app similar to Amazon that has an easy English interface. I’ve purchased from two different vendors. Qualities vary based on the vendor, but otherwise very simple to use.
  • Moving Sales – There are constantly people moving in and out of the city, and moving sales is a great way to snatch up goods cheaply. I was in search of a French Press, and found it for $2 along with two big glasses at someone’s home. Facebook Groups are great to find out who is hosting them.

We are mindfully re-introducing household items into our lives. Lack of one-stop shop and uber-easy online shopping helps to add friction in the acquisition process. Nevertheless, learning how to outfit a home in a new country is one of my favorite aspect of living abroad.  

Chocolate Heaven at Maison Marou

Xav and I are always on a hunt for good pastries and desserts when we travel. When preparing for this trip, one of the various food documentaries we watched had introduced Maison Marou, a chocolate shop in Saigon started by French entrepreneurs. Apparently Vietnam has very high quality cacao production. Who knew? 

We indulged in the iced chocolate (it’s +100°F here, no hot chocolate for us), and decadent dessert. The space is bright and colorful, with a separate room where apparently chocolate tastings take place! A great place to have a delicious treat and take a reprieve from the heat when wandering in District 1. Pick up a gift for your chocolate-lover. I am eye-ing this specialized Monopoly game set for the future. 

Women Meet Tech Saigon

In addition to settling into our new home and eating all the delicious food in Saigon, I’ve begun thinking the next step in my professional life. I’ve immensely enjoyed spending my days reading, writing, and working on this blog. Yet, something is tugging at me to do a bit more, to find a way to leverage skills and contribute into this world. 

I came across a Women Meet Tech event sponsored by the U.S. Consulate and Google Women Techmakers, and decided this was a good opportunity to check out the tech scene in Saigon, and perhaps finally apply those skills aquired frome coding camp. The panel discussion focused on transferable skills that one can bring when transitioning into the tech space, namely problem-solving, logical thinking, and being inquisitive. 

Foster a culture to support women in tech

During Q&A, the first question tackled the Vietnamese culture norm that expects women to “settle down and take care of the family”. I  was so impressed that the young woman did not hesitate to address the elephant in the room. All the talk about tech and transferable skills is great, but it’s an uphill climb without a supportive culture for women in tech. 

The event ended with #IAmRemarkable exercise, where each person was asked to complete the sentence “I am remarkable because…” follow by one professional reason and one personal reason. Then we were to share in groups in front of complete strangers. The exercise seemed corny at first, yet had a strangely empowering effect hearing each woman sharing their statements. 

The humility culture runs deep in Asia, and hearing young women overcoming clear signs of discomfort to share why they are remarkable was a powerful experience. Here are my #IAmRemarkable statements. Please feel free to share yours in the comments! 

  • I am remarkable because I paid off my student loans and lived my dream to travel the world full-time.
  • I am remarkable because I took the courage to walk away from that golden handcuff, learned tech skills, and now connecting dots to serve the world. 

Wandering Snapshots

Ending this week’s update with some snapshots of Saigon from our weekend wanders. I love photographing a fast-changing city. Each shot feels like I am capturing history. 

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