It took me arround two years in Vietnam to discover a little paradise: a crumpler shop in Ho Chi Minh City. It's located at 52M Nguyen Huu Hao in District 4, right at the market, 10 minutes from District 1. The name is BAGVINA. They do have some models of crumpler bags, a freindly and well english speaking staff. Its actually there wholesale warehouse, but unsless they did not open the shop in the backpacker area (its pallned this year), they sell from dictrict 4 branch. Don't ask me if the bags are fake or real, but at least it is a way better quality compared to what you get at Saigon Square. A huge messanger bag is around 380.000 VND whiel a smalle one for netbooks goes with 300.000. The selection is smaller than in origianl licenced shops and you may not get the latest models. Also, I don't know if this comes form any manufacturer in Vietnam, since I was told in Australia that Crumpler is not producing in Vietnam anymore. Whatever, I liked to get at least a taset of Crumpler, and I am bag addictive, so I will take higher risks for shopping :-) Check out their website as well: www.bagvinacom
When I was looking for a bluetooth GPS receiver, a friend connected me with Tabalo, a shop in Phu Nuan District. Adress: 220/10A NGUYỄN TRỌNG TUYỂN, PHƯỜNG 8, QUẬN PHÚ NHUẬN TP. HỒ CHÍ MINH ĐT: 220.127.116.1188 It's a quite small office, but check out the website for the range of products. They not only have the GPS receiver I was looking for, but also a lot of other GPS devices like car tracking tools. They also sell leatherman, the popular and high quality multi-tool, and also aquabags, waterproof bags for your gadgets. The service was really good, I was able to try the device (which was pre-charged), got also free GPS software transfered to my Phone (a Nokia 3720 classic, good for outdoor use). For any reason they sell also the Razor computer mouse, pad and keyboard, also high quality devices. Check the shop during common business hours or visit the website. I can really recommend it if you are a outdoor guy (or girl).
Powercuts are quite common in Vietnam, in particular now when it comes to the end of the dry season where is no water left for the hydropowerplants. Companies know that, and there are different ways to deal with it. It also shows you a lot about your own company, how leadership is done and the state of your staff.
First rule: Be prepared. Do you know that many powercuts are announced in advance? Did you check already the website of your power company and local newspapers? If yes, your company seems to be prepared. If not, ask yourself why you didn't know it - have you been complaining instead of taking action?
Second rule: Deal with the situation. Wether the power cut is announced or not, it will come anyway. So what do you do then? You stop working? If yes, ask yourself why. You don't have a external power supply? And if so, does it supply only computers or also at least air-condition (what kind of productivity you can expect from staff that works in a 40 degrees environment?). Advise: Let the power supply run the mailserver (if you still maintain the server in your own place instead of a server farm where there is 24/7 availability), and let your staff work remotely.
That might not work for every company and every worker, but at least you get some things done. You can even see how takes leadership in your company: the one who tells you that they will work from home or from the coffee shop ist the one that needs to be on the promotion list next time, while the ones who are asking for advise are not.
I was once working a in a company in Cambodia where we went to coffee shops during power cuts, and when we came back in the afternoon the boss told us to stay longer because of the power cut. I was laughing at him and told him that we already did our work, and that work (especially office work) is not determined on the time you stay in the office anymore. So better pay the bill for the coffee shop instead of treating your stuff like cheap factory workers in the 19th century. (By the way, it seems to be more and more common that employees using their own laptops for work. That's quite nice, but do the get any reward for that?)
A powercut tells you, if you prepare in advance, if your staff is prepared as well, if your staff is looking for solutions, and if you are willing to accept different approaches.
The problem with productivity in office is that it is hard to put that in numbers. How much money you are loosing in an hour? What's the value of a workhour of your office stuff? But even if you can put that in account, motivation and engagement is still a soft value that is absolutely crucial. There is no excuse not finding a good solution or a problem.
I couldn't catch her name, but she was one of the smartest persons I ever met on a Barcamp. Her talk at Barcamp Mekong in Can Tho, Vietnam, was about being an active student. Not only that she presented in fluent English, she did not use a single powerpoint, instead she draw a mindmap during her speech. In her hands some notes, where she took a look from time to time, but mostly she spoke free. The topic was, in summary, that students should find their own way of learning and researching. She herself, she said, discovered the way of speed reading while browsing the internet, and she also discovered how to use mindmaps. Maybe because I am a huge fan of mindmaps I was so excited. It also shows, that Barcamps even in remote areas like Can Tho are always full of surprises. Although this Barcamp was more for students than developers, I do not regret to took the trip. It was exciting, I learned a lot, mainly about other people and their skills, but also about traditional music in the south. Thanks to the organizers, Mario and Hong Phuc, for doing a great job, and also thanks to APC school and the volunteers.
These two fantastic old buildings form part of the Eden Mall. However they are about to be demolished with the rest of the city block to make way for a new development. There are supposed to be height restrictions in this area so it will be interesting to see what happens
(I used the blog this function in Google Reader, but instead of using a blockquote tag it look like its my post. Its not. Its Simons.
The S area of Phu My Hung - the part where waterfront is and Greenview and CanhVien - lacked of western restaurants- until now. Forte La Pizza Italiana just opened inCanh Vien 1. Italian chef, italian owned says the brochure. whatever they did it Italy it was not running a restaurant. First try revealed that lasagne is not available. Second try no pesto.. pizza starts at 150000 vnd because toppings are expensive, the Australian lady apparently in charge for the service told me. and basil is hard to get, she added.
I was the only customer, but they could not get the lasagne heated up inside. and the piece of food was kind of small. second try brought the lasagne warm, but far from hot.
The food is just average, but way to pricy. Its seems some friends decided to open a pizzeria - and facing now reality. They better have opened a pub or a bar where they can do what they enjoy most - chatting with friends instead of taking care of the customers. They later offered me the meal free of charge after I complained, but I insisted of paying. I got a lot of " I am sorry", let's see if they learn from that.
UPDATE: Laziness brought me back one more time. The local staff is quite nice and helpful, the italian chef as well (he made me spaghetti pesto for free since he remembered the story, that was quite nice). I am still not a fan of the pizza and I still think it's too expensive and I am convinced that the western lady working there better should get some training in hospitality. But after all, give it a try.
Someone was selling an iPad on a mailing list here and was asking for 100 USD more than US retail price. I was responding, that the price might be too high and if you want save money wait until the iPad is shipped end of May to Singapore and Bangkok. I also pointed out that Apple Care includes the risk once the repaired iPad is shipped back that VN customs want to get an extra share. The seller wrote me an email calling me an asshole. Greed in this country is just incredible. When I was young I learned that you shall not be greedy. I guess, this is only valid in western countries.