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Vietnam: Present Difficulties



I’m known for finding good gifts for people. Not necessarily expensive gifts, but fitting ones. This comes with a price, as now I’m expected to discover some cool neato gift from around the world and send it back to Canada (or where ever) for family and friends. Often, I’ll supplement the gifts I find overseas with Gift Cards – especially this year as both my brothers and their wives will receive these to help balance out the affordability of purchasing direct from Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea or China.

This year proved frustrating, I knew *exactly* what I intended to buy my brothers but unfortunately I couldn’t track down the items. The same goes for Nolan, my nephew. I widened my search parameters and pretty quickly found a fantastic gift for Nolan – depending on how well it travels back to Canada – some unintentional assembly may be required. Luckily its made of wood and his dad has been a carpenter for 20 years.

The fall-back gifts for Andrew and Ian (my brothers) came in a fit of inspiration (or desperation) there was a store I wanted to visit so I made my way there and as I browsed the rows of product one jumped out at me that reminded me of a very specific, and nigh-forgotten, memory from my childhood. Andrew’s gift stemmed from a gig he once did while living in England while wooing his wife.

Those in hand, combined with four backpacks for the nieces and nephew meant I was off to a good start. The backpacks are distinctly Asian and I found them entertaining, which means chances are the 2, 2, 3 1/2 and 7 year old should. I’m not certain about the seven year old, as she’s seven going on twenty-seven. We’ll see. She liked Fluffy.

Mom and my sisters-in-law proved more challenging, I had a couple of smallish gifts for them but wanted something more. Mom will be receiving books – so I’ll be shopping online for those since buying books to mail to Canada from Vietnam would about triple the pricetag. I ambled along Quang Trung Street trying to find the right gift, I poked around in this shop and that. Dismissing one thing, contemplating another. I nearly bought them t-shirts but I hesitate to buy clothing for anyone, especially women.
There are Mexican berry pickers who live around my parents’ place, they come up for the picking season and then head back to Mexico with some money saved. It’s not a lot but it must be beneficial to farmer and farmhand since they continue to return to the berry patches. My parents go to church with a gentleman who organizes clothing donations for the farmhands, some come from mountainous region, so even old winter jackets are appreciated. The Mexican men will find good use for any donated items… except women’s clothing – apparently, the size is always too large or too small and leads to nothing but grief.
So the shirts are out.

Instead I return to a store I started at and pick up matching… somethings that I hope they will like. I’m not 100% sure about them, but hopefully they’ll appreciate the gifts.

That left my nieces. I knew precisely what I wanted to get them. Hand made ao dai – there’s even a shop just around the corner from my hotel where I could have them made. I ventured there a couple of days ago and thirty frustrating minutes later I left with myself and the owner’s son in near tears due to a lack of a common language and understanding. I returned a day later with a co-worker who speaks both English AND Vietnamese, but again, things were difficult with the price constantly going higher and higher and the seamstress wanting measurements for arms, chest, inseam, outseam, upseam and invisible cloaking seam scheme.

I finally through in my hat and opted to try another tactic.

The next morning I awoke early (for me) and hopped on the bus down to the tourist market Ben Thanh in District 1. It took 50 minutes one way, and cost 4000 Dong.
Inside I knew the shop to buy pre-maid ao dai – so in about 10 minutes I spent 450 000 Dong on 3 ao dais for my nieces (roughly the cost for each hand tailored one), I picked up a bonus something for Andrew (don’t worry, Ian as an amusing (to me) secondary gift).

Back on bus 18 for another 50 minute trip for 4000 dong, then a quick trip laden down with all the gifts to the nearby Post Office, where I had the option of sending my assortment of belated Yuletide gifts either express or regular, and by air or by sea.

The total cost of the gifts chimed in at just over 2 Million Dong! See how much I love my family! (Please don’t do the conversion into non-Dong).
Sending them nearly could either cost me 1.4 Million Dong… or 500 000 Dong…
I opted for the cheaper route…
So family… your Christmas gifts are chugging their way eastward across the Pacific on a slow boat from Saigon.

They should arrive sometime before the end of March.
Although, I have sent ship-bound stuff from Asia before and they arrived there from Malaysia exceptionally fast.

Merry Marchmas to my family!



The BEST holidays

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