Editor's note: CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo is spending several weeks in his homeland of Vietnam and will file occasional dispatches chronicling his adventures. To read stories from Dong's last visit, in December, click here.
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam--Last December, I visited Ho Chi Minh City and discovered that while Wi-Fi was ubiquitous and the Internet was fast, it was incredibly hard to get across town.
Seven months later, the traffic here is still terrible. This time, however, I found that if you are in the right place, dealing with traffic isn't necessary at all.
The right place is District 1. Other than being the center of tourism with lots of hotels, famous landmarks, restaurants, and bars, D1 is also the site where you can get pretty much anything you need, especially when it comes to technology and digital entertainment. And it's all within a short walking distance.
I actually heard about this area during my last trip here. Jasper Waale, owner of Skeye, a GPS- and GSM-based tracking company operating in Vietnam and Laos--and an avid listener of the Inside CNET Labs podcast--insisted I check it out. I took a rain check till now.
We met at Cafe Centro, a trendy yet casual coffeehouse located in the middle of D1's most bustling section. According to Jasper, this is a popular place for ex-pats to hang out for both fun and business. It offers reasonably priced refreshments and, of course, free Wi-Fi.
(By the way, there are lots of cafes in Ho Chi Minh City, and pretty much all of them offer free Wi-Fi. My other favorite is Cafe Da on Alexandre De Rhodes Street. Also in D1: the best ice milk coffee and smoothies I've ever had. If you go there, make sure you try the "Dong Tim" fruit shake. It's so good, it has my name on it!)
"You'll find me at Centro at least a couple of times a week," Jasper said. Then, in a slightly show-offy manner, he pulled out his brand-new-looking Nikon D300 camera.
"I just got a good deal on this one. I traded in my D80 and got about 80 percent of new value to put toward this new one. You'll have to come see this place," he said.
I was intrigued, partially because next to his D300, my 4-year-old D80 looked somewhat pathetic. I've considered upgrading my camera for a while, but anticipating the whole hassle of selling my D80 on eBay or Craigslist has stopped me.
He then took me to Thuong Xa Tax, a mini shopping mall that's just a five-minute walk from the cafe. "Mini" here, by the way, is according to American standards; this is actually one of the bigger trading centers here in Vietnam, and it is indeed very large.
As in most shopping malls here, you can find pretty much everything, but we walked straight to the Vinh Hung Camera shop. The owner, Hung, a friendly 40-something man, greeted Jasper like an old friend. He then took a quick look at my D80 and said, "I'll give you $600 for this one, body and lens."… Read more