My Asia: My Ho Chi Minh City with Sandrine Llouquet

I’m delighted to welcome Sandrine Llouquet, artist and VJ, to notabilia!

Sandrine was born in France in to Vietnamese parents. In 1999, she graduated from École Pilote Internationale d’Art et de Recherche (EPIAR) in Villa Arson in Nice and now lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City. Sandrine works in many media, including watercolor drawing, video animation, video art, sculpture, wall drawing, and installation. Her work, as she defines it, is a “combination of contradictory feelings, sweetness and violence.” She supports and promotes contemporary through Atelier Wonderful, part gallery, part art center, part artist studio. She is also a founding member of the artists collective Mogas Station.

Sandrine has showed her work in France, Seoul, the United States, China, Singapore, and Austria. As part of Mogas Station, she has participated in the Shenzhen Biennale, Singapore Biennale, and the Venice Biennale.

Now, to Sandrine…

o o o o o

Must eats?

When family or friends visit, I take them “to the street” for a local breakfast: bánh cuon (a roll made from a thin, wide sheet of steamed rice batter filled with seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and minced shallots) or pho. There are so many good food stalls here… everywhere! You just have to be curious, look at what they serve, sit on one of their tiny stool, and try.

My favorite little street café is situated at the entrance of my former apartment building on Nguyen Trai street. The coffee lady’s name is Mrs. Hong, but I call her “Ba-Noi” (grandmother). She takes care of my daughter and me as if we were family. Try the ca phe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) or a delicious sinh to (fruit shake).

For dinner, I try to find places that allow me to escape a bit from the crazy tumult of the city. I look for a quiet atmosphere, an interesting interior design, and good wine. One of my favorites is The Refinery, a French bistro with a retro ambiance. The restaurant was built in the former headquarters of the leading opium refinery of old Indochine. I also like Warda, where one can have great food, smoke shisha, and enjoy watching belly dance. Both places are situated downtown in District 1.

Must shops?

L’Usine is THE trendy place for shopping in Saigon. In this concept store, hidden on the first floor of a building in a narrow alley, you will find objects and clothes made by local designers. Its cafeteria serves drinks, sandwiches, salads, and cupcakes. This is where the city’s creative people gather at lunch time.

You will make surprising finds at the flea market in Binh Thanh District, near the Fine Art University.

The best is to go to a tailor and have them make something unique for you! I go and buy fabric in front of Tan Dinh Market on Ha Bai Trung Street and then bring it, along with a little sketch, to my tailor.

To buy art supplies, I usually go on Le Loi Street. There are many stationery shops there, where one will find all kinds of paper, pencils, brushes, paint, and ink for very cheap.

Must dos?

Spend a lazy afternoon reading magazines or surfing on internet at Tibetan Coffee Shop. They serve amazing fruit cocktails and vegetarian food.

I often go swimming at Ky Hoa 2. It’s situated in a park where empty celebration halls with an abandoned amusement park. A very strange atmosphere. I love it!

For live music, go to Yoko. This bar was launched by Vietnamese twin brothers fourteen years ago. It’s now an institution and features live bands every night and do electronic music nights every now and then.

Must sees?

The Fine Art Museum is one of the nicest monuments in Saigon, not only for its art collection, but also for its beautiful architecture and interior.

Not far from the museum is Le Cong Kieu Street, a street of antiques shops. Piles of sculpture, furniture, ceramics, and a jumble of everyday objects and abandoned family pictures will take you on a journey through time.

My dear friend, Ilda, relocated from France to Saigon five years ago and thanks to her sense of observation, her refinement, and gift of the gab, she quickly found the perfect service to offer to tourists visiting Saigon. Her Saigon Cooking class in Hoa Tuc Restaurant, close to the Opera House and the most luxurious hotels in the city. The chef takes you on a trip to the market before teaching you how to cook delicate Vietnamese food.

Must art?

Galerie Quynh is the leading contemporary art gallery in Vietnam. The gallery showcases artists from Vietnam, including me!

San Art and Zero Station, two, independent, artist-run spaces heavily influence the Vietnamese art scene; they offer residency programs, talks, exhibitions, and workshops.

Must gos?

Motorbike, of course!

(Additional credits: Illustrations by Sandrine Llouquet; photo layout via Pugly Pixel.)