Apr 10, 2015
AO Show, Ho Chi Minh City
(4.5 stars out of 5)
Location: Metropolitan Opera House, 07 Cong Truong Lam Son, Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tickets: US$28 and US$57/adult, US$18 and US$42.75 for children
Showtimes: 6:00pm and 8:00pm
Phone: (84) (0) 1245 18 11 88
Production: Lune Production
What is it?
AO Show is more like a fusion of circus and a stage play about the day-to-day local ongoings of a traditional fishing village in Vietnam. Venue was at the Metropolitan Opera House - an iconic landmark in Saigon and a must-experience for its architecture, sound acoustic, grand presence and its history.
The acts had a number of clever innovations - a simulation of a rural conveyor belt, the visual moving-light effect as they spun the fishing tool and the rolling straw disc that would place people where there were none before. Hard to explain - you'll just have to see it. The live thundering musical scoring in the background added intensity and urgency. The performance was solid - they moved in synchronicity if needed and the acrobatics was dialed-in specially the parkour stunts. The incandescent lighting was particularly dramatic and powerful, draping a monochromatic hue over the stage like that of a golden patina, given the imposing visuals of bamboo and baskets.
What it Didn't Have
What it lacked though was over-the-top element - it didn't have enough edge. It was packaged as 'new circus' which immediately brings to mind, Cirque du Soleil - and that inevitably raised the expectation. But AO Show didn't have the death-defying surgical precision stunts or the mesmerizing balancing act that would generate a unison of gasps among the spectators (well, there could have been one or two). Perhaps that is the risk you take when you invoke the leveled-up word 'new circus' in your marketing campaign.
There wasn't much of a storyline to weave together the entire one-hour act - it was more of a series of independent skits threaded on a common theme - that of life in a fishing village.
Altogether though, AO Show is an entertaining one hour visual spectacle worth seeing on your short visit to Ho Chi Minh City. It felt just right. It was long enough to present all its highlights without feeling too stretched but not too short that it would leave you hanging. You come out of the theater feeling good with a satisfied smile.
Thank you Ms. Kimmy Nguyen!!!
Next stop: Coming Back to Kampot, Cambodia
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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ben Xe Mien Dong
Mien Tay Bus Station
Saigon Railway Station
Tan Son Nhat International Airport
Queen Ann Hotel - luxurious and modern, District 1 location, 10-minute walk to Ben Thanh Market
Sakura Hostel Cholon - 9.0 Stars (out of 10) from 24 reviews on Booking.com based on cleanliness, comfort, facilities, staff, value for money, free wifi and location!
How to Get to District 1 (HCMC) from the Airport (Tan Son Nhat International Airport)
- take the #109 Airport Bus (5:30am to 1:00am, departs every 15-20 minutes, 45 mins, 20k Dong or $1.00) Route: International Terminal - Domestic Terminal (Tan Son Nhat International Airport) - Truong Son - Tran Quoc Hoan - Hoang Van Thu - Nguyen Van Troi - Nam Ky Khoi Nghia - Ham Nghi - Le Lai - Ben Thanh Bus Station - Pham Ngu Lao - 23/9 Park
- get off at 23/9 Park to get to the cluster of backpacker hostels
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Tips
- best money changer rates in District 1 is Ha Tam Jewelry near Ben Thanh (refer to map for location)
- unlike most destinations in Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is too big for the major bus companies to provide a drop-off service with their shuttle minivans. If you are coming by bus, you get off either at the Western Bus Station or Eastern Bus Station depending on where you are coming from. From there, you can take the cheap local bus, the Xe Buyt to get you closer to your destination.
- you can get around the city by moto-taxi or rent a motorbike - but be warned that motorbike riding in Ho Chi Minh City is unlike riding anywhere else in Asia!
Ho Chi Minh City Cost Index
Budget price in budget places (US$1 = Vietnam Dong VND 23,255 = Php 53.20 as of Aug 1, 2016)
- VND 10-15,000 baguette sandwich (banh mi)
- VND 25-30,000 noodle soup (pho)
- VND 10-15,000 black filtered coffee
- VND 5,000 sugar cane juice (nuoc mia)
- VND 8-10,000 fresh coconut
- VND 10,000 one beer bottle
- VND 10,000 1.5 liter drinking water
- VND 80,000 bicycle rental, 24 hours
- VND 80,000 cheap lodging
- VND 10,000/kg laundry
- VND 8-10,000/km but flag-down starts at 20,000 motorcycle ride
- VND 20-35,000 rice meals (com tam)
- VND 100-140,000/day motorbike rental
Vietnam FYI / Tips / Dos and Don'ts
- Hanoi Grapevine HCMC Update - for the latest events in Vietnam
- Vietnam establishments will not accept US dollars, unlike Cambodia. You have to use Vietnam Dong (US$1 = Vietnam Dong VND 23,255 = Php 53.20 as of Aug 1, 2016)
- Vietnamese smokers will smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. They also smoke inside hospitals with no smoking signs.
- Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
- internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
- Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
- best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
- remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
- ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
- best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
- leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
- when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
- carry only enough cash for your needs that day
- don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
- don't take pictures of military installations - you can go to jail
- refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so
Lesser-Known Vietnam Destinations
- Phu Yen Province - by the beach
- Hoa Binh Lake - locals' alternative to Halong Bay
- Ninh Binh - Trang An Grottoes, Tam Coc, Mua Caves, Bai Dinh Pagoda, Van Long Nature Reserve
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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