Out of their inexplicably passionate love for Sài Gòn, an American and a Spaniard, nicknamed Bún and Ba Khía, formed the website www. Saigoneer.com to provide expats living in Việt Nam with intriguing, helpful information on the city, and elsewhere.
Ba Khía, whose real name is Alberto Prieto, was born and grew up in Madrid, Spain, while Brian Letwin, who hails from New York, prefers his Vietnamese name, Nguyễn Văn Bún.
Both have worked and lived in Hồ Chí Minh City for almost three years now.
They met each other and quickly became the best of friends.
Before long, they came up with the idea of building a website to provide foreign tourists and expats living in Việt Nam with loads of information on the country, especially their favorite place, Sài Gòn.
So their website http://www.Saigoneer.com was born.
Since debuting in April 2013, Saigoneer.com instantly gained a firm foothold among the expat circle in Hồ Chí Minh, and now enjoys a high number of pageviews.
More than two years ago, when Prieto first came to Hồ Chí Minh City, he took a lot of photos and posted them on his Facebook page.
He found the city so enjoyable that he decided to return here as a resident, not a tourist.
He lives just like a real Saigonese, every day he rides his bike to work, a web design company, and hangs out and drinks beer with his friends after work.
He likes to sing karaoke, and his favorite song is “Anh Ba Khía”, so his friends call him Ba Khía (a type of small crab), though he already has another Vietnamese name, Hùng.
Out of his inexplicable love for Sài Gòn, he began to write blogs in his mother tongue to introduce the city to his family and friends back home and let them know that he’s living in a peaceful, beautiful country.
Prieto then met Letwin, a lean American who calls himself Bún (which means rice noodle in Vietnamese).
Letwin was then working for a local English magazine on the lifestyles of Saigonese, but always wished to have his own language playground.
Realizing the city’s constantly changing power and bewitching grace, the two friends came up with the idea of building a website to forge a more profound connection with the city, and share it with many others.
The website boasts such sections as ‘News,’ ‘Arts and Culture,’ ‘Eat and Drink’ and ‘Old Saigon.’
The guys’ favorite is ‘Arts and Culture,’ in which they provide the latest news on art exhibits, music, and theater performances which appeal to expats as well as tourists.
‘Eat and Drink’ provides tips on where in Hồ Chí Minh City to find good food and drinks, along with in-depth articles on Vietnamese cuisine, along with fun cartoon videos on how to prepare certain Vietnamese dishes such as “phở” (beef or chicken noodle).
Meanwhile, the ‘Old Saigon’ section will appeal to nostalgic people, with precious archival photos on the old-time Bà Chiểu market, Gò Vấp district in the 1930s, and Chợ Lớn (Hồ Chí Minh City’s Chinatown) in the 1960s.
In their series “Street Signs”, the guys also try to explain the meaning of the names of several Hồ Chí Minh City streets, which are named after the country’s heroes, or ponder how Hồ Chí Minh City can retain its time-honored architecture in another article.
According to Prieto, he takes care of the technological and aesthetic part of the website, while Letwin is in charge of finding topics, garnering information, writing and editing articles and contacting contributors.
Letwin has a witty, nonchalant writing style, and often mixes the Vietnamese words he has learned in his English articles.
He likes to refer to Việt Nam as “phở”.
He also compiles and comments on articles from Tuoitrenews and several other local newswires.
Apart from several other professional and amateur writers, Alfredo de La Casa, a cuisine critic who works with several English magazines in Hồ Chí Minh City, has also joined the website.
The guys hope that in the long term their website will promote, create and sponsor entertainment events.
But Prieto said it will take time to achieve that goal, as the two are quite busy with their day jobs to support and develop the website.
“What leads us to this place is love and passion, not money.
We both hope to devote most of our time to the website and wake up with a beaming smile every morning.”
“We do love our home countries but to tell the truth, we don’t want to return and live there.
We love Sài Gòn mostly because of how it makes our lives chaotic but extremely fascinating.
Our dream is to lead a carefree life here for the rest of our lives.”