Friday, February 27, 2015

Indonesia - A day on a thousand islands.

      When I saw the boat, I knew I would barf.

  The first morning in Indonesia was interesting because I woke up and really didn't have any ideas on how I would get to see the islands.

  I flagged down a taxi and told him to go to the Marina Anchol and I just trusted things.

  At the Marina, the early morning tourists swarmed about sporadically. Jakarta itself didn't appear too touristy. I didn't see many foreigners during my stay there. Nothing compared to Saigon.

  My friend wanted to see the far away island. He read that it was the most beautiful. I didn't mind at all. Then I saw the boat that we would go on and I knew I was going to barf. But I didn't know it would be that bad.

    As soon as I step foot on the boat, I knew it was going to be a rough ride. There weren't any seats left on top or in downstairs. I sat outside knowing that I would barf off the side of the boat.

    10 minutes away from Jakarta, it happened. There were Koreans and Chinese people all over me, sitting on the the luggage that the locals were bringing on the islands. I sat next to some egg crates and a bag full of cucumbers. Two British women sat and immediately worried about my condition because I deteriorated rather quickly. I just lost myself. A tall Korean man fell on me as the ship bounced up and down on the sea.

     One of the women handed me a bag. I puked. Then again. and again for 18 times. I counted. Each one was painful because I just had spicy tom yum and curry. The chilis burning my throat and lining again. The rice I ate reminded me of com ruu or the fermented rice balls in those cups. Man, they're delicious. 30 minutes in. I was dying. I just wished to get off. I was foaming in the mouth. I held onto my bag of vomit in my hat.

      With the first stop, I knew I had to get off. My friend was sitting in the inside, and I called for him to get out. I got out and hit my head really hard on the boat, and stumbled on the ground. As the boat life, the police and army serving the island came and inquired about my situation. They laughed for a bit and invited me to drink tea with them. The tea was fine and warm. Mosquitoes were already eating my friend's arm. The first island was not so touristy for foreigners. In fact, no foreigners got off. 40 minutes away from Jakarta, and it felt like I was a character on LOST. It took me about an hour to regain my composure. The boat would pick us up at 3. It was only 9 AM.

6 hours on an island where nobody spoke English. We had no idea what we were doing.

And that's why it turned out to be fun.

The original tour would have been a highly orchestrated and controlled event.
I wanted something like that. I didn't want to think for a change.

We walked across a neighborhood and across various home stays. I couldn't believe how these people were living in homes on this island. It was just so awesome to see how close their homes were to the beach and how tiny the island is. On Phu Quoc for example, because of its size and roads, it doesn't feel like an island. After paying pennies for admission to the beach, I was shocked to see how beautiful this beach was. In fact, at the marina, the tour company discouraged us from seeing this island claiming the water was dirty. That was a lie. They just wanted to sell us the more expensive tour. It wasn't cheap. It was the most expensive cost in the entire trip. Maybe by their standards it was dirty. But compared to Vietnams beaches, this small stretch was so jaw dropping to me. The random trees sticking out and the lack of waves made this beach.

I drank many coconuts. I felt better and better because I took some Antimol medication recommended by a half Indonesian half American traveler. It reduced my motion sickness, but I was still spinning in the head. I felt really deprived and voided of much strength and spirit. The beach helped a lot. We had the beach to ourselves. Dollar coconut after dollar coconut.

Then old dudes came and offered us a boat ride. I thought it would be good for TV, so I agreed. That was probably the high light of the day. The water was only waste deep and clear enough for me to see the seaweed on the bottom. As we passed all the plants and mangroves, I realized that this island might have been brackish water because there were gigantic trees sticking out of the water, as well as brackish water fish species. Some fish would fling themselves in the air as we went by. That was truly awesome. Truly spectacular to see how nature really is and how beautiful wild fish are compared to their aquarium kept and raised counterparts. The sun was harsh. I almost fell overboard several times because of the medication.

Back on land, I drank more coconuts and rested for a bit. It was nice to kill time. More local tourists came, but the beach still felt like it was my own, The coconut flesh was spectacular. I had nothing but coconut flesh for food, but I was still feeling better and better. I gathered enough strength around noon to walk to the other end of the island, which was less than a mile away. There was food there in the form of some carts. I had bakso soup ball noodle thing and batagor. Those two sound absolutely mouth watering right now. I also had some olek olek fish cake thing too. I also noticed one dude with a Ninja 300 on the island. Why in the world would you need a Ninja 300 on the island is beyond me.
I really wish Vietnam didn't have that motorcycle import tax. I'm drooling for a Ninja 300 these days., especially a white one.

After eating, we headed back to the beach because there was nothing else to do. We tried walking for a bit, but the heat just consumed us. Back to the beach- back to the coconuts. I must have had six or seven coconuts that day. I finally got time to relax. It wasn't what I had expected. But I finally had some me time to unwind at the beach.

At 3 o clock the boat was late. In fact, it didn't come until 3:45. The island stubby tail cats took a liking to us. The mosquitoes also liked us too. Oh, and we knew dengue is still quite prevalent on those islands to this very day. Oh well. Fingers crossed. The boat came, and I recognized a few familiar faces like the tall Korean man who fell on me. The boat ride back was a lot smoother. We bounced a lot, but I had taken another Antimol, and actually dozed off a few times. 40 minutes flew by fast and towards the end of the trip, I started to feel dizzy again. But by the time I could barf again, we were on shore by at the marina and I couldn't be happier.

This video is going to be amazing. Just wait for it.

Vietnam on YouTube. OldBoy's New Channel.

        If you guys tuned into the live discussion Google+  Hangouts, you would know that OldBoy now has his very own channel. This does not mean that you won't see OldBoy on my channel anymore. He'll continue to be featured in videos that I film and produce, while I will surely appear on his channel in cross over videos. However, the real difference now is that all videos are filmed, edited, and produced by him. I will have nothing to do with the content and structure of his channel. I am merely in the background as a consultant, but I will have no creative or artistic input into his content. This is an attempt to make his content feel as different from mind as possible. An attempt to see the more intimate details of his life. I wanted him to see how it is to manage your own channel, while filming and editing your own videos, while maintaining a full time job. This new channel is all OldBoy all the time. Are you ready world?

So be sure to subscribe to it when you get the chance if you're a fan of OldBoy's life in Vietnam and his travels throughout Asia.

If you missed this recent discussion, be sure to check out my YouTube channel to see us talk about ourselves and about Vietnam for over an hour.

The next live conversation will take place in two weeks featuring Nina and someone else!
It'll also be more European time zone friendly.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The big birthday deal.

 Last night I sprained my wrist pulling the covers over me to fight the cold from the AC.

My house is still a mess. I better tidy up a bit before the next live GOOGLE+ Hangouts this Thursday evening 6 PM Los Angeles Time!

How's that for a plug?

I turned 26 today. Wow. simply. wow.

I'm not much of a birthday guy. I kind of fell out of the whole birthday love after elementary school.
I never really had a real birthday party or anything. I'm okay with that.

All I want for my birthday is for Valerie L. to pass her reach test so she can become a flight attendant and live in Hong Kong or Singapore.

Do some of you remember when the banner on this blog read a 22 year old in Vietnam?
And now in a blink of an eye I'm 26.

I don't remember when I was 16.

Today was also the first day back to work again. I wasn't on top of things. I just blamed it on being sick from Indonesia. But first day backs are always a drag. I was actually pretty prepared today too because Tuesdays are a bit lighter. Tomorrow is the real challenge.

I spent about eight hours with Pho Bolsa TV yesterday filming an interview. Marn was there too. Lan, the man behind Pho Bolsa TV, will also be featured on a video on my channel as well. Exciting times ahead folks. The exposure is definitely going to take my channel just that one step further into a different demographic more based on Vietnamese

Birthdays... why are they such a big deal? Why are people suddenly excited that it's my birthday and invite me to do something today or tonight? I have work and editing to do. I'm not going to celebrate tonight or tomorrow or the weekend. I just want today to go by and be another day. I don't want to gt older. I just feel suffocated thinking I'm almost 30 years old. That's f'n scary.
So lets not think about it now.

It's kind of nice to have friends who haven't spoken or written or liked anything of your posts suddenly wishing you a happy birthday. I think it's kind of awesome that they would take time out of their morning or day to type something at me. And many thanks to the people locally here who wanted to do something with me tonight. But, I'm just going to go home after a long day and edit videos.

This period in Vietnam is a little weird. Tet is over, but it's not quite over yet. Nobody knows officially when businesses will open again. All the lunar calendar talk is annoying at times. I don't know what to believe. Hopefully, by the start of next week things will return back to normal because it seems like the start of this week has been sloth-like to start. Next week things will go back full fledged. Looking at my schedule again, Mid May seems to be a period where I can maybe get a week off if my work my cards correctly the next two months. I'm really excited to see where I'll go next.

In the meantime, another Singapore trip might happen soon.

So that's it. That's my life. Things are pretty okay for now. We'll see what will happen next.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jakarta, Indonesia - Day 1.

        The flight from Saigon to Jakarta via Vietnam Airlines was relatively empty. I had an opportunity to sprawl out on the other two seats next to me, until I felt sick enough and sat up. The food on board was the best I've ever ever had on a plane. I rarely eat plane food because I have an easy tendency of vomiting on planes. In fact, if I don't throw up, then that's really rare for me when it comes to plane travel.

        The landing was a breeze, the visa on arrival was simple enough and immigration was like a blink of an eye. Everything seemed insanely easy. I got a local sim and 3g access. The mobile internet in Jakarta was a lot faster than the internet in Saigon. I hopped into a Bluebird taxi, gave the driver my hotel address, he seemed to know exactly what he was doing, and everything seemed great. Everything was swell. The hotel room was almost exactly like how I imagined. The plugs were a little bit weird, but I borrowed some adapters and managed. The only hassles I had with the plugs was the fact that I had many things to charge, but not enough plugs. I actually had to get up in the middle of the night to charge batteries, so the majority of the trip was spent relatively dazed and fatigued because I couldn't get any decent sleep for the next few days.

    When I landed it was already relatively late- somewhat 3 or 4ish. I didn't sleep the night prior for whatever reasons. Keep in mind, I also haven't prepared much in terms of planning or anything. I was just banking on the fact that Dwiko, a brother of a follower would just help me out. Well, he did just that for the first night and we met up near my hotel to sample some local street food in a fairly comfortable setting. I tried everything from ayam goreng, siomay, teh botol, satay, sambal, fruits, lele goreng, soto mie. Pretty much all the good stuff. Don't worry, I tried pretty much every major Indonesian dish you can think of, including Sudanese food. Just wait and see in the weeks to come. I want to do one Indonesia and one or two Vietnam releases a week. These Indonesian videos are going to be better than anything I've ever produced.

      The dinner was spot on. I walked back to my hotel. A gigantic masked thing came up and I almost died in fear. It seems like children or teens dress in these giant costumes and they parade around in the streets for tips.

The language barriers will be problematic. I look incredibly Indonesian. Everyone tried to speak to me in Indonesian. I remember the time when I was in Bangkok and went to a supermarket where everybody spoke to me in Thai and I just nodded.

The coins in Indonesia are so light, I thought I was given toy money at first.

First impressions of Jakarta? Big. Massive. Urban, but Safe. more on this later.

Tet's over and I'm glad.

     I really looked forward to the Tet break. I needed it. I was badly burnt out.

But now, after the fact, I can't wait for Vietnam and my life to progress forward again. Tomorrow is the first day back to reality.

Indonesia was a wild ride. Ups and downs and ups and downs.

When I got back, I got extremely sick. So sick, that I haven't been able to even ride my bike or really function for the past three days.

On the way back to Saigon from Jakarta, as the plane landed I shed a fear tears. Planes always make me vomit and cry. In the airport, I was just sad because my dad was also in the airport on his way out. There was no way we could see each other because as my flight landed, his flight was about to board. I never thought I'd say it, but I miss my father a lot after seeing him again.

I came back to a relatively empty city. Many storefronts were closed. It seemed desolate.
The morning after, I woke up and gave out money to deserving people. That made me feel good, until I came home and could barely move. The original plan was to visit my relatives in Bien Hoa.

That never happened. I had constant diarrhea that's still happening right now. I haven't had real food in a while. I was okay when I was in Indonesia. None of the street food gave me the runs. I had some Pizza Hut and Marn bought me some fried chicken. None of that helped, but made me feel extremely unhealthy.

I really want to watch my weight and eating better moving forward in the next few months.

So I spent time in relative seclusion and isolation the past few days. My house is a mess. I'm a mess. My kitchen smells. I smell too, though not as bad.

Tomorrow is a fresh start. I'll gather the strength to shower.

Can you please check out my youtube channel? Videos are really damn good these days. I just released the first Indonesia video, and it turned out pretty damn good. Damn it, my stomach isn't agreeing with me.

Mi goi sucks. Saigon doesn't shut down, but most of my favorite eateries did. At least until tomorrow.

I don't feel right, nor do I feel like myself much. I can't sleep. I thought I had dengue fever for a bit too, but luckily my fevers weren't extreme enough.

I really wanted to go to Bien Hoa to see my family for Tet. Nobody called me to come down there during festivities. It's as if they either forgot about me or thought that I was still in Jakarta, which is fine by me too. I didn't want to give them lucky money. Honestly, they don't appreciate it. I rather give that money to poor people who are way more appreciative. The children in my family just recite Tet well wishes like robots and spew them out on cue for money. They don't really mean what they say. So I decided to avoid that scene because I would feel deprived and unproductive if I was down there during Tet. So I just stayed home and edited videos and rested.

So what's next for my travels? Maybe Singapore again next month if a friend comes to visit me in Vietnam. But I'm eyeing Australia for a quick visit coming up. A lot of cards have to line up, but if all goes well, you'll see some videos from down under.

Thanks guys. Here's to a great few months ahead.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My father's in Vietnam.

    For time to time I get this brief moments to really take Vietnam in. The sights and sounds of the streets outside of my cab suddenly turns into slow motion, and everything that everybody does is highlighted in bold actions. Vietnam’s truly a photographer’s paradise come true. Daily life is invigorating and distinct. I’m not bored of Vietnam yet. The simple beauties in the city. The woman throwing some mystery bucket of dirty water into the streets at motorbikes. The shirtless dude wearing long boxer shorts squatting over smoking with his gold chain around his neck- yeah. Yeah.

     My dad’s sitting next to me now as I type this. I’m in a car going to Go Cong, where my father is going to visit his older brother for the last time. My uncle isn’t doing too well. He probably has a year or two left to live.

     It’s shocking that my dad is here. It’s still surreal, and before I can even get used to it, he’ll be gone. He only has seven days here, and he’s here because my grandfather is not doing too well. A few days prior, we thought he was a goner. He’s got a blood infection. Antibiotics aren’t helping. He can’t walk anymore. He’s bed ridden.

   It’s been almost ten years since my father last came here. This country and Saigon has changed so much. Picking him up from the airport was a disaster in itself. There were so many people at the airport. It was the busiest I’ve ever seen ever. There wasn’t room to even breathe. Viet kieus coming home for Tet and their extended families were there to pick them up. The airliner lost my dad’s luggage, so I stood out there for an hour wondering where he was.

    As the taxi drove us back to my house, I couldn’t help but marvel at his own marveling of the city. He spoke about old street names with the cab driver. When we went to exchange some money, he wondered if it was okay to use money with holes in them that have taped over.

   My dad’s pretty Vietnamese. But, even after a few hours spent with him, I realized that I know more about this city and this country than my father will ever know. Who would have guessed?

    Everything seemed to amaze him. He shook his head at the motorbike traffic. It was all too casual for me. He tried to frantically warn me about the dust that picked up as cars drove by, covering his face and attempting to cover mine. I’m all too used to it. It doesn’t affect me like it used to.  What does that say about me?

     Every moment with my dad felt surreal, but at the same time very comfortable. He’s still my dad, and despite the space and time that separated us, our interaction with each other still hasn’t settled or changed much. It felt weird, but at the same time, it felt normal. Showing my dad my apartment and to get his approval comforted me a lot. My parents think that I’m in Vietnam struggling or starving. Readers and viewers of this blog know differently. For him to see how well and comfortable I’m living makes me feel better that my mom is going to be a little bit more reassured that I’m okay.

     We didn’t have much time to mingle or to talk. His whole point of coming to Vietnam was to visit my grandfather and that’s exactly what we had planned to do. I took him to a nearby restaurant and we ate some hamburgers. He was impressed with the quality. It felt just like America to him. That’s comforting to me and then some.

     I rented a car for the day to take us to Bien Hoa. I couldn’t spend the night, so it would eventually take me back. We headed to some cousin’s houses right away to spread the gifts as he played mini Santa. We visited as many of his cousins as possible. Everyone was so thrilled to see him. Lots of jokes in the air… the humid humid air. I can see where I get my sense of humor from.  I could tell he actually enjoyed it even though he didn’t want to show it. There’s a lot of emotional baggage between him and his cousins. Nothing worth noting to be honest now.

      We saw my grandfather at a private hospital nearby. Quite frail as frail can be. And then my father called my grandfather ba and referred himself as con and my heart just sank as I watched from behind. My father held onto my grandfather’s hand as tears flowed down my grandfather’s sullen and sunken eyes. I thought I was the only crybaby in this family. I fought back tears and watched them. I was traumatized. Surreal. Amazingly surreal to see this.

      My father’s stubbornness paved way again. I get a lot of my traits from him. More than I’ll ever admit. He wanted to dismiss a cousin who was the night time care giver. He wanted to do everything himself. Everything which he didn’t know how to do. Eventually, they settled on working the night shift together.

       I bid my father farewell and went back to Saigon in the car silently. A few kilometers away from the hospital, I witnessed a guy and a woman have a head on collision because she was going the wrong way and he wasn’t looking. His head went directly to the concrete and split open. His eyes were wide open. I’ll never forget this sight. The woman immediately got up and pushed her bike without caring much for the dude. My driver drove off. The sound of the bikes hitting each other still haunts me.

        A few days later I took a rare off day and joined my father to visit Go Cong. This was again also my urging him to visit his older brother perhaps for the last time. The meeting was pretty emotionless on my father’s side. Seeing him next to his older brother of only a couple of years only exaggerated the fact that my dad was super lucky to have been able to go to America. His older brother could have passed as his own father. My father hasn’t aged much. He certainly doesn’t look 60. Like many other Vietnamese people, they didn’t have much to say to each other. Their emotional hello and goodbye weren’t all that emotional. They didn’t hug. They barely wanted to take a picture with each other. I urged my father to please just forget about the past and live in the present, but some stories and some experiences just can’t be forgotten.

        Stepping into my grandmother’s abandoned home in the Go Cong Market and going to the graves of the great great grandparents with my dad was beyond strange. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around such a monumental moment. The family tree… wow. It’s hard to imagine that without these people, I wouldn’t exist. Though,  I couldn’t help but freaked out by my great grandfather’s picture. He seriously looks like a zombie. Everybody laughed when I made that comment. I think the photo was a candid photo taken by surprise.

     And by the afternoon, after lunch at Binh Xuyen 2, I bid farewell to my father. I had plans to go to Indonesia booked before he had plans to come to Vietnam. I couldn’t change my travel plans because I planned this trip with a friend. It wouldn’t be fair to him for me to back out. So I only got to see my father twice when he came back to Vietnam. He’ll be gone before I come back from Indonesia.
I gave him a hug goodbye. He stepped back into the car and it sped off. I don’t know when I’ll ever see my father again. Hopefully, sooner than later.

      The first thing he asked me on the car ride back to my house from the airport was when I was planning to go home. I couldn’t give him a definite answer, but I told him that the next time I’m in America, will also be the time that I return home. It’s sooner than later though.
I told him not to worry about me. I'm doing okay. I haven't asked my parents for a single penny since coming over here. That in itself, is success to me.

I just don’t know how soon I'll see them again.

I never thought I would miss my parents. But seeing my grandfather and his frail state, seeing my dad and his interactions with my grandfather, reminded me how much I miss my parents. Honestly, I don’t really get along with my parents, but I couldn’t help feel absolutely deprived when my father left.

I just wanted for him to see glimpses of how much I’ve grown up since I left home three and a half years ago. I think I’ve grown up a lot.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Go Vap Orphanage Visit

      My friend Alissa has mentioned the Go Vap Orphanage to me for the longest time being that her family lives down the street. I also had a lot of hope that Yangzom might have been able to volunteer there. Hi Yangzom. And so on Christmas Morning I gathered the crew together with Nina, Seb, Alissa and her family to make the long trek up there. The orphanage is actually quite far from me, but traffic was noticeably lighter that day for whatever reasons. The majority of people still live and continue on with their lives though even though it was Christmas Morning. People were still boiling that pho broth if you know what I mean.

      We donated some clothes that Nina and Seb brought over from Denmark and about 300 dollars from contributors like Audrey, Donna, Island, myself, and Alissa's family.

       The first thing I noticed about the facilities was that it was really clean and spacious.
On an upper floor, I was surprised to see how many high needs children there were. The affects of Agent Orange still plague this country. Many children were unable to actually walk or communicate. Some of them required tube feeding and had to wear diapers. I remember seeing a child with the largest head I've ever seen before. He didn't seem like he could even get up. There are over 100 caregivers for over 250 children- ranging from babies to pre-adult teenagers. I didn't expect the severity of some of the children's conditions. If you've visited the War Museum in Saigon, then you're definitely aware of the affects of Agent Orange, but pictures are one thing and seeing these children still affected today is a completely different and extremely difficult experience for me.

      I'm glad a place like this exists in Vietnam. I want more people to know about it, and to know more about other orphanages in not only in Saigon, but in many other cities as well. If you come to Vietnam, please consider making a visit and a donation of clothes, money, or toys or all of the above. I promise your trip would be more meaningful. When you come- how about bringing an old suitcase full of toys or children's clothes that you don't want anymore? There are so many orphanages that would love to receive your gifts. If you can't afford to give anything, then I don't really believe you, but nevertheless, you should come and let your friends know about such organizations and charity. Awareness is key. I make these videos because I want more people to be aware of Vietnam - may it be food, travel, modern aspects, and organizations that deserve attention.

     So the next time you come here, consider visiting and helping out an organization.

Anyways, enjoy the video guys. You can help me out by posting this video and sharing it on your Facebook so others can see what Vietnam has.
Instagram @KyleLeDotNet

Friday, January 30, 2015

Nina's gone.


So many of you long time readers know Nina through her guest entry on my blog from a very long time ago when I was still having guest writers mostly because I was lazy. And most of you know her as the Danish Vietnamese girl who has been featured heavily on my YouTube channel, especially in the last six months.

         Well six months was it for her. When she came to Vietnam again this time, the plan was just to stay for six months, and boy, were those six months fast.

          In a blink of an eye and she was back in Vietnam and in another blink she was gone. Back to Denmark. Back to the snow. Back to the real world.

         The last day before her departure, I remembered tearing up and choking back on the phone talking to her because I knew that tomorrow, she'd leave and we would never see each other again. And I'm having a hard time writing this right now because I realized that when I get home tonight, I can't ask her or Seb to have dinner with me.

        The most difficult thing about living in Vietnam and living abroad for me is the feeling of abandonment when good people exit my life. And sure, you can say that the internet has allowed people to keep in touch and be friends thousands of miles apart. And sure, I'll still be friends with her, just like the first time she left. But six months of routine- six months of calling each other up and asking each other for help and directions and to hang out whenever we had the chance. Imagine how many meals we had together that weren't  filmed - All you can eat Korean BBQ - Kichi Kichi - smoothies - che - whatever - All the places nearby that we went from Go Vap to Binh Duong to Bien Hoa to Long An. Many hours spent in cabs stuck in traffic. Talking on the internet isn't the same as hanging out in the motherland. And you all know I don't like talking on the internet.

       I was her first Vietnamese friend and she was like a sister to me.

        People come and leave from my life all the time.That's what living in Vietnam means. But Nina and Seb are different because I opened myself pretty wide. I introduced them to my family, they introduced me to theirs, and just the amount of time spent together and somewhat dependent on each other in such a foreign land as Vietnam ultimately allowed us to kind of grow up together in that sense. I mean, they've seen how dirty my apartment can be at times. Nina decorated my house for Christmas. I took her to the hospital. We've both seen each other's tears of joy and sorrow. Orphanages - a women's home.  Mornings in the gym. Nina was especially happy about her birthday cake. Yes, introducing my friends to my family- my cousins and my grandfather was a huge huge moment in my life. It signified not only a blending of worlds, but a blending of cultures, and ultimately, a blending of myself and my existence. For once, I wasn't really embarrassed of anything or felt the need to hide.

        Beyond Vietnam, we didn't have anything else in common. Vietnam and the love for Vietnam created an opportunity for us to be friends in the first place.

        And now my existence has to continue to a time when they never came back to Vietnam. So I tried my hardest the past few days to make things feel normal again for me without them here. I couldn't. Having them around felt like the normal thing. I mean, I still remember the first night where I met up with them again in District 10 in Nina's family's house where Seb was under a blanket and under the weather. And flash forward to a few days ago when I heard their voices waiting for the elevator from my apartment. That was our last meeting when they came to return an oven they borrowed to cook a very Danish Christmas dinner.  I choked back tears as they really wanted to break from my lower eyelid, but I held the line and as they got into the elevator, down they went, and far away from my life. I couldn't help, but think back to our last trip together a few days before that to Can Gio.

        Nina left Vietnam because it was time. She had plans to stay for six months. Six months was up. Life must go on.

        So for the past few days, I tried to find time to write this, and each time, I tried, I stopped and did something else. And that's that. Another saga ended.

        And I can't help but think back about Da Nang five years ago when I walked away from the airport in ruins while reminding myself that people come and go and you travel with them and...

For all of you Nina fans out there, this won't be the last that you'll see of her. She'll appear in about four or five more videos. Feel free to leave your messages here or on Facebook, and who knows, she might return sooner than later. And if my YouTube channel continues to grow with your support, then maybe I can afford to visit Europe. That would be fun to reunite with everyone who left.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Suoi Tien Amusement Park and Giang Dien Waterfalls

      I tout myself as somebody who knows Vietnam well. But, I don't know everything. In fact, I didn't know Giang Dien Waterfalls was a place worth even going to.

     The first time I heard about it, some dude was planning to take his girlfriend there by bike. I had seen the sign leading into it every time I passed my grandfather's house. I hadn't thought much about it. My history with waterfalls hasn't been the most pleasant. I've seen a lot of waterfalls in Da Lat and the likes of the Central Highlands, and I never really was blown away much mostly because I was surrounded by hundreds of other tourists.

     I was kind of surprised that my friend from Canada wanted to go there. I raised an eyebrow at that. But I wasn't very busy that day and Mike was visiting, so I thought it was a good idea to just get out there and do something new. In the end it was actually pleasant.

     We left late as we always do. I wanted to stop by Suoi Tien because it was along the way, and I haven't been there since my first trip ever to Vietnam. I remembered just how packed and crowded it was, By and large I didn't really want to return ever. Most of the time, my family packed into the golf cart and rode around complaining of the heat. This was also the first time I had ever seen an arapaima fish in my entire life.

      Many years later I found myself alone across from Suoi Tien. It was my first trip alone in Vietnam by myself. This was towards the end of the trip when I went to Thu Duc by myself to try to meet up with my cousin Hiep. I was quite confused about the whole bus situation and somehow I found myself in front of Suoi Tien. It was a really chaotic moment because I was surrounded by dudes who appeared as if they really wanted to beat me up. This was after coming back from Hanoi and Bac Giang where I was in some pretty shady situations. This was my first time traveling and leaving America by myself. Early OG followers would know the Vietnam by Myself series.
I flagged down a cab and got myself out of that area ASAP.

     Many years after that here I was again- riding the same golf carts with the same covered up female drivers. I tried my best to remember just how hot the summers were. It was such a nice day for being out. Summers in Saigon are awfully hot. I don't look forward to that at all again. This time though, the park was empty on a Tuesday afternoon. We didn't do very much because we had a time crunch. I had to be back somewhere at 6 or else.

     The ATVs looked fun. It would have been something my family would have never let me or my relatives do.
      Another thing that impressed me about Suoi Tien was the massive crocodile enclosure. I've never been that close to crocodiles before and definitely not that many. And the strangest thing happened too. A viewer named Kevin who had written me asking about hotel information (which I didn't know about) randomly came up to me and said he watched my videos. I kind of freaked out and was in complete shock. Each time it happens, I don't really know how to react. I just freak out and act all boyish. It's such a small world. The power of the mind can be really impressive.

      The new road bypassing much of Bien Hoa was really smooth and pleasant to take. It really cut time down, except when our lackluster driver got lost. We witnessed a pretty severe truck on truck accident that involved some hogs.

       Giang Dien Waterfalls also seemed pretty desolate and empty that day. We virtually had the entire paradise of a place to ourselves. There were a few people staying at the resort style hotel. But for the most part, the only other humans we came into contact with was this half white half Vietnamese guy and his local girlfriend. We didn't really say much. It was kind of awkward because my friend's kids were half white half Vietnamese themselves. The dude was probably thinking about how he was staring into his past representation right before him. There was also a Vietnamese dude taking photos. I remembered how he asked me if he could take pictures of my friends as they went swimming. I was fine with it. His camera equipment was too legit for him to be a creep. I mean, he had on gloves to take photos. He also complimented the C100 camcorder I was holding my hands too. That felt good. I mean nobody takes the the RX100 seriously- by the way, I used both footage from both cameras in the video and most of the time, I can't even tell which is which, except the C100 was a lot shakier due to its weight and full manual settings.

       Anyways, the waterfalls were beautiful all the way around. The bamboo lawn chairs sprawled out on the trimmed lawns. The trees and the pines reminded me of Da Lat and not Dong Nai. This was well worth the trip. I didnt go swimming, but I was able to enjoy some Sting soda and some beef jerky for a change in relative silence. Something I've been yearning for for a long time.
        Two things I learned that day that still stands out until today. The first is that I will never underestimate the traffic into and out of Saigon during rush hour. It was so bad that I had to hop out and get a xe om driver, who rode from District 2 to District 7 in a mad rush going against traffic and on sidewalks like never before. I made right back at six. Damn. I wish I had a go pro during that time, that would have made an amazing traffic death defining video that would have gotten the driver in a lot of trouble. The second thing I've learned from hanging out with my friend and his kids is that I'm nowhere ready to be a father figure. I freak out and worry too much about injuries. I grow anxious and nervous when they're in a situation where I think it's dangerous. I would go crazy.

       And then I realized why my mother wouldn't let me ride a bicycle or skateboard as a kid or why she wouldn't have approved of the ATVs either. I'm so similar in my mom even though I try not to be that it's scary. It's scary.

Check out the video if you haven't already. Thanks.
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