Monday, September 15, 2014

Top things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam.

      I must have searched this entry's title a dozen times when I was in Hanoi. Most of the time the typical tourist places come up the Old Quarter, Temple of Literature, Mausoleum. One Pillar Pagoda, Museum of Ethnology, and so on and so forth. But today, I present you a quick list of what I did in a day (or two) in Hanoi. Now, the video you see is rather limiting because I didn't get to go to all of these places or didn't get a chance to film. Either way the conclusion is Hanoi has plenty of things to see and do. You can easily spend three days or so exploring the city itself.

In no specific order.

1. The Old Quarter. Now this is a fairly typical recommendation. Every list or travel website has this place towards the top. The interesting and notable thing about The Old Quarter is despite being where most tourists and backpackers stay in Hanoi, Vietnamese locals also call this place home. It's a place where foreigners and locals converge. Markets and actual shops selling particular produce or products line the streets called "Hangs". You can definitely find western food as well as decent Vietnamese food here. The main difference between The Old Quarter and Pham Ngu Lao, Bui Vien, and De Tham in Saigon is the fact that The Old Quarter is not only massive, but it's definitely more authentically Vietnamese. It has a unique vibe about it in its own rights.

2. Bun Cha. This dish consisting of grilled pork, vermicelli noodles, optional egg rolls, and a whole lot of sweet fish sauce is a local staple. Writing this now makes me kind of drool a bit. I love bun cha. In the south people will call it bun thit nuong. Either way, this place is off the hook. The Dac Kim place is a bit expensive, but it's probably the best I've ever had in my life. This is definitely a must try. Well worth the trip to Hanoi alone probably.

3. Tra Chanh. This is a simple lemon honey tea that is served with ice during the summer and during the winter can be warmed up. Students and young people drink this while eating sunflower seeds. Night time seems the most popular for this drink, but young people tend to be thirsty all the time too. In the video, I had a drink right infront of the St. John's Cathedral. Any of the lakes should be better though.

4. Hoa Lo Prison. During the colonial period, the French used this prison to torture and confine rebels and patriots. Now, it's a museum reflecting back on this nation's past. John McCain's fighter pilot outfit is on display here because he was actually shot down and spent time at this prison. You can spend around two hours or so here checking out the displays and such. I highly recommend this place not only as a history guy, but as a reminder of Vietnam's recent history.

5. Snake lunch. Head on over to Le Mat Village and pick any of the assortment of wild animal and snake restaurants. Green snakes are around 40 dollars for a seven course meal. Cobras costs more. Eat it for the novelty, not really for much hunger appeasement. Oh, and they don't have any desserts. Snake tastes like whatever it's cooked in. The meat can be sweet and similar enough to chicken or frog. There's barely any meat though, so be warned. Oh, and if you have the guts, try to the snake heart in vodka.

6. Egg coffee. I'm not a big coffee guy anymore, but whenever I'm in Hanoi, I make sure I get the egg whipped coffee. I don't know why but it's not available in the south or it's not common at all. This is so yummmmy for lack of a better word. On cold Hanoi mornings this stuff is the best.

7. The Vietnamese Women's museum. This is one of Vietnam's better museums because the displays are nicely lit and there's air conditioning through out. For any Vietnamese girls out there, this place is a must visit. It's also a great place to hide from the midday sun. But either way, I really liked it.

8. Times City. it's a gigantic underground mall. Why is it on the list? Because I like the modernity aspect of Hanoi as well.

9. Times City light and water show. At 8 or so the pond area infront of Times City will unleash its presence upon the people. Color lights and waters jetting up to the sky to the music of today's most popular artists. This show is relatively an issue of brevity, but be sure to watch out about getting wet.
The best part is this place is also free, but extremely beautiful.

10. Landmark 72. This didn't make the cut on the top things to do in video, because I ran out of footage because I had used most clips for the stand alone video. Pay about seven to 10 dollars and you'll have access to an amazing manmade engineering masterpeice. The best time to visit would be during dusk or so when the city lights turn on. There's a cafe there too so you can sit and chill and soak in the lights with a nice cup of whatever they sell up there.

Friday, September 12, 2014

LOL. I'm Alive.

Blog entries that start off with an apology aren't fun. So I'll start off about talking about blog entries starting with an apology. Okay. I'm sorry. Content has been slow and will be slow in the next few days because life requires me to live it than actually record it and edit it or write about it for your pleasure. Stay tuned. I'll be right back very soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hanoi Night Market / Enter Tien.

       The ride from Hanoi's Noi Bai airport into the city was relatively uneventful. I made sure I hopped into a Mai Linh and avoided the random hawkers in the front. I arrived at my hotel without much difficulties even though it was on a blocked off part of the street. This time around, I wanted to be as positive as possible. I had strong hopes for Hanoi. This trip was about redemption for my perception of this city. Then I was let down almost immediately.

         When I got into the hotel, I handed my passport over and told the girl behind the counter that I had booked on Agoda. She looked at me for a little bit and decided to make up a story about how Agoda didn't send her any information and that she was not aware that I was coming. She claimed that it was Agoda's fault. This has never happened to me before. I had booked at least two days prior. I was a little bit shocked that she had the audacity to lie to me like that. I've used Agoda at least a dozen times already, and I never had a problem, even in countries like Nepal and Myanmar. This was no excuse. She asked me if I wanted to stay in the dorms. I shook my head as I grew increasingly annoyed. I called her out on her bluff. She was too determined not to lose face to back down. She agreed to pay me the total costs of the rooms then and there minus the Agoda service fee. I didn't have time to argue with her because I had to rendevouz with someone at a very specific time, and I was already running late. Long story short, for time reasons, and over a few dollars, I didn't want to keep pushing her because it got me no where. I left and found another hotel for slightly more money, and much louder hallways not too far from the area that I wanted to be in.

         Running late, and not wanting to risk it in a cab, I spoke to a random xe om dude who wanted 50,000 Dong to take me to Pho Tinh on Lo Duc. Of course this was too high, so I talked him down to 30,000. Then when I got there, I just gave him 50,000 because it was actually pretty far. Long story short, I got there, met up with Tien and her aunt. Tien is a Viet German girl who has been to Vietnam over 10 times annually. She's based out of Hanoi though because that's where her family is from. She describes herself as someone who is family obsessed, dreams of living in Vietnam for a long long time, and she's quite quaintly poetic and graceful. Over a bowl of salty pho, crowded with Hanoians who didn't seem to break a sweat in this 95 degree heat, I felt a sense of nervousness. Maybe it was because this was the first time I had met Tien's aunt. Maybe it was because I had just rushed from the airport to the hotel to the other hotel to the pho restaurant on the back of a xe om driver without wearing a helmet because I didn't want the helmet hair because I didn't want Tien's aunt to judge me. Either way, when I asked for tra da, and when the waiter replied back that they didn't have tra da there, I was shocked and surprised. Where was I? Was I in another dimension? Another country?
No, I was in Hanoi.

         So the pho was pretty awful. It was salty, but I was starving because I hadn't eaten all day. The fried dough made it bearable though, but Tien's aunt paid, so I can't complain. Either way, pho in Saigon is far superior. I can't wait till Tien can try some here when she'll be in town in less than a week's time. After the brief dinner, we walked the desolate Hanoi wide downtown streets towards the opera house. I wanted to get some tra chanh, but for whatever reasons, we found ourselves at Highlands Coffee and had some lemon blended with ice instead, not bad, but not tra chanh either. Afterwards we hopped in a cab and wanted to ride the electric golf carts around the lake, but it was too late, so we opted to visit the Dong Xuan Night Market instead.

        So night markets are quite simple. People sell stuff. People come and walk around. Night markets are pretty over rated to me because I'm so used to them. On this particular Sunday night, the crowds all came out to see Trung Tu or Moon Festival goods so they packed the Old Quarter streets like ants after sugar cubes. It was packed. We flowed through the rows like sheep awaiting a delicious meat packing ending. Delicious. The occasional breeze made me happy because it was at least 95 degrees. The heat was so strong that it felt like the sun was shining on me. My face and body was drenched. I wore two shirts because I wanted to impress Tien's aunt with a collared dress shirt. Yeah. Not a good idea in Hanoi's humid heat.
Since we had an early meeting time tomorrow, we called it a night fairly early. We walked around for a bit some more, and bid each other goodbye. I was somewhere in the Old Quarter by the Long Bien Bridge. I reassured them that I could find my way back to my hotel with ease even though I was pretty scared. Sure, I had GPS, but I was fearful about whipping my phone out. Years earlier, I had witnessed a Korean man get his camera stolen in broad day light there.

         So I walked and walked and found myself in the middle of dark alleyways and suddenly Hang Ma came to view. It was packed and crowded. My inability to read maps also made this little stroll rather difficult. I could have walked around Hang Ma. But I got trapped in it for thirty minutes. There were so many people packed in there going in various directions. The human traffic flowed like caramel. Vendors sold masks, little lit up toys, glasses, trinkets and beads, and other goods like phone cases. How any business actually happened, I have no idea because people were shoving and pushing left and right. I wanted to film something, but I wasn't able to because people kept grinding up against me. When I finally made it back to my hotel, I was so relieved. That must have been the longest and most crowded Vietnamese experience I've ever had. Experiences like that aren't always the greatest, but they sure build character.

          So is the weekend market worth checking out at night? Sure. If you're in the Old Quarter already, it's something to do. If you're in need of some shirts or gadgets... even a bra or two, the night market offers a wide variety of pretty much everything. Check back soon for a lot more updates from Hanoi.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Visiting Hanoi, Vietnam: Redemption.

Domestic flights within Vietnam aren’t always cheap.
In fact, it’s costing a little bit more for me to fly to Hanoi this weekend than it’ll cost for my Singapore flight. But sometimes, I wish tickets were a little bit more expensive.

I was really pushing it on Sunday. I was extremely late because I just had finished morning commitments, hurried home under a storm, ate some miniscule rice with some chicken, and rushed to the airport. I was hoping that because it was a holiday weekend and it was Sunday, people already left the day before or not at all. I was wrong.

I rushed towards the usual terminal. The same one that I’ve used many times before. I couldn’t Viet Jet Air anywhere. Having run into the terminal, now I had to embarrassingly run back out again and I still didn’t know where I was supposed to go. I went into a restaurant. Everybody stopped eating to stare at me. I rushed back out, and saw arrivals and thought I missed it. I went back towards the original terminal now only dealing with Vietnam Airlines passengers. Too bad, I’m too poor to fly with them. So I wasted another ten minutes scurrying about like a headless chicken. Eventually, I figured it out. The Viet Jet Air check in counters are located after the domestic arrivals on the right side. Blame me and my lack of meter perceptions to understand what 80 meters meant from the posted signs.

Every single check in experience is like the one before. Some dolled up Hanoi girls who looked like they were about to audition for the next Twilight movie from their unnatural bleached skin casually walked in front me. I let them pass because I was too annoyed with their spoken dialect that sounded more like they were bickering at each other. One of their carry ons was over the weight limit. They dragged it off the scale and placed it in front of me as they tried to move certain items from one to another. I spotted a bottled cleanser. One of them looked like she just had some work done to her face, including her nose.
I hate that. I’m not a fan of cosmetic surgery, especially the kind where everyone can pretty much tell you have plastic surgery. As I waited some people grew a bit restless. The guy behind me suddenly made a move to move in front of me as I gave the girls space to squat around their suitcases. Great. So I had to make a decision. Either get all aggressive and step in front of him, which would make me too incredibly close to the ghouls, or I would just let him move forward and hope that he was considerate enough to note that I was standing ahead of him all of this time. Just then, the worker behind the counter placed a closed sign up. I heart sank. If I didn’t get checked in within the next five minutes I would have to beg my way through security because time was winding down. Just then, an older lady three or four lines over started yelling to the front of the counter about how some people were given check in priorities. She might have been Viet kieu because she said something about “moi ve” or just returned to Vietnam. She was dressed like a local though. So I was a little bit confused.

I checked in without a problem.

Security was a little bit more problematic because I accidently brought a metal chalk hotel with me and security wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. So the screener, and I spoke for a bit as people behind kept going through as if I wasn’t even standing there. Some lady forgot her cell phone in the tray. I glanced over and saw that it was a SKY phone, whatever that is. Right after security, I couldn’t help but smile a bit because I made it with time to spare. Then I looked up on the flight schedule board and noticed that my flight was delayed by thirty minutes.

If you’re going to fly domestic in Vietnam, make sure you no one on the other end is waiting for you. If you really have to fly, I recommend Vietnam Airlines. You do pay a little bit more, but at least you’ll be on time. Remember, the last time I flew to Hanoi six months ago, the flight was delayed by three or four hours and I landed in Hanoi in the middle of the morning. At least this time the delay was minimal.

I’m sitting on the plane now as I write this. The total delay was an hour. I had no room for my carry pack on the overhead compartment. Typical. As expected someone before me was already in my seat. I looked at her and asked for her seat number. She was in my seat, so I just gave up and sat in hers. I wanted the window seat so I could rest my head and perhaps get some shut eye because I was already sleep deprived. With the current workload, I only had a few hours of sleep last night. I really need to be 100% because tonight, and the next two days will be intense. I’m going to try to capture as much of Hanoi as possible. I’m going to get my money’s worth.

Be sure to check back soon and in the next few days for a lot more updates.
I’m going to go on a video hiatus for a few days. In the meantime, don’t be shy to check out this SoJournaling Vietnam video I made of Hanoi two years ago.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sapa Travel Documentary: Finally

   It's finally here. After months and slow painstaking editing, I've done it. I found enough time last night to actually edit this by canceling all of my plans. Sometimes i have no footage to upload, sometimes I'm bombarded with footage. Now I have a lot of videos that don't require much editing, but still require some. To get an idea of how long this took me, this video was actually filmed before Tet. The voice over work and the sound mixing took over five hours. I actually started rendering it, fell asleep, woke up, and uploaded it two hours later and went back to sleep. Yeah, if that's not dedication to bringing you the best travel and life videos of Vietnam, I don't know what is. Either way, I would really appreciate it if you shared this video with your family and friends. I put a lot of hard work into editing this, and not just actually traveling there alone in the frigid cold and hiking two treks for the heck of it.

     Stay tuned for Hanoi videos coming up really soon, followed by adventures in Singapore.
OldBoy will have a few videos from Phu Quoc soon as well. If you're interested in knowing more about this particular trip please click on the links below to read what I wrote when it happened.

    And I know some of you are concerned about me and my lack of blog updates, but just please know that as long as the YouTube channel is active, I'm doing quite alright. I've been a little hesitant to write much about my personal life because the people in my lives are quite capable of reading English. I've gotten to the point now where enough people know me to where I feel a little bit hesitant to freely write. In the meantime, I'm still quite committed to being the most well traveled Viet kieu in Vietnam and the most popular Vietnam travel and life YouTube channel out there now. I can't do this alone. If you want to see more. You have to share my videos and let others who might love Vietnam know that such an entity exists. in the upcoming weeks and months, you'll see a slew of new characters and casts.
But all of this is only possible for your support. So thanks ahead, and do your fair share because this whole adventure ends.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm so lucky in Vietnam. / A week's glance.

    I can't believe it took me a whole week to start writing this. Naturally, it won't be as exciting, but on the night that I came back to Saigon, I was exhausted beyond belief from a full day at Vung Tau with Kikki.

     This was a random thoughtless moment of lets just go to Vung Tau on a Monday when everyone is working type of a deal. I'm really lucky I'm able to do that because in the past three years I've worked really hard to be where I'm at right now. So I can take a random Monday off if I wanted to.

    So I rented a car and a driver and we went. I got the dog ownership experience that I've always wanted since I was a child. We both got the new "Vung Tau Express Way" experience, that turned out to not really be that much faster. Maybe by 30 minutes or so? But not by an hour or two like I had originally thought.  We just wanted to get away from the city. Two weeks into the new semester, and I was already burnt out. I needed to just sit by the beach. The beach was a little bit dirty with debris, but it was empty.

      There's not much to do in Vung Tau. It's pretty boring after a few hours. You can ride the cable cars up a mountain with an amusement park and spend time there. That might be great for kids. I didn't feel like jumping in the water because I don't like bathing in the same water as ships and oil rigs. That would be like bathing in Long Beach. If you head further north to Long Hai and Ho Tram, some of the private resorts offer decent beaches. But the heart of Vung Tau isn't great.

       So why go to Vung Tau in the first place? It's a road trip potential. It's one of the closes beach cities to Saigon. And it offers different vibes. Perhaps it's the breeze and less humidity, but Vung Tau feels like Vung Tau and not like Saigon. On the weekends the crowds converge and romance fills the air as couples wander the beach front blvds.

         On Monday it was relatively empty. We didn't stay until night fall. We were out of there by 5:30 after checking out the lighthouse. My friend Joe wasn't even in town, so I felt deprived of his presence. Joe's like a best friend I never see or communicate with. If you watch the Vung Tau video, he appears in it. But I digress. I shot a few videos with Kikki, which will all be up very soon.

          When we got back into the city, OldBoy and Kikki met for the first time. We went out to eat some quail and other grilled stuff together in the District 4 of all places. Then I went home and my lower body just gave in. Before that I had a serious stomach issue all day. I couldn't unclench myself and just enjoy the beach. I think it was because of the banh khot that I ate earlier in the day.

          Tuesday night after commitments, I met up at with Canh to get some curry crab and oc buu. I'm an oc buu guy.

         Wednesday afternoon, in between commitments I went with my mechanic to check out a beautiful CBR400. It was so perfect except it has Da Nang license plates. If I'm going to pay 100,000 million Dong, I want Saigon city plates because it'll just be easier to resell in the future. I'm committed to upgrading my current motorcycle.

         Thursday night at 8:30 or so, I was more than worn out from lecturing all day, so I just wanted to unwind. I really wanted to wrap up the Sapa video. Unfortunately, local friends were in the area and invited me out. I figured, I had to eat, so why not. Restless nights. Early mornings raged on.

          Friday morning was extremely difficult to wake up to. Friday night,  I booked my flight for Hanoi very soon. I'll book another flight to Singapore pretty soo,. That's right, I'm going to give Singapore a second chance.

         By Saturday, I was a zombie. But I still went to the grand opening of Frugos Yogurt. A video will be up very. I'm a fan of frozen yogurt, and I'm glad I have a place close by and located in the front of the Crescent Mall next to the popular Phuc Long coffee.

          The next day, Jake invited me to a dam do in Binh Chanh. Now Jake's an interesting guy because he's the most fobby, yet Amercanized guy I know. He speaks perfect Mien Tay Vietnamese, and perfect English. I've yet to meet anyone who was raised in America, but speaks like a local like him. In fact, he lives like a local. Even though Binh Chanh Rural District is still considered Saigon, but trust me, you don't feel like you're in Saigon at all. At all. So the music was blasting. Patricia and Tommy came along too. It was very different for Patricia. She's had this Vietnamese party experience before, but never in the countryside like this. Everyone was drunk by the time we came. As we hopped out of the taxi, all eyes gazed at us with such strong fixation that I felt rather uncomfortable. The food was amazing. The deer was some of the best protein I've ever had. The shrimps were juicy and moist. Jake spent 30 million on this party. Some of his relatives have never even seen a white person before. They were so drunk that some of the old women started to grind up and make out with Tommy. When things escalated to more molestation, I had to get my friends out of there. It was too hot. The locals were going crazy. I laughed a lot. But if it wasn't so hot, I would have enjoyed it more. Major props and thanks to Jake for inviting the crew. I was drunk after one beer.

         I went home and slept because the night before I didn't go to sleep until 4 AM. I woke up hungover at around 5 or 6 PM. I had plans to visit the Tax Center to buy some t shirts because supposedly prices are half off because the mall will be torn down due to the subway construction. I met up with Kikki, and tried a new youth hip style restaurant centered around potatoes called Mr. Potato. It's basically fries, chips, and potato wedges in various flavors and dips. Not the most original, but it was pretty busy for a Sunday night. We called it a night early because I had to wake up really early the next morning.

         Then the next day, and I found myself in the outskirts of Saigon. By the way, I've said it before, but Saigon is massive. The outskirts are very much like the Mekong Delta "Mien Tay" countryside. The scenery and landscape are pretty uniform in the sense that the flora and fauna consists of coconuts and dust with the occasional pond or two or three. A car picked me up, and I went to an interview at a university. Now, I wasn't looking for a job, but someone referred me to a potential theatre gig. So I applied thinking that I would be running a theatre program. It turned out that there was some miscommunication and that they were more interested in using me as a TOEFL teacher. There's no one else that knows this test better than me in this city. Hands down. My scores and my students' scores prove this. But I'm a history and theatre guy.  Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to work for them and as much as they wanted me there,  I couldn't give up what I already have in the city.

          The dean of the school was kind. We spoke English and Vietnamese without hesitation. I would have loved to work there. We share a common passion for theatre. After lunch with some staff I felt incredibly depressed. I couldn't give up what I'm doing now and its flexibility. I have my own private office now, and I don't need to hold office hours. I'm on top of the totem pole. But either way, I had a great experience out there for a few hours. It's good to see a different side of the Mekong Delta. But the city is where it's at for me. On the quiet and stormy ride back, I realized just how lucky I am to have what I have now. I felt bad because they really wanted me. But at the same time, I'm doing extremely well in the city now. I'm established. I can wear a t-shirt if I wanted to. Sometimes I do. But this interview experience will be quite reflective in my life for a while, because I'm not quite sure why I still feel torn about it. It's a no brainer. There's way more pros about what I have in the city now, and a lot more cons in the countryside. I don't want to go too deeply into exactly what they are. But trust me, I have good it in the city right now. Yet, for a minute I was a bit torn because the people in the countryside seemed extremely inviting. I'm not going to work there though ultimately. The decision came fairly quickly, but it feel great that such an institution wanted me so much. But I'm just sorry that the current situation wasn't more ideal. Remember, I'm trying to work less so I can bring you more videos and travel experiences. An increase in workload isn't exactly what I'm looking for right now. Yet, I feel torn because I'm afraid to disappoint people. They were really nice to me.

         I'm pretty lucky. I've paid my dues. But I'm also pretty established in all of my positions. Things are a lot different now. I still get stressed out tremendously. I'm not going to complain as much about the daily grind anymore. I'm working a lot smarter. I have a greater sense of balance now.
Life is great. Tien, Nina, and Jennie will be here in the next short months ahead. I'm extremely excited about the near future.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dam Sen Water Park: A week after the facts.

      This must be a first. This blog is in a drought. I've been yearning to be able to just sit down somewhere and start writing. Every day, every night that's passed since last Sunday has been a struggle to do that.
This is why there hasn't been any new blog postings.

     Last Sunday I had an opportunity visit the Dam Sen Water Park located in District 12. This popular attraction is literally adjacent from the theme park next door. Dogs are not allowed inside. (I called and asked) Old Boy wanted to bring his daughter there because she's been wanting to go swimming. He invited me and some of my friends to his family affair.

     I'm not a big water guy. I don't know how to swim. I'm mildly afraid of water. When I go to the beach, the water won't touch anything higher than my ankles. The last time I went into a pool my eyes were red for months because of the chlorine. I'm not scared of germs, but I find sharing the same water with strangers and children who have limited bladder control a little bit daunting and unpleasant.

     So I went because I felt like it was worthy of a video. When I got there, I realized that I didn't feel comfortable at all filming random shirtless dudes and girls in outfits that resembled bikinis. The bottom line is I hated filming people with wet clothes and people seemed like they just wanted to enjoy their afternoon out. I felt like a voyeur  with a camera. I felt disgusted in myself. Filming random people, even though it wasn't intentional, there reminded me of how grossed out I felt of my cousin who always filmed random girls in his home videos many years ago when he returned home from Vietnam.  So I put the camera down and just filmed a quick walk around and enjoyed myself along the sidelines after the rain let up.

        The rainy season was on full display that day. Old Boy had just mentioned how he wanted it to rain because the experience would be more "intense". I might have echoed this in the video as my own beliefs. I really have no opinion. I was worried about my shoes. Towards the end I just wanted to find shelter among the waiting parents on the chairs. Underneath the umbrellas, surrounded by half naked children, people showering in public, too much skin for my conservative eyes. Bare feet squishing around in water. Fully clothed people in pools. Children confessing to their parents things I didn't want to hear.

      The first time I went to Dam Sen Water Park was the second time that I went to Vietnam. Many years ago girls didn't sport top bikinis. Didn't see an G strings though. Guys didn't have as many tattoos as they do now. Tattoos were actually quite common on many guys. Some guys seemed pretty fit. They looked like they had money and time to go the gym. A few bleached white girls didn't seem to care that their vampire skin was being exposed to the sun. Maybe their makeup had SPF protection? Speaking of such- the store right by the main entrance actually had SPF sun block for sale. That was actually really interesting to me.
So what do all of these aspects mean? Vietnam is modernizing.

Tickets were around 5 dollars or so. They close really early at 4:30 or so.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Annoying Vietnam Questions answered.

       I never expected to become an unofficial ambassador to you guys out there interested in Vietnam. This blog was just for me and my friends. My YouTube channel was not meant to be an information station. It was meant to display my art for my memories and my friends' outlet if they miss me. But, ultimately what happened was that people looked at me as the go to guy for things related to Vietnam concerning Viet kieus, travel, and life. For that, I am thankful. I am appreciative. I have met amazing people from this online presence. A few doors have opened. Forever friendships have been formed. I'm generally a very helpful guy. I enjoy sharing Vietnam with people around the world. I answer most intellectual questions. Yet, sometimes I wish people would think before they ask, or Google first.

1) How much money do I need to travel to Vietnam?
I hate such broad questions like this one. Without telling me more details, I seriously don't know where to even begin. How much money you need to bring to Vietnam depends on you. What are you going to do? Where do you want to go? How do you want to travel? Are you even going to travel? Are you a FOB who wants to impress his old friends? The mere fact that you're asking me how much money you need means that maybe you shouldn't go to Vietnam and should save your money for next year. But to keep things simple, I wouldn't bring less than 2,000 dollars for 1 month in Vietnam. If you have a lot of relatives and friends, double that amount.

2) How much money do I need per month if I live in Vietnam?
Once again, entirely up to you. What are your eating habits? Can you toughen it out in a little room? Do you want a sky rise apartment to yourself? Do you want to live in the more expensive expat area? Are you going to have a girlfriend? Are you going to travel? Everyone is different. Locals can barely get by at 200 dollars a month if they don't have to pay a lot of rent. Some people live off of less. Personally for me, my expenses are naturally higher because I bring you YouTube videos, which means I have to actually go out and travel and eat at certain places. Yes, costs in Vietnam are lower, but it depends on how you want to live. Motorbike gas is going to be a lot cheaper than car gas. But certain food costs might be higher. Maybe you'll go out more? Either way, as a single person by myself, I need at least 1,500 dollars a month. 2,000 dollars for extra breathing room, like shopping and sickness.

3) Is it dangerous to travel in Vietnam?
No. It's actually quite safe. Even women shouldn't have a hard time traveling here. Solo travel can be very rewarding. Just play it safe and don't do anything stupid. Don't flaunt your gold necklaces or smartphones. You're not going to get kidnapped. If you worry that much, then maybe you shouldn't even go in the first place. Your biggest enemy though is going to be motorbike mufflers.

4) Do you get bitten by mosquitoes?
Yes, but not as bad as you think. It's not a problem because I am in AC most of the time. There are mosquitoes in Saigon, but most of them are harmless. Expect to get bitten in the Mekong Delta, especially if you go out at night. If you're in the jungle, you also might get attacked. But for the most part, mosquitoes aren't a big deal in the city. I don't recall the last time I got bitten in Saigon. Knock on wood.

5) How did you get a job / Can you help me get a job in Vietnam?
Just like any other jobs out there. You bring credentials to the table and you apply. If people like you, then maybe you'll get hired. I can't help you get a job in Vietnam. You have to do the research yourself. But I do warn you that the work environment here can be quite different. Certain rights and expectations you have should be left back in America or wherever you came from. What's the best way of getting a job in Vietnam? Apply.

6) I'm Vietnamese looking and I want to teach English in Vietnam, will I be at a disadvantage?
Yes and No. Your looks will mean that it's going to be harder for you to get your foot in the door. But if you are talented and actually know how to teach, you will be elevated higher than any white guy ever would. If you carry yourself professionally with staff and can connect to students, you will stick around and be rewarded. Most Viet kieus I know are actually awful teachers. Just because they know Vietnamese as well as English doesn't mean that they are great teachers. If you're a legit teacher, especially if you graduated from a good university, know your grammar, and is actually serious, then you will find work. If you can teach SAT then you're hot demand. Don't let the myth that Viet kieus are discriminated and can't find work fool you. They are, but white dudes who aren't good won't stick around if the kids don't like them. It'll be harder for you to secure work, but it could happen. It's an up hill climb, but it's not impossible. Don't feel entitled just because your Vietnamese though. Feel entitled if you got the skillz. that's skills with a z.

7) Can you film this ___________? Why don't you film _______? Can you go to __________ and film?
Unless you can present reasons logically why I should film something or some place, then I'm not going to fulfill requests. If you pay me then I'll be glad to. Money talks. But, I'm not going to just do whatever you ask. That's not really how this whole you watching videos for free works. I find it hilarious that people demand to see certain things when I really have no benefit from it. I will not film Vietnamese girls without their knowledge. I think voyeurism is disgusting. If I don't get permission, I will either blur out their faces or obscure their faces. My channel isn't a request channel. I'll take requests though, but you either have to prevent logical reasoning or pay me enough to make things happen. For instance, a viewer wanted to see LZ X Ray in Pleiku. We worked out a deal. I didn't make any money off of it. In fact, I lost money, a lot of money to be able to bring that video and other recent Pleiku videos out. Most again, I love to hear what you have to say, but please present me with something that could benefit me as well. Try not to sound so demanding.

8) I'm going to Vietnam, can you show me around?
No. The straightforward answer is no. Unless you can present some compelling reason why. Can you just imagine yourself as me for one moment? Imagine if complete strangers who don't introduce themselves, ask you randomly to hang out. Would you? No. I don't think you would. If you're an interesting person, if you have good grammar, and you take the time to write and introduce yourself, then I would definitely consider it. If I can't and I'm busy, don't get butt hurt. Please understand that I have a life too. And yes, I will ignore all messages that say, "Hey I'm going to Vietnam, can you show me around?" "Hey I'm going to Vietnam, do you want to meet up?" Summers can be rather difficult. I'm getting anywhere between five to ten messages a day from rude people who think I'm a tour guide or don't have anything better to do. I'm down for meeting new people, but formal introductions need to be made. I've met some of my close friends thanks to this blog and YouTube, so I'm definitely opened to that. But, do not ask me to hang out without telling me anything about yourself. Do not ask me to hang out months in advanced.

9) Why don't you respond to my message on YouTube/ this blog / Facebook? You'll lose me as a fan if you don't respond to me.
If I don't respond it's because I'm too busy making more videos or living my real life. The bottom line is I try to reply to as many messages as I can. I don't always get to read all of them. Someone else helps me with that. I'm not going to suck up to you for your views. My mentality is that if you don't want to watch then you don't have to. I'm trying my best here aleady. I really don't owe you anything. It's not intentional. It's because I'm preoccupied.

10) Where's OldBoy? How come OldBoy doesn't have his own channel?
OldBoy has a life. His life is incredibly busy because he has a family. He makes videos as a favor to me. I asked him to make videos for your viewing pleasure. He's a contributor to my channel. He doesn't have his own channel because operating a YouTube channel is a lot of work. You have to remain consistent. He's just not that motivated in creating his own because our collaboration is great. But please don't have any expectations. OldBoy is doing this out of his own time for your viewing pleasures. Unless you sign up for, then don't have any expectations or demands about his videos.

11) Do your parents give you spending money? / Is your family rich?
Yes, if you can believe it, please ask me this from time to time. Many people assume that I have rich parents who give me money and I just hang out in Vietnam doing nothing. I wish this was true. I would love to live like that for a while. Nothing in life has ever been handed to me on a silver platter. My parents are very low middle class. They have never given me a single penny since I've come to Vietnam. Everything I have and all the places I've been to are because of my own hard work, not because I happened to be privileged. BTW, my grandfather is not rich at all- for those of you who saw the video of his house.

12) Is it easy to get girls in Vietnam?
Perhaps easier than in America, but it's not as easy as you think. Don't think that if you're Viet kieu then girls will throw their numbers at you. You're really ignorant if you think that. You should stop reading or watching my videos. It's not 1995 anymore. Nowadays, younger girls don't even care about Viet kieu. in fact, there's more negative stigmas associated with deadbat Viet kieus than anything else. If you want to get a girl anywhere, you have to be real and create connections. Perhaps some Vietnamese girls aren't demanding of certain western ideals. Some Vietnamese girls don't really care about their man's looks or height for instance. But nevertheless, you have to be a half decent person in order to attract a girl. Nothing's instant. Surely not love. Noodles aren't even that instant if you think about it. Settling might be though.

13) Why do you always have fish and ear picking videos?
There's demand for it. I enjoy fish. I like ear cleaning. People eagerly await for both types of videos. Remember, my channel is not necessarily about educating you about Vietnam. My channel is about my life and what I like. I'm doing a lot of people a favor. The difference between me and other people is that I'm not just in it for monetization purposes. I actually make videos as an art. I actually make videos because they can bring joy to people. Fish and ear cleaning does that. Remember, you don't have to click if you don't want to. If you do, then thanks, but if not, thanks anyways.

14) Why don't you have more subscribers?
It's probably your fault for not whoring my content out to your family and friends. I've called on you and relied on you to do the marketing for me. If I don't have more subscribers, its your fault. That and maybe I'm just not likable enough. Maybe there aren't that many people interested in Vietnam and English. There are many reasons. Either way, as always, if you want to see SoJournaling Vietnam grow to greater proportions, then you need to help me. How can you help? Share a video you like with your Facebook friends or via email. All it takes to a copy and paste. Thanks.

15) Whatever happened to John?
He went back to America over a year ago to continue life in the real world.

16) Who edits your videos?
I do.

17) Have you ever been heartbroken before?
Yes. Three times in 25 years. As recent as six months ago. None of them were local Vietnamese girls though. I don't take it well.

18) How come in some videos your Vietnamese is okay, but in other videos your Vietnamese sucks?
If you can't tell my voice apart from OldBoy we have a serious problem. We sound nothing like each other. In videos where the person can barely speak Vietnamese and has arm tattoos, then that's OldBoy. He is a Korean American.

As always please like my Facebook page at
for a lot more updates in between blogs and vlogs.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

FAQs about Me.

1. What kind of camera do you use?
My YouTube channel features a wide variety of cameras. Early daily videos used an HTC One S, iPhone 5, Samsung S4, HTC One M7. Early SoJournaling Vietnam videos used a Canon HV30. Action videos are shot with a Contour Roam and a Go Pro Hero 2. Now, all videos are shot with a Sony RX100 and a Canon S120.

2. What are you doing in Vietnam / What is your occupation?
I am in education and American university test prep. I do not teach English or ESL at a language center. My daily life is a lot more rigorous than that. By trade I am a history, theatre arts, and more recently a film and mixed media facilitator of learning experiences.

3. Why are you in Vietnam?
I grew up quite oblivious about Vietnam and about travel as most second generation Vietnamese Americans tend to be. Some members of my family went to Vietnam during the summers, but my parents were never interested. I went for the first time in the 9th grade. It was quite different, and I enjoyed it, but not enough for me to want to go back anytime soon. The second time back was five years later. This was a painful and miserable experience with my parents. I vowed never to return to Vietnam again. The following year after a series of events, mostly because I met Yangzom, I wanted to volunteer in Hanoi. This fell through, so I still traveled there by myself for the most part. I covered many cities from the south to the north and back. And this was when I fell in love with Vietnam. In my last year of university I was constantly mesmerized about the idea of traveling back again. By chance on a given day, two international students sat down next to me and their English was so horrible that a light bulb went off in my head. The original plan was to come here to teach English, but luckily, things have evolved into higher levels of academia.

4. How come sometimes you don't release videos or blog for a while?
Because YouTube and this blog does not put food on my table or pay my rent. Please understand that I have a rigorous day job that requires a serious amount of time. During the usual semester, I tend to lose my voice at least once or twice a week. I'm often on my feet. I fight traffic. I blog when I can, and I edit videos when I can. My priority is not to entertain you unless you be my sugar daddies/mommas. That's not going to happen anytime soon, so my main priority is to the hands that feed me.

5. How come you always wear hats with birds on them?
I'm a fan of baseball. I'm a fan of sun protection. I don't bother to do anything to my hair when I travel. The Orioles are one of my favorite teams. I like birds. Though, I don't really recommend wearing a prized hat though. You'll likely ruin it by sweating it out. I have a lot more rarer hats in America that I would love to wear, but I would never ever bring them to Vietnam.
I also wear G-shocks and Lakai Manchester Selects.

6. What's your favorite city in Vietnam?
Aside from my kin roots in Bien Hoa, I'm a big fan of Da Nang and Ninh Binh. I'm a proponent for North Vietnam travel. I'm not a big beacn guy, but I enjoyed Quy Nhon a lot. In other words, I really like Saigon for its modernity.

7. How can you stay in Vietnam for so long?
Three years is a long time. I don't disagree with you. The secret of staying in Vietnam for long is to keep yourself busy. You must also leave Vietnam as often as you can. There's a plethora of countries to visit around Vietnam. I have been to 10 in three years with several repeats. You must travel out of Saigon if you live in Saigon. You must travel to Saigon if you live elsewhere. Have some diversity, but keep a sense of routine. I also recommend having your own place and living in a sky rise apartment as high as possible to avoid noise and congestion. Some people dont mind living in a shared expat house or in a little place in a deep alley. Both of those things aren't for me. I enjoy my privacy and peace from a higher place. Moving to the suburbs was the best decision I've ever made. The real bustling Saigon is overrated and can cause a lot of stress, especially for people from smaller cities like me.

8. Do you have a Vietnamese girlfriend?
No, I don't. I'm over that phase. I'm not interested in serious relationships with local Vietnamese girls anymore. There's a wide variety of reasons deserving of a separate blog entry. But the basic reasons include language and cultural barriers. Even though I understand Vietnamese at a very complex level, English is still my native language. I've been on a lot of dates and have met many interesting and beautiful girls, but I don't see myself with anyone of them long term for a variety of reasons. Perhaps I just haven't met the right person? But either way, I've never officially have been anyone's boyfriend over here nor am I looking to be one.

9. How did your Vietnamese get so good?
My parents are responsible for this. Even though, they didn't push Vietnamese culture on me, when I was in middle school, my parents really emphasized the Vietnamese language. I don't know how to read or write that well because I haven't made the effort to really learn. I know the basics though because I was forced to study Vietnamese for two years on Sundays. My aunt was responsible for this. I wish I had paid more attention in class. Either way, my Vietnamese was a lot better in America. I interacted with my parents a lot more. I have them to thank for this.

10. What's your background?
I consider Garden Grove, 714 my hometown. Long Beach will always have a place in my heart for four years. I love that city. I used to want to be a geologist when I was younger. I have a theatre background. I miss it very much. I did it seriously for over ten years. Theatre Arts was my Vietnam before Vietnam became my Vietnam, if that makes sense?

11. When are you coming back to America?
I don't know. But there will be a day and it's sooner than later. Grad school has to happen, and I'm not getting any younger.

12. How old are you?
25. 1989.

13. How did you and Oldboy meet?
By random chance / The universe wanted it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Random ramblings from a really tired and sleep deprived person.

        I was riding home late one night the other day. 10:30 PM or so, not quite that late, but pretty late for me to be on my bike. I hurried home because the next morning was filled to the brim with things to do.
As I split lanes and went on the left car only lane, not really caring much about getting pulled over that late in the night, I noticed that all the bikes on my right were of couples returning back after a Sunday night outing. Girls would cling onto their guys like magnets. Guys would steer with one hand and hang onto the girl's hand with another hand. Of course, this is only possible with automatic or semi-automatic bikes. The funny thing is all of their bikes were inferior to mine, yet I was the only one riding alone. So what does that say? It means that you don't really need a fancy bike to get a girl. And it means that for a brief moment I actually felt alone. Then I realized I should really focus on the road.

       I haven't felt that way for a while because I've been surrounded by support through friends locally and abroad. The past few months have been more social than most of my life. Normally on a work night, I would never meet up with friends. But I've been ignoring my responsibilities for something  I haven't been on a date in a very long time, mostly because I don't feel the need to be around local girls because mentally there hasn't been any connection for the longest time with anyone. Secondly, I just haven't met the right ones or have had the time for ones that might be questionable. Either way, maybe I should try dating white women.

        But, let me digress for a bit.

        The next few weeks are going to be extremely busy for me. You'll see a decrease in the amount of videos produced, but I'm coming out with the Sapa and Nepal travelogues very soon. Definitely before the end of the month. You'll see both. I'll also have a Damsen Water Park video soon. OldBoy will have his own version of Top Things to Do in Saigon in One Day. I'm heading to Hanoi in the next few weeks for a while- so be prepared for a bunch of videos from the northern regions. Nina is coming back really soon. I'm really excited about the next few weeks. But summer's gone and the fall semester has begun. A lot of minor changes has made my life more stressful than normal.

     The other day I almost bought a 2000 Ducati Monster S400cc. The size of the bike was perfect for me, but unfortunately, it was too powerful. One slight throttle and my field of vision literally went blurry. There's a big difference between a 250 and a 400... at least between a Japanese thumper and an Italian beast. I was so close to buying it, but for once I was able to control my spending. I would have been very poor and unable to travel anywhere if I bought it. I was rather tempted because I've been obsessed with buying a new bike for a while now. But I'm glad I put my foot down on such a potentially amazing deal. 400cc in traffic doesn't make sense. I almost crapped in my pants at how fast that bike was. I was literally trembling at how fast first gear was.