Thursday, December 18, 2014

Goodbyes for days.

    My alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning and I woke up to a whole slew of social media messages. I quickly glanced through my emails, and rested my eyes. The second alarm went off at 5:00 AM.
I rushed up and went to the next room to pound on the door to wake Mike up. He had a flight out of Saigon at 8. The past two weeks went by like a blink of an eye.

    The interesting thing about Mike's visit and vacation was that some days were jam packed, while other days were quite empty. But his stay and his lack of having to do everything made it more enjoyable for him. He was really able to soak in Vietnam simply by not doing very much. I wish I could go on vacation and just relax for once. Sometimes, I wish I could just leave all the camera gear and actually live in the moment and not have the urgency of having to film everything. A vacation from a vacation or so it may seem to many of you.

    We cabbed it to the airport while the sun rose behind us. Saigon was starting to wake up. Soon, Mike would leave, and I would have my house back. It wasn't easy to have a roommate, but Mike didn't bother me much at all. We never had any bathroom conflicts. He would wear shoes in the house from time to time, but I didn't clean my floor ahead because I knew he would.

     We weighed my options of living in Vietnam and returning to California on the ride over. I was homesick as fuck. Having Mike around was extremely surreal for me. My two universes of Vietnam and California finally mixed. Mike was around Nina, Nhat, OldBoy, and my relatives. These universes mixing for the first time made me extremely homesick.

      And before we knew it, the taxi rolled up on the ramp to international departures. Mike rolled his baggage into the gates. I leaned on the barricade with my eyes closed trying to suppress an overwhelming surplus of emotions. I hate airport goodbyes. Saigon's morning breezes were perfect. Airplane engines roared in the distance. And I couldn't help but think and feel completely sad about Tien's departure again. Memories of her leaving were faint to me for a while now. I tried my best to forget and hide the sorrow. I couldn't help. I was reliving the that extreme sadness again. This was worse than the very last time that I saw her that day I flew up to Hanoi for a day. I reminded myself out loud that there wasn't anything I could do about this situation. Everything is as it is. I tried shrugging my shoulders a few times to see if that would help me feel better. It helped.

        I've come to the realization that people I tend to care about often leave Vietnam and thus I'm alone. I wish life was simpler. Goodbyes are a part of life. Nobody likes Goodbyes. But I f'n hate them. And I felt alone for a bit as I hopped into a cab and went back home by myself.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another Can Gio Trip, Another Crash.

         Mike rented a motorbike, and I've been leading him on mini road adventures throughout Saigon South and Nha Be. When he got comfortable enough, I felt like Monkey Island and Can Gio was something he shouldn't miss.

         So we set off late as always. This was trip number five to Can Gio for me and the third time I rode and the first time I took the new Ninja. The FZS is long gone. I'll miss it. The sale was faster than I thought. I lost quite a bit of money on it, but in the grand scheme of things, the Ninja has been completely worth it. It's been quite fun. Despite all the negatives that outweigh the positives. A prime example would be that in traffic, my thighs burn from the heat of the bike.

        Whenever you go to Can Gio, please stay on the right side lane and please watch out for gravel on the sides. I've been an advocator of this for a while now. But the two things I warned you guys about happened to me. Lets not discuss being on the wrong lane ordeal. That would be make me kind of mad. Anyways, so I crashed. My skid off on and slid a bit. It happened while riding back towards Saigon. I was going faster than I should have- faster than I've ever gone. The power of the Ninja compared to the FZS is a big difference. I was in sixth gear for the first time finally. Then I hit some nasty little rocks and the brush engulfed me and all you see is a cloud of dust. (You can watch it in the video below)

          Right before hitting the ground, I remember feeling the rear wheels kind of twist as they locked up and lost transaction. I might have applied the rear brakes too hard. I'm still getting used to the Ninja after all. The FZS' rear drum brakes required me to mash on the pedal hard. Rear disc brakes can be troublesome for noob riders. The feeling of impact reminded me of diving into a pool. I don't remember the actual ground impact itself, but I recalled hitting my head rather hard on the ground. I remained still for a while completely pondering what just happened. If it even happened at all. Mike came by and helped me pick the bike up. The frame slider did its job. It protected the bike well. The damage is there, but it could have been a lot worse. I'll need to replace the frame sliders, a turn signal, and repair the scratches on the fender. I would have lost the fender for sure without the slider. I had a massive headache following the incident. It was hot outside. I was probably dehydrated. My body felt okay. I got really lucky. The knee pads and the jacket really helped. The bike landed on me as I flew off, but the knee and shin guard protected me really well. It could have been a lot worse. I'm so lucky.

     Mike and I laughed it off after it happened. I was in pretty happy spirits. I crashed going straight after a turn. That's pretty funny.

      I woke up the next morning feeling extremely sore. My headaches lingered on throughout the evening. They were gone by the next morning. But the left side of my body was extremely sore and aching. I had difficulties turning my neck for a bit. I found a bruise above my left ankle. My back still hurts this morning. It could have been a lot worse. I need to buy a better helmet. I think I'm done with Can Gio. The little rocks on the side of the road just aren't worth it. Sure, I could slow down there, but then what's the point of riding down there right? Seriously, though I'm going to definitely slow down and take it easy. Lets hope others around me will do the same.  Either way, check out the video below.
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oh, and this monkey foo took my hat too.







Monday, December 15, 2014

I am Vietnamese: an Anthology.

          Not too long ago I was asked to submit an article on being Vietnamese - you know- the whole cultural aspect and the whole identity thing. Topics that I've been dealing with all of my life. So I wrote something about my experiences in Hoi An a few months back and then I kind of forgot about this whole thing because many other things came up from then until now.

         Then I received another email stating that the book was done, and available to read online. I skimmed through it and noticed names like Andrew Lam and Andrew X Pham. Wow. I read their work in university when I was missing Vietnam. Their writings inspired me to travel. I was blown away by the fact that my entry was a few pages away from an entry from Andrew X Pham. When I sent my entry, I hadn't thought much about it. But, now, wow. Just... I'm thrilled. This is pretty close to Bizarre Foods. There are some highly influential and crazy powerful Vietnamese Americans in these pages. I can't believe I'm a part of this mix. It's unreal.

      You guys can actually download and read the PDF. here: http://www.iamvietnamese.org/book/i-am-vietnamese.pdf My entry is towards the end titled More Vietnamese than I think.

      If you want a hardcopy, please donate. In fact, I'm personally asking you to donate. I want a hard copy. I want to be published. You definitely want to read this book and share it with anyone who wants to understand the Viet kieu or the Vietnamese abroad experience better. This is it. These are the voices of people just like you and I. I wish I had something like this when I was younger. It would have made things a lot better. You can even treat it like a self help book for all of you who are caught between two worlds of the west and Vietnam. You can donate to the Kickstarter campaign here:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1722709465/i-am-vietnamese-the-anthology

This is a non profit project. Charities will benefit from this. You and I will benefit. I just want to be published. Help me with this if you've enjoyed this blog during its better periods or if you enjoy my YouTube videos. This is a pretty big deal for me. Read it first, and donate.

Thanks to Huy for his work on this project and for including me into a mix of people I don't know if I deserve to be around.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Hong Kong's Fish Street: Tung Choi Goldfish St.



Like a kid in an f'n candy store. If heaven was on earth and I was a fish hobbyist, I wouldn't want to live this street. Good times. Makes me miss keeping fish seriously. Most of these shops didn't want any photography at all. That was the challenge. It was a pretty cold day. Just look at the people's jackets. Please enjoy. Do share this video if you liked it with your friends.






Thursday, December 11, 2014

Vietnam Videos that you might have missed.

For those of you not in the loop, and I don't know why you wouldnt... I've been doing more vlog style
videos highlighting entire days or half days in Vietnam. Check them out. They're not too bad. Oh, and I released the Hue SoJournaling Vietnam video too.






















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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hong Kong Travel: Underwhelming and overwhelming.

         As soon as Mike and I landed in Hong Kong, we knew we were about to step foot into a place different than anything we've experienced. We barely caught the flight, having arrived to Tan Son Nhat less than an hour before departure time. Immigration took way too long, and I begged my way through immigration. We were the last ones to board a relatively empty plane. We even got the chance to sprawl out in the middle seats and slept most of the flight over. I was able to catch up with an hour and a half of extra sleep from the sleepless night prior.

          Mentally, we were both drained. Physically, we were both in anguish. My travels don't have buffer periods. People rest after work and before traveling. I don't have that luxury. I just do it. I just go. I knew very little about Hong Kong before coming. I just knew that it was a place of my dreams. I've always thought and dreamt about going there since I was young. I enjoy Hong Kong movies a lot. I enjoy the Chinese cultural aspects. And I love duck noodle. This was the right time.

         I didn't know Hong Kong had many different islands and such. I thought it was just one island. Mike didn't prepare very well. I didn't have time to research anything. The best decision I made from the entire trip was buying a sim card when I was presented with the chance. Having 4G was priceless. It was the best investment on the entire trip because it enabled me to research and to navigate. Without it, I couldn't have done anything. Wifi at the hotel was spotty. Getting from one location to another via public transport wasn't easy. Railways and connections needed different connections. It was so easy to mess up and waste time. Several times though, we did mess up. Everything seemed overwhelming at first. But then things turned underwhelming quickly.

        The taxi ride into the city in the classic red Toyota Crown cabs. Oh man, that was awesome to sit in one finally. Those are so iconic of Hong Kong to me. The ride into Kowloon was a spectacle. The sky rise apartments near the water, the massive bridges, the industrial aspects. Wow. We were both impressed. When we started seeing Chinese neon lights and onslaughts of people walking on the streets. I got really impressed. We checked into our hotel without much effort. The room was okay. The weather was brisk and eventually got too cold for me as I started developing headaches that wouldn't go away. I still have them now as I'm typing this after the fact sitting in Saigon.

       I don't even know where to begin with this so, I'll just end it in a grand conclusion. Hong Kong started off really great. But shortly after, the amount of people on the streets, the long lines, the unfriendly locals to our cameras, the cold weather, the constant navigation and being unsure and lost. There were moments when I felt amazed and impressed. But I spent more time feeling like crap because of all of those factors. The lack of sleep didn't help either. The food was wonderful though. The duck noodle. The sinew noodles. Man, I could eat Hong Kong food all day and night. I'd never get sick of the delicious duck and steamed chicken. Another thing that impressed me about Hong Kong were the girls. Wow. I must have fallen in love left and right at least 200 times walking down the street. There were some really beautiful girls with fashion senses and style I've never seen before. I seriously felt so out of place and so rural compared to them. Everyone was shopping for something. Shops open late. Hong Kong girls are super hot. I was amazed. Nathan Lane in Kowloon was an amazing and central place to stay. That was a good decision.

         Is Hong Kong expensive? Yes and no. It's expensive for an Asian country, but it's not if you compare it to a typical city in America. In three days, Mike and I spent about 275 dollars each on transportation, food, and ticket entrances. This didn't include our round trip flight or hotel costs.Mike bought some souvenirs for a few dollars. Food wasn't all that expensive. Local Asian food seemed cheaper slightly. Mom and pop noodle shops were a great steal. Western food was a little bit more expensive. Three days and nights at the hotel was about 120 dollars a night split in two. The airfare was about 270 round trip. So that kind of gives you a basic idea of how much I spent.

         The Tung Choi Fish Street was pretty damn amazing. I wanted to bring back a turtle so badly. The quality of goldfish there made me teary eyed. I wish I could have a tank full of them. Prices were actually expensive compared to Thailand or Vietnam. I can't wait to make that video. Tropical fish in bags in cold temperatures. Wow. What an experience that was.

          The best part of the trip wasn't the sky scraper light show Symphony of lights. That was underwhelming and miserably cold and crowded. That skyline though. WOW. Blew my mind away. The light show, not so much. It wasn't the Peak, where one can look at skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island from above. Waiting for the tram took way too long. That was a crap experience because people kept shoving for seats on the tram. It also wasn't the cable car ride to the Big Buddha at Po Lin. Don't get me wrong, the Buddha was beautiful glistening in the sunlight. But the waiting and the touristy feel of the monastery ruined that whole zen experience for me. The best part of Hong Kong was visiting the Government Complex to see the Umbrella Revolution / Movement. If you get off the MTR rails at Admirality, you'll run into all the tents. Wow, what a display of will and effort. Being here made do a lot of thinking. Would you be willing to give up your daily routine to go out and protest for something you're passionate about? Think about that.

         If you want to compare Singapore with Hong Kong. I'd say Singapore is more relaxed. Singapore is less frantic and it closes earlier. Hong Kong doesn't sleep it seems. Hong Kong seems like such a stressful place to live. I think I'm done with modern cities for now. I'm exhausted.

Check back soon for a few videos. I'm excited to work and produce them for you guys in the next few days.


















Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Vietnam visits to relatives. Di Ve Que.

          When you guys come to Vietnam, you'll likely enjoy a few nights living it up in Saigon or Hanoi, and then you'll be whisked away to the countryside where you get down to earth a little bit or else you'd stand out like a sore thumb. Even though that's exactly what you want. Sound familiar?

           I just came back from an early morning visit to my paternal great grandparents que and tomb. Que just basically means the countryside or rural place where people originate from. Perhaps, where they were born, and where they grew up. Every Viet kieu has a que or their parents' que. I consider Bien Hoa City my que. My mother's mother came from Vinh Cuu, which is just a little town out of Bien Hoa, and her father has origins in My Tho, where her step brothers and sisters still remain. She doesn't want me to meet those people, and I guess I don't have a strong reason to meet them either. My dad's father is from Bien Hoa and his mom has origins in Go Cong Tay, where I visited today.
 
           The main reason for visiting Go Cong was not a sudden desire for me to visit the grave stones of my relatives. It was because my uncle Hai was recently diagnosed with liver cancer.

            But first, lets flash back to the previous night when I picked up my friend Michael from the airport. Mike is a good friend of mine from university. We were in a rap group together. He's a film guy and he comes packing with an impressive camcorder. Stay tuned for some awesome footage coming up. This guy is a champ. Oh yeah, he also lost his iPhone 5s at the baggage claim too. I guess he was too excited to visit Vietnam. So now he's without a phone.

           What a great way to start a Vietnam trip. Guy doesn't even leave the airport, and his he loses his iPhone. This is Mike's first time in Asia.

           I forgot just how tall he was.

           We got back to my apartment and he tried his best to figure out his problems. He called AT and T via Skype and the issue was resolved not too long after. I got some quick food from Circle K because it was already too late in the night. It's okay though. Mike's not into trying weird stuff just yet. It'll take some time to convince him. He wasn't sleepy at all.

          I slept for about two or less hours. I was up at 5 AM because my cousin called me and asked me to supply directions to her driver. A car was coming to pick the both of us up and we were headed towards Go Cong. By 5:30 we greeted some of my dad's cousins and we were off. We were both exhausted. I drank some coffee that helped for about 10 minutes. Mike was having a great time with the traffic, even though he hadn't experienced rush hour in the city yet. Everything was so new and interesting to him. Having someone who has never had any inclinations or thoughts about Vietnam really made things more fun for me. Every minor detail impressed or wowed him. People carrying massive things on their backs for instance. Some dude collected some water with his helmet. And just the sheer amount of people out on the road just living life. It can be pretty intense. I wish I could go back in time to a time when I felt this way too. That was back in 9th grade... but I can hardly remember just how I felt leaving America for elsewhere for the first time.

          When stopped at Go Cong Tay's bus station and waited for my uncle to come out to get us. Four summers ago when I visited Vietnam by myself, I remembered how he came out in his classic Honda Cub with a helmet with a front shield. This time, he came out riding a bicycle looking as thin as ever. This scene absolutely broke my heart because in certain ways, he reminds me of my dad a lot. Every lady in the car let out uproars of how angry they were that he had to ride out all that way. His fragile condition added fuel to their flames. We explored my uncle's house for a bit. Went to Go Cong's market to visit my great grandparent's abandoned home right on the edge of the market along the canals. Went to find their gravestone. Went back to my uncle's house for a feast of a lunch.
Then went back home feeling exhausted and hot.

           The video will be up soon.
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Happy December to us all. And here's a month of exciting videos ahead.





Friday, November 28, 2014

What to be thankful for- Thanksgiving in Vietnam.

     Hi. remember me? Yeah, I'm the occasional ghost who updates this blog whenever. Yeah, lets face it!! This blog is deaaaaaaaaaad. No. it's not. I keep saying that. But maybe you've noticed my lack of updates the last few months. At the same time my video quality has been rising. Gone are the days of single shot shaky videos. I've been experimenting more with vlog style edits, and they've worked out really well. I can't believe less than a year ago, I was averaging only a few hundred views per video, and today, the growth have been slow the past few months, but the past few weeks have seriously picked up. If this blog ever seems like a ghost town, just know that it's because I'm busy working on a video and literally have no time to sit down and write. Yeah. that's life for you. But I'm not giving up on this. This blog will always be an intimate part of me. Yet, I haven't had the need to share such intimate details of my life as I once did. Simply because I really don't think you guys need to know such personal details about me. That, and nothing juicy has been happening. I've just been living life, making videos, and itching to travel again.

     Speaking of which, the next few weeks are exciting, a college buddy of mine will be coming to Vietnam for the first time, and this will be big because I'm allocating a lot of time to travel and explore with him. We'll be doing touristy things, as well as non touristy things. My goal is to give him the best Vietnam experience ever while trying to juggle my daytime and evening commitments. The first thing we'll do is to go to Hong Kong. This will be a dream come true for me. I haven't been this excited to travel since Nepal.

   Thanksgiving this year was relatively quiet. I've just been so consumed with work and preplanning. But I have quite a few people to thank for my accomplishments over the past three years of living here, as well as the past year of seriously focused on this YouTube channel. Thank you Yangzom for inspiring me to love Vietnam. Thanks to John for helping me out so much when I first moved to Vietnam. OldBoy for giving me the chance, allowing me to stay to Vietnam. Nhat and Alissa for their guidance. If it wasn't for them, my YouTube channel would have never evolved past 900 subscribers. Antti Luode for his hard work producing all the amazing music you hear exclusively on my videos. The people who have donated over the years. A sincere thank you for any dollar. I am so honored and blessed to have people who trust me just from watching me. A very special thanks to all of the countless people I've met from this blog or YouTube channel. You've all become my real life friends.

   And as much as I'd like to erase my memories of Ngoc, I have to thank her too for motivating me to try harder. It doesn't make sense to pretend that she never broke my heart or how she chose the wrong people over me. I don't want to paint her as a villain on the internet. I don't hate her. It's my fault my parents aren't rich enough I'm not bitter anymore because the whole being together soulmate ship has sailed... sailed... sailed... but I'll admit that the thought of what if still bothers me. You don't put so so much dedication into someone and then when things don't work out, you can't just easily forget. Maybe one day when I truly forgive her, I can forget her too. And as much as I wanted to delete the last paragraph so she doesn't get the satisfaction knowing that she crosses my mind from time to time. Let this just be a catharsis of sorts.

    I've had some interesting opportunities and contacts within the last few weeks alone. A few job opportunities actually. Some TV related, some education related and yet I turned them all down because they would jeopardize my YouTube channel's productivity. That's right. I turned down guaranteed money for something I'm passionate about. And that is to keep bringing you the highest quality content from Vietnam as possible. I'm itching right now to travel, and it's not because I haven't showered today. It's because I can't wait to start traveling again. Some days video editing can be a drag. That's why the daily video routine isn't going to happen any more. Nobody can keep up with that content unless they do YouTube full time. I need to eat, so I can't do YouTube full time... yet. The best is yet to come. I'm so excited for the next months.

     Riding the Ninja has been so much fun. I got used to the position and the over all weight of the bike fairly quickly. The balance has been relatively easy, yet I'm afraid to make U Turns because my clutch control still isn't 100% comfortable yet because I haven't had many hours on the bike yet. Just when I started to really ride it, the rear brakes stopped working. I almost crashed into a wall. My mechanic did a horribly crappy job of trying to fix it. He also messed up my electrical lighting system in the process. I was extremely mad. But I couldn't do anything about it because he still has to help me sell the blue bike. So in the meantime, I was sitting on my bike fuming after two days he wasn't able to fix the caliper at all and I still had no rear brakes. So I opted to take my bike to a more professional and expensive place that specializes in motorcycles. We'll see what happens. It's already been three days and they're supposed to be done with it tomorrow. I'm just praying this gets done. Somewhere along the way I was bitter about not having super rich parents who could just buy me a brand new Ninja instead of having to earn money myself and to buy a used bike. We all wish that sometimes. We all wish that money will never be a problem. But in the real world, we just have to do what we enjoy. So that's why my mechanic will lose my business. He couldn't get the job done, couldn't apologize for messing things up even more, and his shadiness has to end. I've helped him out tremendously. I've helped him and his family out more than my own parents out. But enough is enough. Once the blue bike is sold, I will no longer have any ties with him. I'll pay a premium at a this new place because that's what I've elected to ride. But either way, the Ninja is so much fun.

       This Thanksgiving has been tough. I had much of the day to myself working on videos, and the day after was even worse as I tried my best to avoid Facebook. There were too many posts of families and delicious turkeys. Honestly, those pictures made me felt somber to the point that I had to step away from the computer and to put my phone down. Skimming through Instagram was especially tough. That has been a quite addictive application which has allowed me to interact with fans quite well. I hate social media by the way.

      On some days I feel like a maniac. I get anxious and nervous about not completing a video in time. I worry about material to film. Now that I want to stride the best, I'm forced to plan my meals, plan my trips, and my outings more. Everything costs money. I have to live less prudently and start thinking down the road. The prudent life sure is amazing though. I just need to get through the next few days, try my best to sleep like a normal human being instead of waking up in the middle of the night every night and not getting enough REM sleep. Then maybe I can function like a normal human being in the day time. I broke bad and had some coffee the other day, but I want to be completely free of coffee. I think I might be allergic to milk or something because I noticed my face swells up for a little bit after I consume dairy products. Oh well.

        I'm editing the Hue SoJournaling Vietnam video now. It's such a pain in the assssssss because my scenes were not very well defined. Too many things happened, but each scene didn't have enough footage because. Lets see what happens. I felt that way too about Ca Mau and that turned out to be a great video. I think the secret is I need to clean my house first. I've let myself and it go the past few weeks of being extremely busy. I hate that word. I wish I could just sit still and do nothing for a whole day. arghhhhhhhhhh.

         Keep checking this blog in the next few days. When I'm traveling, I'll be blogging a lot. So stay tuned. As always check out my Facebook page and Follow me on Instagram if you want. If not, it's okay too. Bye for now.

     

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Vietnamese Food for only 10 cents. Saigon's Smile Nu Cuoi Restaurant.

     I've been wanting to write about this for a while now, but I've been busy. Seriously, I haven't found time to just sit down and to get my thoughts onto the screen. The past two weeks as you can imagine have been crazy. This week has been super busy too. Next week I get to take a breather. The Hue travelogue will be edited and completed. I'm prepping for a series of weekend excursions too because my bestest white friend from university will visit Vietnam. This is going to be one of the highest profiled visits from a friend simply because we were in a rap group together during college. I can't wait to see him and for him to see Asia for the first time.

    Anyways, so Quan Com Nu Cuoi is located at 6 Cong Quynh St just off of Tran Hung Dao in District 1. It's a place where anybody, especially poor people, can come to get a full serving of lunch for just 2,000 Dong. It's like a free meal. Seriously, it's 10 cents for rice, a protein, veggies, a soup, and dessert. The rice is unlimited. The meat juices are unlimited. What a sweet deal. I decided to donate 200 dollars that was donated to me by viewers who donated money to support my video production. I had their permission to use it for whatever I wanted. I could have used that money to help me make more videos or to have some decent meals, but I rather use it for a better immediate cause for instant satisfaction from all ends.

     I was surprised that I was invited to eat. I wanted to get out of there ASAP because I didn't feel comfortable filming people who just wanted to eat in peace. The ladies upfront insisted that I tried lunch. I hadn't eaten breakfast that day. I was sort of hungry, but shy at the same time because I was afraid I wasn't able to finish it. So I got in line, but the ladies insisted that I just cut. I insisted that I waited like everybody else. The storefront is rather small, and only fits x amount of people at any given time. It's a first come first serve basis. When people are done, they will leave and more people come to replace them. People line up outside, pay 2,000 dong, and get a ticket. It's actually a very orderly process, even though I was just nervous about the whole thing. I didn't want to intrude in anyone's lunch, even though I knew that making a video will have a greater good in the long run.
That's why the video felt a little bit rushed. I just ate as fast as I could because I felt bad about taking up someone else's seats. I wanted to talk to people, but felt like it wasn't appropriate because there were people waiting outside to be seated.

     The food for 2,000 dong wasn't bad. I can't believe I'm paying 22,000 - 25,000 Dong for something quite similar elsewhere. Either way, These Smile Restaurants exists in a few other places too. Just google and read about them. Some English Vietnamese newspapers have done stories on them. There's one in District 7 that I'll check out soon as soon as I gather more donations.
Speaking of which, if you want to help me support this cause don't hesitate to PayPal me
at vyper_shark@hotmail.com But please write what the money is for. If you don't, I'll just spend it on betta fish.

Special thanks to Amber for filming, and Ninh and Jim for their generosity. Special thanks to Bao too.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and how I'll be on TV.

       Early in the wee morning hours two weeks ago I was up editing a video, and I received a message from someone claiming they worked for the production company that produces Bizarre Foods. You know, the one with Andrew Zimmern, on that one Travel Channel... ya know...
I answered back thinking that it was probably some prankster or somebody with a lot of free time.

        It was real. A little bit too real and too fast for me to handle.

     Days went by, and I kept in contact with producers, not thinking much about when they'd shoot or anything. In fact, I've been in touch with a few other "Hollywood" people before and still am about shooting movies in Vietnam. I never want to bank on anything because I don't want to be disappointed, so I didn't want to get too excited about this. Then it just happened. Suddenly, they were in town and I was informed and bam.

      When they contacted me on a Monday, I didn't have a lot of time to gather friends together. I was just surprised that they wanted this. Where do I find friends??? They wanted to film B roll footage of me to introduce my story about making YouTube videos and all that. That's right, the right people do watch. They wanted to get a group of my friends together to show us interacting and me filming and stuff. Just like how I normally would. Well, when I received the phone call, I was in a taxi with Mark Wiens and his wife. So instantly, I knew I wanted them to be a part of it. I called up Patricia, Kikki, Marn, who all eventually made it and were filmed for that introduction scene. I called a few other people but they were too busy and the last minute notices didn't fair well. I was a little bit crushed that OldBoy couldn't been a part of it because he had to work. I was pretty damn sad. He was too. I wanted him to be a part of it. Nevertheless, that table alone, wow, talk about star power...

     Even riding over in a cab with Patricia to the location, I felt as if I was being pranked. I was worried I might have been wasting everyones time because his was a little too good to be true.
Life can be good sometimes.

       So Monday's b roll footage shots went pretty well. Only one camera was present and it was gigantic. The rest of the crew were scheduled to fly a few days after. The remainder of the night was spent scouting locations and running around. Up until that point, the director, Patrick had already been out working 14 hours plus. Then a few days past and nothing happened.

        Then I found myself in front of a major hotel staring at Andrew Zimmern getting his mic pack on. The first time we were introduced to each other, we were far apart, and he turned and looked at me and said that he heard I was a nice guy, and not to f*** it up. Everybody laughed, and I got extremely nervous. I've been watching this show since its early inception. I still remember the Hanoi episode opening with the gigantic snake thing eating away at people, and feeling disappointed that pho was featured as something bizarre. Many seasons, many gross things, and many countries and cities have passed since then. Here I was about to be a part of something I've watched many times before.

      In one moment, Andrew leaned over and said something about my videos, and I was just kind of blown away. I wasn't sure if he had actually seen any, but I'll take his word for it. We hit up a few places, nothing too bizarre or too disgusting to fans of Vietnam and to myself. I guess, I'm used to it all. The whole banh trang nuon, banh trang tron, duck tongue, oc experience featured me. The latter featured American Idol contestant and model Thao Trang. I probably called her Thao a few times thinking it was her first name. But talk about star power again, and then there was me.

        Andrew seemed like he enjoyed the foods that I presented. I wish I could have selected some of the dishes. I'd do truly bizarre things. But this episode wasn't about the weirdest of the weirds. It had to fit into a theme of youth and entrepreneur in Saigon. And what I selected seem to fit that notion well. I really hope the banh trang tron makes it on the show. Remember, five hours of filming will be condensed down to 10 minutes or so. One thing though, he hated the scallops with cheese. I've grown used to eating my shellfish with cheese.

     I was nervous. I thought I would be more nervous about the people and pedestrians staring at us and all the cameras and lights, but I wasn't at all. I tuned them out completely. I was more concerned about speaking too fast or messing up a word or so. The producer had to remind me not to be so presentational. Afterwards, I knew exactly what he meant. I'm used to presenting information because I am the host of my own content. I wasn't the host of the show. This was different. It wasn't easy. I stopped doing theatre because of my nerves.

     One thing I learned is that when you're working with so many people, its not always possible to be perfect. Reality television, filming on location, and having unknown elements at play, you have to rely on others. I've been traveling and filming by myself, I'm used to being a near perfectionist, and sometimes you just have to let things go and trust the people you work with. But major kudos to the producers and people holding the cameras and people behind the cameras. The field people have a lot of stress on their plates, and these few hours were exactly that. Major major kudos to them. I don't know if I could ever handle that much. Though, it did seem kind of fun at times. Patrick, the director, was incredibly nice and supportive of me. Bridget the writer was as well. And in this, I realized just how small SoJournaling Vietnam is compared to the real time professional aspects of something as big as the Travel Channel.

      I think enough has been said, I just never thought I would ever get a chance like this. Thank you thank you to the producers in Vietnam and in Minnesota who believed in me. Just the recognition enough is great. I don't want to latch onto someone's fame and use them to ride off with followers who don't know anything about Vietnam. You don't get well known just for being lucky for long. That will never happen. Unless you're super hot, which I'm not. I'm just hot. Not super. But, you have to work hard and earn recognition. People will only subscribe and follow me if they truly love Vietnam. or if they like me. Hopefully, when this episode airs, more and more people could fall in love with this country, and more people will know about my YouTube space. But this also puts a greater burden on my shoulders. I have to make better videos each time. I have to plan them. I have to take this way more seriously, even though as you can tell I've taken it more seriously than anything else I've done in the past year. YouTube has been my life. Bringing Vietnam to you have been my passion. I will only reach a level of success with this if I keep working harder and harder. Appearing in a segment won't do me any good if my content isn't any good. Even if nothing much comes out of this, I'm thankful I've gained the experience, and that some professionals can appreciate what I've done... Then it's all worth it. Many friends and people have asked me what's next? What's next?

          I thought about this all night after the shoot. I could barely sleep as I watched my Instagram followers rise and rise.  Then in the wee morning hours I realized that what's next is entirely up to me. And I realized that I seriously need to take the trash out because I could start smelling it. I gotta keep bringing you the best content from Vietnam, and I will.

        You gotta do what you love to artistically express yourself. Someone will notice if you're passionate enough.

10,000 Subs here we come in the next day or so. Thank you guys for letting me into your lives one video, one picture, one blog at a time. Now tell your friends about our little space on the interwebs.





   
 
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