Friday, March 27, 2015

Life in Vietnam and changing tides towards what is normal.

     The YouTube growth has been beyond expectations. But then again, as you've noticed, the quality has been increased a lot too. I've been working harder. Older daily videos- single shots are almost impossible to watch for me. Either way, thank you everyone for helping me accumulate 21,000 subscribers. It's really a substantial number to me if you factor in the fact that I work full time and I'm doing it all on my own. Okay, sometimes I get a friend to help hold the camera for me. But beyond that, and in addition to Antti Luode's fabulous original music, it's been a labor of love. It's my baby. I'm proud of its growth. With that being said, there's at least 15 more thrilling videos I need to edit.
I'm really excited to bring them to you. More Indonesian videos- especially. There's like four more simply stunning Indonesia videos that I can't wait for you to check after I work on them. There's also a really intensive long day in My Tho video, day in Hue video, a colab with Pho Bolsa TV,  Just really really thrilling stuff here. Oh, and I just booked a flight to Phu Quoc because Kim is coming back for a little bit. I can't wait. I haven't been there in years.

    Why am I traveling so much? I don't have a lot of time and opportunity to travel believe it or not. So I have to squeeze in whenever time I have. Each trip actually takes a lot of arranging from my work schedule. That's why when the trip happens I'm pretty tired from everything and don't have time to efficiently plan. But to answer why do I travel so much? Yeah Yeah, it's to make videos yeah yeah. That's one reason. But recently, I've traveled because traveling is like a drug. Going to the airport and landing somewhere new and fresh always excites me. I can still remember the feeling when I traveled to Vietnam by myself. It was the first time I actually traveled anywhere by myself. That wasn't that bad to be honest, but a few days later when I was back at Tan Son Nhat awaiting my flight to Hue- that feeling finally struck me. When I landed in Hue and walked over to the taxi drivers... I can still recall that exciting feeling of the unknown. I haven't had much time to experience that much these days because I've been everywhere. I've done it many times. So- traveling is like a drug because I just want a bigger hit. I want something stronger- something more extreme.
And then I realize that I'm not a stereotypical traveler.

      Almost five years ago I did the whole backpacking through Vietnam. I didn't like it. I'm not a backpacker. I need a clean and comfortable place to stay. I like nice bathrooms. It's already tough enough to use different toilets all the time- I'm very sensitive when it comes to that. I don't actually travel well. I'm prone to injuries and exhaustion. I'm actually pretty weak physically. Many of you don't realize how hot it actually is over in Asia at times. Singapore last week just killed me. It was so hot at times I was shivering. I was getting heat strokes left and right- constantly covered in sweat. Showers were a god send at the end of the day. Nights got even more humid. The humidity just murders my skin and hair.

      So with all of this travel talk, Phu Quoc is only going to act as a buffer for something more grand. I found a tortoise sitter- which is going to allow me to travel more than week pretty soon. There's going to be a week long holiday, and you betcha I gotta go some place far and worthwhile.

    I'm really unsure about Australia now because I know the weather is nice and chilly over there right now, but for the cost of the airfare and overall experience- I think I might have to pick Eastern Europe over the land down under for now. I'm definitely thinking of hitting up Georgia, Finland, and maybe Amsterdam. That region of the world is completely foreign to me, but I feel like I must at least see it and the time is now. I just have to plan a lot- but I look forward to seeing friends old and new again in that region. I was going to pick up the new Samsung S6 Edge, but I figure... I rather go to Europe instead. We'll see if it even happens.

   I definitely would like to go to Bhutan though. I think that's as exotic and remote as it can get in Asia.

   Recently, I've been trying to have more of a normal schedule and routine. But it's really hard. Things change here so often that I'm just overwhelmed with stressed at times. I wonder what it's like back home. The longer away I've been from America, the more unreal returning feels. With recent changes and life events, America has been on my mind a lot. I wonder what it's like to live there.

Anyways. Stay tuned guys. for a lot more. Thanks for following. If there's anything I can do for you please write me on facebook at http://www.fb.com/kylele.net

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Friday, March 20, 2015

The hardest thing about living in Vietnam / Singapore 2015

        The best thing about living in Vietnam and having somewhat of a social media presence is the fact that I get to meet amazing people from all over the world.
        The hardest thing about living in Vietnam is when I have to say goodbye to them.

So my life is like this: My hours are long daily. A week transpires like a day. I can't believe it's already the weekend coming up. Too bad I don't really have much of a weekend these days.
In between the workload and late night editing, people come into my life, make a strong difference, become a part of my routine, and then they just disappear and I feel abandoned.

I meet a lot of people. I meet a lot of interesting and real Vietnamese people from all corners of the globe. But, I've never met anyone like Valerie, who hails from a neighboring city next to my hometown of Garden Grove. Oh.. Garden Grove, the name sounds like a distant memory vague from decades of apathy. I haven't thought about it until she came into my life. I've been thinking about it a lot since.

A month ago we were strangers. A month later, I found myself with watery eyes as I stood at the Mien Tay Bus Station staring at her through the old car that I had just put her in so it could catch up to her bus that already left the station. She was heading to the countryside to be with her family, and I wouldn't know when I'll ever see her again. And I walked away as the car pulled out, feeling the same way I've felt numerous times before when complete strangers turned into people I've cared for just leave. It never gets easier. F. goodbyes.

Don't tell me the trite and cliche line of "If they're meant to be your friends, no matter the distance, you'll be friends." That might be the case, but the mere fact that you don't get to spend time with them, you no longer get to share meals or travel with them, more moments that you could have had together, are not possible in the present moment. I don't know about the future, but I can only live in the present moment right now. And the present moment is that Valerie is gone, and I'm depressed as f.

Don't tell me that more people will come. People come and go. Yes. Yes they will. But why can't more people come and no one has to go? How come life isn't like that? Life isn't like that because people have their own lives. Vietnam isn't their life like it is mine right now. Vietnam is just a place for people to go to on vacation or stay for an extended amount of time. So, yes, more people will come, but the people who are gone will surely be missed.

Don't tell me time erases all and will make me forget. It absolutely will. I know it. I know time will force me to get over absent people. It always does. It doesn't linger much around for long. And that's the problem. Growing apart is the problem. Some of the people you've seen on videos were really close to me. They know so much about me that my OG friends back home in the OC don't know. I have no walls or boundaries with these new people I just met, because I allow myself to be more vulnerable and present myself with an open slate. Unfortunately, no matter how close we get, it's tough for me to maintain that level of closeness. It's impossible simply because they aren't around to share more moments. Everything that happened in the past, through videos or moments when cameras were off, I'll remember, but time will cause those memories to fade. I don't want them to fade though.

Valerie's background is so similar to mine that it's remarkably scary. At the same time, in the real world back in that fictitious Orange County, we would have never crossed paths. Her inner circle and mine were drastically different. We probably would have never became friends in real life because societal boundaries and mainstream norms dictate how people live and act in Orange County. I don't know if I can ever live in that area again. When we see beneath those surface layers, we actually share many things in common. The most important thing is our keen interest on Vietnam.

I have to applaud her. She could have been anywhere else in the world, yet she chose to visit Vietnam. Her first time as an adult with the last time being over 13 years ago. One day she wrote me on Facebook, and we found out that we knew mutual people, and then I was sitting next to her on a plane bound for Singapore. And at first, she made it pretty clear that she didn't even want to meet me and she definitely wasn't looking for a tour guide. I just happened to suddenly be one.

Singapore was hot. The weather was a nightmare. Saigon has awesome weather compared to Singapore's neck gripping humidity. And somehow we managed to survive each other for four days.
The best way to get to know someone is to travel with them. She wasn't the easiest person to travel with. I'm not the easiest person to be around for that long either way. And all I have are memories... and a lot of amazing videos coming up.

We were both so tired and sick towards the end of the trip. Flying in late afternoon, Singapore was already dark, and Annabell greeted us. It was so good to see her again. If you guys recall, Annabell is the half Vietnamese half Singaporean Chinese girl who appeared in some Singapore videos in the past. This time, she's back. I've been to Singapore numerous times. The novelty kind of died off for me, but this was Valerie's first time in Singapore. I couldn't help but feel excited too when I saw the gleam in her eyes- wide open and just so thrilled and a live to be in Singapore. I wish I could pinch her, but she didn't ask me to, so I didn't.

The malls in Singapore are just amazing. High end brand names that lit her soul up. Air conditioning that cooled our overheated souls down. And mall food court food in Singapore is damn good. Excellent. Out of this world. I'm drooling just thinking about the hanging ducks and chickens. We hit up Gardens by the Bay at night. We hit up the Merlion Park. We called it a night. And late into the night, we walked across the street to buy BBQ chicken wings and more noodles that we couldn't finish. And we ate it together in the wee morning hours. It seems like there's never a shortage of food available at all hours in Singapore. Dirty fingers and plastic containers- to go wooden chopsticks- realizing we ordered too many wings- allocating food for each other when we were too full to eat anymore. I dropped a bunch of bones on the ground.  I was exhausted because I had a really long workday before coming to Singapore, and the entire Saturday and now Sunday was spent without sleep much. We both had to wake up four hours later to meet up with Annabelle.

The next morning we went onto the MRT and went to Clementi where we met up and ate a hardy breakfast of Laksa and other stuff I forgot already. There was some fried banana durian thing somewhere in there and I was disgusted by that. More MRT followed as we headed to Sentosa, where I grew 50 shades of brown darker as the sun beated me up into a red and black pulp. The one thing I noticed was that Sentosa had rich people and very average down to earth people there too. We skipped Universal Studios, and pretty much everything else because everything was extremely expensive. I wanted to see the aquarium since I'm a fish kind of a guy, but not for 30 something dollars. No thanks, I'll just watch videos of fish on YouTube. Sentosa was slightly disappointing because I had so much expectations in my mind. Don't get me wrong, it was beautiful and downright spectacular for man to build on an island like that. But, the weather just made things so unbearable.
Showers own me and my existence.

We ate a fabulous meal at Vivo City Mall in a very Chinese food court, and I elected to go to Clark Quay for a quick boat trip. Singapore's history and Singapore's present are such contrasts, but seriously, its amazing how modern this place really is. Spectacular. Clark Quay at night was extremely beautiful. All three of us sat and drank. I tried Hoegarden beer for the first time, and I actually enjoyed how smooth it was. Yes, I got drunk. It would have been embarrassing if I had shame. I don't have much shame in front of her.

Then the rest was history. More hot days. Lots of sweating. Drenched in sweat. Lots of vomiting and diarrhea. So much for a vacation. it would have been easier to relax at home in Saigon. Good times. Hot times. Time to go back to Saigon. Somewhere before that we ate incredible dim sum and more delicious food. By the way, food isn't all that expensive in Singapore. Hotels are pricey, but food costs are comparable to American prices, especially if you choose to eat at a food court or a hawker center. Either way, you won't be disappointed with the quality Chinese dishes available there.

The night before leaving, I walked to the Mustafa Center by myself. 2 AM in the morning. 24 hour mall. There were plenty of people shopping inside. The electronics section was a tad bit disappointing because I was looking for a laptop to buy to replace my four year Thinkpad T420. An i7 processor will be appreciated and make video editing a lot smoother than the old i5. Long story short, I wasn't able to buy what I wanted because of the selection. So I walked back alone in the streets of Little India by myself. Singapore's such a diverse place with Chinese, Indians, Malays, and tourists. I mean, Bugis shopping center even featured some eccentric Vietnamese women who worked the stalls and confused me because my mind was baffled about Chinese and Vietnamese sounds all together. Sometimes I had to turn my head around to see if it was Chinese or Vietnamese. Bugis reminded me a lot of Saigon Square.

I tried my best to convince Valerie to stay. It was a mere fantasy because I knew she had commitments back home in the real world. I respect her and admire her life. She wanted to travel, and I wanted to travel with her. It's a travesty she isn't as free as me. She's got a conformed life to live back in the OC. Life.
And so my life returned back to its conformed routine again of coming home to an empty apartment and toiling around for a few days after being unproductive and feeling as if the situation was an f'ed up one. So that's my life. I have to go back and live it like I once did. The lack of video updates just stem from exhaustion or procrastination or both. It's tough to have someone you care about come into your life and as fast as they came, they disappeared. You just have to enjoy the time spent together no matter how hot or how miserable or exhausted you are. The point is you did it together with another human being whose existence just happened to cross yours. I tell myself this all the time to remind myself not to be so deprived when worthwhile people disappear. Seriously, though, the connections I've made and the friendships that have developed have made the past few years of hard work worth it to me.

I feel better already. I'm going to go to sleep now. Hopefully, tomorrow morning I'll wake up feeling less lonely.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

the state of things.

     I've attempted to write this blog quite a few times over the course of the last couple of weeks and I have many drafts to prove it, but I've never wanted to publish any. I figured, I keep telling people to read my blog, but I never write in it much anymore.

    Before, I used to write whatever because I thought very few people would read. But now, as my YouTube channel has gained more momentum, I feel as if I want a little bit of privacy. The lack of time of editing better videos also is really the other reason why this blog has been full of cricket noises and nothing else. I'm sorry, but privacy is something I've grown to appreciate the past few months.

     I've abstained from writing because most entries sound like a broken record these days. Life in Saigon just isn't all that exciting at times. Life anywhere can get mundane. At least I have my moments of absolute excitement and thrills though. But, unfortunately, the last few weeks have just been stressful to say the least. I've had bike issues that have almost caused me to die. I'm so lucky to be even writing this. Thus, my paranoia for hurting myself or even worse- hurting someone else has caused me to hate riding and I have even decided to take a taxi instead of just commuting myself.
I keep worrying about what would happen to my parents if something did happen to me. However, at the same time, we can't live in fear because who knows what misfortunes could happen. All I know is that I'm so damn lucky.

   The editing has taken a toll on me mentally and physically. It's just not healthy to sit there for hours on an off day or late into the night after a long day tweaking frames. Every second counts. my usual mouse pooped out on me and I'm using an inferior mouse that actually hurts my hand. Speaking of which, there hasn't been a video this week yet because I grabbed my iron the wrong side and burnt two fingers, causing the whole editing experience to be painfully tedious. The Hong Kong travelogue is coming! The other day I did 3 videos back to back to back and it ruined my mental state. My mind was just off. I was lethargic. I didn't feel healthy. I took vitamins and they didn't do anything. Before editing used to be once in a while and it was fun. It's fun to see the finished product, but the long hours have worn me down.

  One day, I wish to take a break from editing, YouTube, and social media. Just one day. That's all.

    I got into an argument with my mother on the phone because she was against me keeping a tortoise. She insisted that it was bad luck. I kind of went off on how I'm not 12 years old anymore and the fact that my parents have kept me from making personal decisions under their roof, like owning a tortoise, is completely nonexistent anymore. Sometimes, I just feel extremely fed up with my parents lack of common sense and superstition. The irony is that their lack of willingness to learn technology has made them really unaware of the extent of my travels and experiences. And that's sad.

      One thing I've learned recently is happiness can't be dependent on others around me. Sometimes, when things don't go my way or someone does something to disappoint me, it's not really their fault. it's my fault for putting expectations and emphasis on others. Happiness should be what I already have. I should be happiness. And if people want to be happy too, they'll join me in my happiness to create even more. I'm not going to depend on others to bring me happiness. That's one of the struggles that I have to constantly remind myself. Sometimes I do really stupid and money wasting things. I pursue unrealistic goals and hardships with great obstacles because I believe in romance and love. And in these moments where I exist purely on emotions, I realized that I'm not much different than my parents.

    Another weak personality trait that I have to change about myself is the fact that if I stopped caring about something or someone, it's as if they are dead to me. If I care, I go above and beyond- sometimes too much- sometimes making me look desperate or hungry. But then when something not ideal or annoying happens, the switch is flipped, and it's adios. It's such a horrible trait to have. I'm going to work on changing that. I'm going to really try so, so so hard to improve myself first.

    I didn't visit my cousins and their kids in Dong Nai during Tet. I was too sick from Indonesia. They heard whim that I gave money out to strangers instead of their kids. I didn't feel comfortable giving my own family li xi money because there's an endless amount of kids for starters, and they don't seem to appreciate it. They recite trite lines of well wishes like robots and expect more money from me because I'm VK. None of them are poor. They aren't rich, much, but they ain't poor. The same thing applies to another specific cousin. She called me shortly after Tet and asked me if she could borrow 3 million Dong. I said no. And the reason why I said no was because I didn't want her to rely on me. I didn't want her to ask me again and again, because I've been in a similar situation- especially with my old mechanic if you recall. She drank too much and hit someone and now has to pay for bike repairs. I told her I couldn't help her. I suggested that she called my mom instead. My mother hates it when her nieces ask her for money. She hung up and sent me a text asking if I could add some money into her account so she could make an international call. I didn't reply to the text.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Indonesia - A day on a thousand islands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Vietnam on YouTube. OldBoy's New Channel.

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

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

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV3c9-3SmLeulCqXK6PfQVw

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

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The big birthday deal.

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


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

How's that for a plug?

I turned 26 today. Wow. simply. wow.

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

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

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

I don't remember when I was 16.

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, another Singapore trip might happen soon.

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

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jakarta, Indonesia - Day 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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Tet's over and I'm glad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, February 16, 2015

My father's in Vietnam.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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