Friday, October 24, 2014

This blog ain't dead / My activities here explained!

       September was a pretty meager month when it came to blog entries. October has been even worse. In fact, this month has been the month with the least entries ever since I got to Vietnam.
What's up with that? There's a direct correlation between better, longer, and more interesting videos daily and the fewer entries here. I just have so much time in a day to produce content as well as other commitments that actually put food on the table, and allows me spending power to bring you to the best of Vietnam in Saigon and beyond.

       btw, Nha Trang is planned next month.
and by plans, I mean I'm going to go there and run around without any plans.

       But, I digress. Lately, there just hasn't been much to write about because I come home hungry and exhausted. I've been spending more time with friends like Marn and Nina because they are around, and they won't be around for that much longer, so I try to be around them as often as possible because chances are, we'll never be able to hang out like this ever again. So nights have been busy. Three or four hours of sleep seems to be the norm. Sometimes, I'll finish editing a video, set my alarm, let it render for two hours, wake up, post on YouTube, go back to sleep. That's what it takes to balance daytime commitment and YouTube commitments. It's been such a grind to balance, work, a social life, and an online presence that sometimes I just fall asleep at my table during lunch. The past week has been torturous because I've developed a pretty severe cold with mucus and stuff. I'm starting to sound a lot more Vietnamese.

      A few things worth noting though. I've realized that my Vietnamese is great, but it's far from perfect. Very very far. There are quite a few words that I've been pronouncing incorrectly for all these years and finally have realized my mistakes through talking with Nina and Marn. It seems like locals never corrected me either much. Hearing my flow and sentence structure in the Phuoc Vinh video reiterated that fact. Funny thing is though, there are people online who think that I pretend to not be able to speak Vietnamese well. They either confused me with one of Oldboy's videos or they just absolutely crazy.

      Speaking of crazy online people, less activity here and blog entries have also been because of crazy people out there. I'm starting to become more and more well known, and I feel like I don't always want to put myself out there. Especially, if it can affect my friends or the people around me. There have been plenty of instances where I would have loved to have blogged and complained like the of 2012. But, because of a few people who ruined it for everyone, I've become more discreet. In other words, guys who can't control their horniness have really went overboard when it comes to the girls who have appeared in my videos. Yes, borderline stalkers. In fact, people from my past who I wish I could forget about, still follow and watch my videos. Did you think that you could follow someone on FB close to me and that it wouldn't come back to me? Please don't think about me or watch my videos anymore. The thought of you still doing so after how you treated me is an atrocious crime. I got over it for a while now. Hearing your name didn't make me so angry like before for a while now,  my mind has almost completely erased you. And then you had to coward your way back by following her? Please just stay away. I don't want you to know anything about me or my life anymore because I've suffered way too much from your actions/lack of actions. So please just don't watch or read this. Seriously, I can't stand the thought of how vulnerable and idiotic I was to ever open myself up. It's disgusting to me. I want to throw up. I would have thought you were too busy blaming friends and choosing rich people who think they're too good for you. Stay away please. Don't ruin this for everyone.

       I was at the gym the other day. I even bought Nike running shoes against my morality. They felt great. But were insanely expensive. Sometimes, I wish I was independently wealthy. I wish my parents were so rich that I didn't have to worry about money, or had something to fall back on. Then I wouldn't have to go to Saigon Square and buy fake Nike shorts. I wonder what it's like to see money as a valueless piece of paper that comes out of ATMs and gets handed to me from my parents never ending wallet. I wonder what its like to not want anything because you have it all, instead of wanting so much because you have nothing at all.

Stay tuned for a lot more videos the next upcoming weeks. I will write more. I promise.
In the meantime stay tuned to

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Vietnam War. Phuoc Vinh Today 2014.

     My LZ X Ray landing area video in Pleiku has given me a small American veteran following. Enter Richard. I was assigned a simple task of traveling to Phuoc Vinh, about 30 kilometers north of Thu Dau Mot City in Binh Duong Province. Totaling about 50 kilometers or so away from Saigon South. I was supposed to capture how Phuoc Vinh has changed from a single dirt road home to an American army base. The second task which was a little bit more impossible had me trying to find an old man from a picture Richard had sent me, in hopes of finding a girl named Gai. That's right, I had to find a girl named girl, without any photos or any other information. And away we go...

     The morning started off quite pleasant. Before trips, I tend to not sleep well. This one was no exception. Still with four hours of sleep and a lingering cold, I was pretty energetic about things. Maybe it was because Nina, Marn, and his cousin would be joining me. I love road trips. I enjoy just sitting in a car and being driven around in air conditioning and looking at the Vietnamese countryside. Binh Duong was exceptionally fascinating because I had never been there before, which is quite rare for any place in Vietnam now it  seems. I originally had plans to cover this Phuoc Vinh thing, and spend the rest of the day in Binh Duong exploring a stream, some temples, a fruit village, and the new urban development. Unfortunately, this didn't happen because after Phuoc Vinh we just ran out of time and sunlight. I did however, capture a popular dish from Binh Duong called banh beo bi, and you'll see a video of that up sometime in the near future.

     Now, the driver was quite pleasant, and definitely one of the nicer drivers I've ever met. He didn't seem to know Phuoc Vinh though. I didn't blame him because of its relative remoteness. When we got lost, we got lucky. We didn't get lost too far, and despite my meager navigational skills, I was able to help him. I mean, it was just a straight line full of tolls and holes. Passing a demolished bridge broken in the middle reminded me of what I was about to head into. I don't have much Vietnam war experience or knowledge. To me, it felt more like a fun road trip with lots of laughs from Marn and his Vietnamese women problems. It wasn't anything emotional by any means for me, and this might have been an issue because the reception I received later in Phuoc Vinh was quite mixed. A wild goose chase to follow. A fun wild goose chase.

     When we got into town, the driver randomly turned left. I rolled down the windows and asked a man where the market was. He kind of ignored me at first and violently pointed down towards the ground, signifying that it was here. A really happy young lady came out of her toys shop and directed us towards some trucks down the road. This was the Phuoc Vinh Market. I had one of Richard's photos to compare, and sure enough, the font resembled it. Of course a lot has changed. The dirt roads have been replaced by asphalt. More shops have sprung up. More infrastructure. Phuoc Vinh looked like it was doing well. It reminded me very much of a small town in America. There were plenty of people around, including school children. It seemed like normal life was happening, and traces of the war weren't apparent at all. Almost immediately after snapping some photos, I asked people around me if they were around between 1969 and 1971 and if they worked for the Americans. Some people just ignored me. A lady selling lottery tickets claimed that she forgot everything. A drink vendor told me to go into the market to talk to a lady named Mai, who was around during the war. This was harder than I had expected. In my mind, I kept thinking there would be xe om drivers around full of history and insight. There were no xe oms around at all. When my group made our way into the empty market, we walked randomly for a bit until we reached the end. The lady there claimed that her mother was around during the war, but she went home. She looked at the photo, and got pretty angry at me. Perhaps, maybe it was because it was such a vague photograph, or maybe she didn't sell much that day, or maybe the thought of the war made her livid, or maybe she was just mean. Oh well.  She said her mom went home, and didn't want to talk to me any further. This was harder than I thought.

      So my friends and I stood around trying to regroup. Some people thought Marn was Taiwanese for whatever reasons. We tried to find shade wherever we could. Nina had to go to the bathroom, but was too scared to. I didn't blame her. After a few more failed attempts, another drink vendor and a beef butcher waved me around. The older one looked like she could have been around. She looked at the photo and handed the phone to the other lady. They had no idea, but they knew people who might. They claimed that many of the people from the old regime moved out of the area after the unification of the country. This was another problem because it seemed like I met more people who came to Phuoc Vinh after 1975 than anyone who lived there before. The two ladies pointed me down the street to an umbrella. They gave me a name of some lady who might have known. I instructed my friends to buy some drinks and sip away, while I do my job. They sat around looking miserable in the midday heat, while I started sprinting down the street. I came up to a woman sitting outside, and asked for a name. The woman outside tried to look at my phone, but an older woman in the inside yelled at her and said she didn't know anything. I was called inside and took off my shoes. I sat on my knees and explained to her exactly what I wanted to do. I had to claim at times with people that the American in the photograph was my uncle, and that I was doing this as a favor to him. Family ties are more important here than friendship, so I thought that might have helped with a sense of urgency. It didn't though. The woman used to work for the Americans. But she didn't recognize him or know of anyone named Gai. Then she got mad, really mad. She trashed the picture and my overall lack of knowledge. She was bothered that I didn't know the man's name or anything about Gai. She even got a photograph of what she looked like back then to show me, but got angry when I tried to move the camera closer to it. Then I left in haste.

       I stopped by another house in the alley next over, but no one was home. I walked back to the market without any leads. My friends were joking around with the drink vendor, and he said that he knew another lady who might know. He gave the instructions to my driver and away we went. Now, keep in mind, the town itself is tiny. We didn't have to travel very far, and the turns weren't very complex. But somehow we managed to not find the lady's house. We stumbled upon a housing area for military families, and they had no idea because they recently moved into the area. So we drove for a bit and decided to talk to old people in the streets randomly. It felt like we were detectives or something. Eventually, I just let the driver do the asking for me. It was easier for all of us. I tend to stumble and perhaps my dialect is a bit hard for the locals to understand at times, even though I really tried. After going back to the drink vendor to ask him again only to find out that he went home. I made the call to go to the church. I remembered now that the man in the picture was a Catholic, so we headed to the church. At first, I wasn't sure if it was the same church in the picture that Richard sent because the building looks a lot more ornate and grand. The old building looked quite modest and simple in comparison. A saint statue in the center confirmed that it was likely the same sight, and as I walked around, the place seemed deserted. Doors were locked and not a single person was around. So I went across the street and asked another man. He didn't know. When I got back, Marn was attempting to ask a lady who showed up, but she didn't understand him at all. When I got there and took over, she herself was from the area, but left with her husband during those years. She insisted that another lady who was about to come would know. So we waited. That lady didn't know either. The man she was with didn't have a clue. And as I was about to walk out, the first lady suddenly remembered that she knew a woman whose mother was named Gai and she worked for the Americans. In fact, she even had a baby with an African American soldier, but had to give the baby up. That Gai is now dead, but the daughter works as a seamstress, but the lady didn't have a way of contacting her. Then she gave me another lead.

      I was supposed to go to a bookstore down the street. It's funny how small things are, that minimal directions helped. I wish I could remember Vietnamese names better. Sometimes they go in one ear and out another. We found it, and the lady inside was resting. This time, all my friends were rather curious about who this Gai person was. We romanticized stories out loud to each other. We wondered if we had just passed her in the streets without knowing. We wondered if she had pictures of Richard up on her walls. Maybe she's searching too? The lady in the bookstore was really nice. She looked at the photo and really tried, but nothing came to her. She gave me a bunch of random directions and instructed me to find another lady. We had trouble locating her house, so we asked some random old lady in the streets, she didn't know either, but she guided us to her house. She claimed she knew of a girl named Gai who along with her mother worked for the Americans. But she had no way of contacting her and she wasn't sure where she even lived. She would come down to town on occasions, and that was about it. So there I was, my trail went cold again. By now, the midday sun was just beating on us relentlessly. We were tired from hopping into AC and out of AC so frequently. But we had to push forward.

       I made the call to go to the airport and army base. We had to make sure we went through the back roads because that area is relatively restricted. So I navigated us to a dirt road and we turned left into the runway. Throughout the long ride towards who knows what, we wondered out loud if what we were on, was indeed the runway. Then to the left, I spotted the gates of some training facilities. I got out of the car to take photos or film, but almost immediately, dudes dressed in green on bikes were seen, and I ran back in the car and we were out of there. I didn't want to be questioned, and I surely didn't want a repeat of what happened to me at Chu Prong Mountain. Driving back towards the main road. Nothing from the old army days stood as far as I could tell. I was told to look for some tower, but I didn't see it. There were some training barracks that looked like it could have been used or built by the Americans, but I couldn't capture any photos because the car was moving too quickly, and the premises were too far from the road. I just couldn't risk getting in trouble again, so I made the call to head back to the market.

     By now, in the later afternoon most of the stalls and vendors had went home likely to rest before their night shift. After trying again for a few times, and meeting more less than friendly people. I gave up. This was a needle in a hay stack. Without proper names, a blurry photo, and all the changes in Phuoc Vinh, finding the man and Gai would have been close to a miracle. Many of the locals seemed disinterested in discussing the war. Some of them were angry. Some quite apathetic. It was my fault for not realizing the potential pain and suffering these men and women might have gone through. I apologized numerously. The common question I asked them was how has Phuoc Vinh changed, and they all said that everything changed. But they didn't seem very open to speaking about it. No one was really engaging, and seemed annoyed. Then again, what was I expecting? I don't think in America you could just show up to someone's house and start asking them questions.

      Sometimes living in Saigon, it's difficult to imagine there was even once a war here. The shopping malls, the nightclubs, the international food, and the wide variety of expats here all tell a very different side of Vietnam. I was definitely exposed to something riveting and important here that day, and I'm grateful for Richard for that.

       So we headed home in relative disappointment because even though I didn't have very high expectations, but the romantic in me wanted to help Richard fulfill his dreams. I wish I had more time. The air conditioning made life a little bit better. By now, we didn't have time to do anything in Binh Duong. I couldn't help but be wowed at how rapid Binh Duong is developing. It's like many other places in Vietnam too. We ate the banh beo and by the time we fought traffic back into Saigon darkness was already around. Fast days in the fray.
A very very special thank you and apologies to Richard for commissioning this day trip for me, and I hope you'll be somewhat satisfied with the video.

        If anyone else wants me to go on more wild goose chases, then please sent me a private message at Do not send me a message here because I don't always have time to read these comments.

Pictures now. Check back tomorrow for the video.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Expat Vietnam Life: Ways to get rid of stress in Saigon.

People ask me all the time how is it possible for me to live in Vietnam for so long, when they usually get bored or tired of it towards the end of their vacation. The truth is, Saigon and Vietnam for that matter isn't a simple cakewalk for the average expat. Moving to Vietnam from America isn't like moving to Europe from America. The contrasts of culture and language might be overwhelming for some. Combined with challenging work and daily grinds, the average westerner is bound to get burnt out sooner or later, and even perhaps jaded. So how am I able to live in Vietnam for so long? Here's a few suggestions on activities that you can do in order to make your life a little bit stress free and more enjoyable.

1. Live as close to if not higher than your western lifestyle. For most important thing is to make sure your home or the place that you sleep at night is comfortable with proper air conditioning and furnishings. A nice and quiet place to rejuvenate oneself is incredibly important. Alleyways and storefronts on busy roads might mean a lot of sleepless nights with noisy neighbors. Live in a sky rise as high above the ground as possible. At the end of the day you want to go back home and just be in your own world. Some might argue against this- stating that it is better to live next to the locals. Well, that's because those people don't understand the language or are not bothered by a lack of privacy. If you're even remotely professional in the day time, then invest in something a little bit more professional for your nights. All of those expats living in shared homes in alleys, where you have to park your motorbike inside your living room, hats off to you.

2. Have a variety of food in your life. Saigon has over 20,000 establishments to eat and drink. There are quite a number of foreign food ranging from Japanese to American to Spanish to French to Mexican American to Thai to everything. The bottom line is diversify your meals to remind yourself that food isn't always pho or com. Street food will wear you down eventually, taste wise or toilet wise. If you pay mere dollars for food- you're not likely experiencing the best- for example, a bowl of pho for 25,000 Dong will never match the quality of a bowl for 60,000 Dong. Go out to nice restaurants from time to time where you don't have to squat and eat or sit on plastic stools that could break any minute. Eat in a room where you're not drinking your sweat as well.

3. Pretend you're a tourist. From time to time, I like to walk around near the Notre Dam Cathedral or the Backpackers Area and pretend I'm in Saigon visiting. Saigon's Downtown area is really awesome with its French Colonial Architecture and Hanoi has a few decent spots too. Explore the sights and do the touristy things. Book a tour to the Mekong Delta or the Cu Chi Tunnels for a day. It's actually a pretty good feeling, and even if you've done it before or have lived in Vietnam for a long time. Occasional moments of self deception are awesome.

4. Ride a motorbike into the countryside. One of my favorite activities is to go cruising in the streets of Nha Be in the middle of the night. It's fun to explore a side of Saigon that isn't that developed and mirrors the authentic Mekong Delta. In fact, when I hit the waters of the Mekong Delta is when I return. The roads are pretty small, but congested. Driving down there and interacting with the people there also help remind me how amazing Vietnam can be. Don't go too late though, because it might not be the safest thing to do. But if you enjoy riding as much as I do, then I really recommend just cruising somewhere in the nearby countryside early in the mornings or at night. Day time riding might be a bit hot and bright though.

5. Get a massage / Get pampered. The overwhelming amount of friends who come to visit always inquire about a legit and cheap massage. Now, decent massages aren't cheap. They aren't a few dollars. They can run as high as 25-50 dollars depending on how long you're in there. If you're not into someone rubbing on your body, then a foot massage is decent too. Some places have communal rooms where you can actually experience it with your friends. If you're into the sauna then most places will also have them as well. Personally for me, I'm not a big massage guy.

6. Have western friends. I know many people want to immerse themselves into the culture and make as many local friends as possible. I understand that. I think that's great. But at the end of the day, humans are social animals. It's much easier and more pleasant to be around people who understand your language and can relate to your problems. Your daily problems aren't problems to locals. I used to complain to my cousins how hot it was. They thought it was cold, and that I was crazy. I've written about the tension and invisible barriers between locals and Viet kieus. It's apparent no matter how long you've lived here. Beyond historical and cultural boundaries, language barriers make having western friends definitely a must. Find yourself a good group of friends and experience Vietnam with them.

7. Take day trips. Travel as often as you can. The best way to last in Saigon is to leave Saigon whenever you can. There are plenty of day trips accessible by bike or cars can be rented for about 100 dollars a day or so. Vietnam has numerous cities all within a few hours apart by air. If you're in mountains, beaches, valleys, or cities, Vietnam has all of those and more. If you want to experience Southeast Asia, Vietnam can be your gateway to numerous countries with direct flights to Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, China, Myanmar, Singapore, Hong Kong, and more. Get out of the country to remind yourself just how awesome Vietnam is. This is a big one on my list.

8. Keep in touch with your friends back home. There's no doubt that I've missed out on quite a few moments and friendships because I'm not around my friends from back home. But for the people who truly matter, it's important to message them or have a webcam session with them from time to time. I've been guilty of believing in the whole "out of sight - out of mind" mentality. But I still keep in contact with a few life long friends who barely know anything about Vietnam. That's the wonderful part of it. For a few minutes in my day, I don't have to acknowledge or realize that I'm living in Vietnam. The constant thought of, "Oh, I'm living in Vietnam. Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam KyleLe Dot Net" is tiring. It's refreshing to discuss sports and memories of the real world. I'm going to try to do this more often.

9. Hang out with family. If you don't have any families in Vietnam, then forget about this one. For the record, hanging out too much with family here can be pretty annoying. But from time to time, maybe once every two months or so, I like to visit my cousins, aunts, and grandfather. My visits are usually met with enthusiasm. There's often not much to discuss, but plenty of gripes and laughter. I need to do this more often myself. I like days where I can just go see them and get fed without much thoughts.

10. Make sure you have a hobby. If all you do is work and eat street food and date local girls, then your life is definitely lacking. Like anywhere else, you need to dedicate time in something you're passionate about. For me, I really enjoy aquarium fish, motorcycles, and creating videos. Some of you might want to play soccer or do charity work. That's all fine too. If you have a certain hobby, even Ultimate Frisbee, Saigon has a team or a group for you to join. Just make sure you look.

11. Don't be broke.

If anyone can think of anything else feel free to comment below. As always be sure to LIKE my Facebook page at http:/

check back soon onto my YouTube channel as I show you French, American BBQ, Mexican, and Japanese, Indian food and more in Saigon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Viet Food Porn / Torn.

    What happened to this blog? Isn't this supposed to be the number one English blog from Vietnam? Nothing has changed except the fact that there isn't much to complain about anymore. I stopped mingling with local girls, therefore I don't have anything to whine about. So life is pretty decent right now. There are a few changes coming up, but nothing really important.

    I'm kind of stuck in a situation where, the more well known I've become, the less I want to disclose about myself. I don't want to put myself out there as much as before because the stakes are higher now. That, and I've just been incredibly busy - may it be working on videos or being sullen about my recent situation. It really sucks when someone you really want to be with is 5,000 miles away. I just can't seem to find happiness when it comes to proximity. But oh well, life throws things at you and how you react to them will dictate the greater outcome. I don't know what the outcome will be, but as of right now I've been pretty down. The entire month of September felt like a dream in brevity. I don't recall so many mixed emotions like the month of September... a month worth to remember.

    Marn has been back for a couple weeks now. I don't get to see him that often because of my hectic schedule, but I've made the effort to hang out as often as I can. He'll be here until late November or so, and already, we've had some hilarious moments - including his attempt at picking up girls with his iPhone 6... which btw, has somewhat worked. But he just hasn't really sealed the deal yet. But by and by, girls here actually find him fascinating and intriguing... beyond his phone.
But the phone is a good way to get their attention though. But believe it or not, he's actually a very interesting and unique person to many of the single ladies here. They find him cute, childish, but very safe to be around.

    I've been spending a lot of time just eating ever since Tien left. I've been gorging on all sorts of food. In fact, life, as you can see in the videos - life has been about food. But there's a lot more food that isn't seen. In fact, after Tien's departure, I went back to eating banh tranh, Ritz crackers, and whatever else I could find at night like a sewer rat. Then on the weekends I would kind of gorge by going out and eating as much as I can. Somewhere along the way I felt a little bit better, but during the weekdays, I just eat some salt and Oreos for dinner. I've been doing a number on my stomach lining by eating a lot of tamarind on ice and unripened ambarella. I like how in Vietnam, the food can just come to you sometimes. Unfortunately, I don't get to experience that- that often because I tend to stay in most nights now. Occasionally, I've wandered around for a bit- taking walks to the local supermarket where she used to shop. But all I feel is even more obsolete and scant, so I just usually head back home and prepare for the next day's events.

     A couple of weeks ago I was tired from traveling for six weeks nonstop. This past weekend, despite going out every single afternoon and into late night, I felt a sense of wanting to leave Saigon again. I really want to check out Ha Tien. A Da Lat trip is currently in the works. I just want to sit on an island somewhere. I want to travel again. So why don't I? I don't know.

   I have this incessant longing to be around her. That's impossible now, so it's nothing but an annoyance to my daily life because I can't function without the thought of her interjecting into my activities. Activities that would be a lot more meaningful if she was around. Time. time time.

   So enough with that. It's time for some eye candy. Stay tuned guys. Check YouTube and subscribe to it. As for a lot more you know where to go

Goodbye Diet.

But in the end, the best food was the food that she cooked. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014


With the success of the last Google+Hangout Live Stream featuring Nina and Kim,
I'm doing another one this Monday 9 AM Local Vietnam Time. That's Sunday Night at 7 PM in California and 10 PM in New York. European followers, I'm sorry but you'll just have to wake up really early. Australia followers, you can watch during lunch time. I'm joined by Tien, a German Viet Kieu, who have appeared in a few videos and a few more to come. Come with questions about life and travels in Vietnam. Let's have a discussion and appreciation on the Vietnamese diaspora and the motherland. I'll also explain what's going on with this blog and the future of SoJournaling Vietnam. You definitely don't want to miss this event in real time.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vietnam motorcycle madness - Prone to Wheelies.

       I'm on the market for a better bike. I recently found a green Ninja 250, which is one of the bikes that I was looking to buy, for a very affordable price. Unfortunately, it was all the way in Dong Nai. I couldn't make it out there until Saturday afternoon. So I rounded up my mechanic and took a cab all the way out there. An hour before, I called up the dude, and he was rather pleasant and said to come over and to call him when I got to a specific intersection. My mechanic joked about how desolate and empty this area of town was- nothing but rubber trees and factories. Then I suddenly thought about a potential bait and beat up situation, where the dudes advertised an awesome bike only for us to show up with money and then beat the crap out of us and steal our money. This scenario crossed my mind numerous times.

Just a month ago, I met up with these two shady dudes who had an older Ducati Monster for an unbelievable price. It had province plates though, but that didn't matter much - what mattered was on the registration card I read Ducaty. It was clear the bike wasn't legit. You have to be very careful about buying a bike, especially a motorcycle. If the price is too good, then it's likely too good to be true. Big CC bikes with proper paperwork easily run 10,000 USD or twice as much easily. Anything less than that is either really old, has no paperwork, stolen, fake papers, etc etc.

So there I was eager and really excited that I'm going to be riding a Ninja 250. I was already planning to order parts from America for it since I have a friend coming over really soon. I was even looking at a green suit to match to green paint. When I got to the intersection, we stopped at a bun bo place. I called him, and he immediately said that the bike has been sold and hung up the phone. I was shocked and sweaty. Extremely sweaty. I called him again and he wouldn't pick up. That was that. Unbelievable. Then I ate some bun bo with my mechanic and the taxi driver. And went back in complete silence. The taxi ride cost me 1.6 million Dong roundtrip. So perhaps, my luck once again screwed me over. The bike was on sale for a month before I knew about it. And just so happens that it suddenly got sold amazed me. Oh well.

So when I headed back to the city, I immediately went to the Benelli Dealership to check out their new BN302 Bike, which costs 108 million. After paperwork and all that the 302CC naked bike (built in China) would cost about 6,000 dollars. I was ready to buy it, but then I would have to wait until November. Nevermind. Plus, the weight of the bike was an issue. The important thing about riding in Saigon and in Vietnam is the torque of the bike and how nimble it is. The bike needs to be agile enough to maneuver you out of a hairy situation. You need power to overpass, but not too much power that could get you killed or kill someone. A foreigner recently got killed here because he rode and hit a sidewalk wall. Too much power would also be a nightmare in traffic. With conditions here, anything above 300-400 CCs would be asking for trouble and a lot of body aches. The dudes with the big 1000 CC bikes don't use them as daily drivers in rush hour. I need a commuter motorcycle and there aren't many of those. Especially, not ones in my price range and weight class. Some used 1,000 CC bikes are actually cheaper than used 250CC bikes, believe it or not.

So now, I'm stuck and in a constant rut. I don't know what to buy. I wish I could just afford to walk into a KTM dealership and drive away with the naked 390 Duke. But they're pretty damn expensive and the seat height is pretty high for traffic, not to mention potentially too much power for me. I would love to have that bike, but then I would be kind of poor for a while. But ABS brakes are incredibly important.  Plus, I'm prone to wheelies. I've crashed a few times. Too much power might be an issue. The last time was pretty serious. I'm not the best rider. And the people around me are pretty reckless  at times. So, I think I'll stick with a Duke 200 and make sure it has ABS because that's exactly what I need. So the search continues....

Stay tuned for two straight weeks of daily releases!! You don't want to miss some of these videos I have due to hit the cybersphere.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kathmandu, Nepal Travel Documentary.

So it's finally out. I managed to compile a few days into only 8 minutes minutes because I don't know what I did with two more days worth of footage in Nepal. I might have never copied the files over. I really don't know. I've been a little distraught over it. I lost many good scenes that would have made this documentary more complete. Nevertheless, it's still very watchable. I hope you enjoy. And if you had no idea that I went to Nepal, you should search for entries of my trip to Kathmandu on this blog. and I'll link the playlist on YouTube as well. As always be sure to share the video with your friends, especially if you want to see more. Next up- the Hue travelogue.

Other Kathmandu and Nepal videos

the Kathmandu / Chitwan National Park Travelogue

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Family and friends in Vietnam - A pioneering gathering.

I’ve always had this abnormal fantasy about mixing my friends and family together in a grand spectacle of food. Last week this event came true.

My grandfather mentioned several times prior to me about bringing friends over. Kim not too long ago paid him a visit and he seemed to get a kick out of that. So when I called him about bringing foreign friends over, he was joyful about such an experience.

The plan was simple. Get on a bus, go to Bien Hoa, experience family and semi-rural conditions, stuff our faces with food, go home and sleep. I saw this chance as an opportunity to throw a party for my family, which I’ve never done before, and for my friends who seldom might get a chance at such a Vietnamese cultural tradition.

Living in Vietnam, I’ve taken visiting relatives for granted. Prior, the main reason of visiting Vietnam was to spend quality time with relatives. Eventually, they got annoying, and I’ve distanced myself largely due to distance and my hectic schedule. But I figure, from time to time, it’s important and valuable to share a meal and to catch up. In fact, Uncle 7 from America is still lounging around in Bien Hoa like a local. He’s been eating well.

In the morning Nina, Seb, Kikki, Tien, and I met up at the local Dunkin Doughnuts for a quick breakfast. Then we made our way over to the Le Hong Phong Bus Station to catch the number 5 towards Bien Hoa. We were a tad bit behind schedule and the sun was blaring down on us as usual. Fortunately, the bus still had seats left for the girls, but Seb and I sat on the aisle in the back. The good news was we still had seats, even though they were hot from behind directly over the engine. I’m sure you all know my thoughts on public buses to the provinces in Vietnam. But this trip wasn’t that bad. I might have offended a woman because I confused her daughter for a son. It’s not my fault she chose to give her daughter such a ridiculous haircut. Sometimes being on a bus is the safest feeling in the streets of Saigon simply for its sheer size and volume. The bus ride itself wasn’t that memorable. There might have been one quick stop incident, but aside from that it was relatively quick and smooth for a Sunday.

When we got to Bien Hoa it was a little bit difficult to find a taxi because they were all parked across the street and Bien Hoa seems to have more of the smaller four seater Kia morning taxis. Either way, the five of us all piled into a three seats and headed a short distance away to my cousin Dung’s house. If you remember, her husband recently passed away. This was the first time that I had returned since a month and a few weeks prior. The front of her house was back to business as usual. My grandmother’s house still relatively looking desolate next door. It’ll be for sale soon, and I’m awaiting a massive power and money struggle between my aunt and uncles as they attempt to write my father out of any money. We’ll see in the next few months. Dung wanted me to give my grandfather some potted plants, so we stopped. I also collected a giant bag of oatmeal that my mom sent a long time ago. She looked relatively distressed when I saw her. But she looked like she gained a bit of weight too. Our time together was relatively short. And already it was weird for my friends to be there. It was so weird for my universe to blend together like that. I usually have family time or friend time, never together. Water was passed all around in the form of La Vie bottles, as we bid her farewell as we called for a seven seater taxi headed towards my grandfather.

My grandfather lives about forty kilometers away from the center of Bien Hoa in the Trang Bom district on the road towards Mui Ne and Nha Trang. The ride was relatively painless as well. Once again, mixing my friends with my grandfather felt quite abnormal to me. Watching them shake his hand as he spoke some French, was a pure mental trip. My friends and my grandfather. That was just weird. Tien mentioned how she felt like she’s been there and how familiar things were because she watched the video I filmed not too long ago. I wish we had more time, but our schedule was pretty strict because I wanted to squeeze in as many moments as possible, so we didn’t stay long. I had requested that he didn’t prepare any food. Some light fruits and drinks were plenty for us because we were expecting a massive feast at my cousin’s house later on. We sat in the living room under my great grandparents’ altar chit chatting about whatevers. My grandfather’s adopted granddaughter’s daughter took a liking to Kikki, and she’s usually quite shy around people. Then we left.

Heading back to Bien Hoa, I had a hard time locating my cousin’s house in Trang Dai. She lives far from the main areas of Bien Hoa deep in a developing khu dan cu area. Just six years ago, the area was desolate with no other houses. My cousin’s house was one of the first ones in the area. Now, all sorts of houses have sprung up. The road in is still as bad as once was. Now, her house has a lot of fond memories in my heart because I spent a lot of time there during my first two trips to Vietnam. Miserable nights without AC and gecko poop everywhere. Those aspects still haven’t changed either. By random luck, we stumbled on her house after aimlessly driving around for a bit. The taxi driver entered through a different way, and I was completely lost.

Uncle 7 came out to greet us. At first he thought everyone was American. He attempted to throw some English towards us, but in the end he got his point across despite not making much sense. His point was, just drink and eat. Most of my cousins were there. A few cousin-in-laws and one cousin was absent, but most of them came out. Why wouldn’t they? This was a feast. In fact, there was every single kind of protein there, from chicken to beef to seafood to pork and vegetables. When I told my cousin to get a lot of food, I didn’t expect her to buy the whole market. We barely touched half of the food. When she told me she wanted to do a BBQ, I didn’t know she meant we were going to grill the food inside the house next to us while we bathed in smoke. Either way, the food was excellent despite the salty clams. She went a little bit overboard, but I didn’t mind paying for once, because I wanted to do something for my family for once. I definitely want to throw more get-togethers like this one in the future. It was just even more weird for my female friends to help set the floor up, working side by side with my cousins. Watching Tien and Nina interact with my cousin’s daughter, watching Kikki conversing with Uncle 7, and his wife, and watching Seb drink with my cousin Quang. She was really drunk. Seeing how old my cousin’s kids have become made me feel quite old. I remember a time when they were tiny with baby fat. Now they’re all approaching at least five and growing up quite rapidly.

The afternoon showers came down like clockwork. It made things quite fresh and soothing. I wish I could eat more, but I was pretty stuffed. The original plan was to visit Giang Dien waterfall before, but my cousins rushed me to come over, so we skipped that. I wanted to go back to the pomelo orchard. Some cousins warned me that there likely wasn’t any left. I didn’t trust them. So I made the call to get into a cab to go out there as everyone disbanded. Shortly before leaving, we took a post rain walk around the neighborhood checking out a small farm nearby and some other houses amongst the tall grasses. I used to fly a kite out there years before. Now, power lines and other houses would prevent me from doing so.
Nina said something about how her family is a lot like mine. They both stress each other out during moments of decisions. The ride coordination was hectic. Some cousins were planning to go home, while some wanted to join us. Uncle 7 needed to go home back to my mom’s old house, and his wife needed a lift too.

When we got to the pomelo orchard, the mud and the fact that there wasn’t any more pomelos discouraged me. I wanted so badly for Tien and Nina to have buoi Bien Hoa to bring back for their families. It was a big deal to me. Unfortunately, the money spent on the cab ride could have bought us a wagon full of pomelos from the market. Oh well. It’s about the experience. Remember that

Heading back to Uncle 7’s house to drop off my cousin and her daughter, we came in in a little bit. By now, I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that my friends were in my mom’s old house. They sat underneath my maternal grandmother’s altar. For a brief moment, I sat and appreciated that fact.
Because it was already getting late, we all bid everyone farewell. I thanked Uncle 7 for not embarrassing me too much, and my cousin for her troubles going and shopping. My cousin's daughter was upset that all the pretty girls were leaving so soon. I've never heard her speak so much before. She's not the friendliest towards me, but she's definitely one of the most intelligent and free speaking six year olds I've seen. She even sang a song about a girl leaving a guy while we were in the cab.

We hopped back into the cab and took the 50 kilometer drive back to Saigon in relative silence. We were all beat. The heat and the food did a number on all of us.
Vietnam’s great. Vietnam’s really great. It’s better because of the people in my life- family and friends.  Be sure to like my Facebook to follow life as it unfolds in Vietnam.