Thursday, June 25, 2015

From Saigon to Da Lat and Halfway Back to Cat Tien.

    I woke up at 4 AM and sent Ngoc a text reminding her to bring her visa with her passport. I was supposed to get up at 5 AM to get ready for a 6:55 flight to Da Lat. For whatever reasons, I overslept my alarm, which never happens. I woke up at 5:50 and started panicking. Thank god I packed the night before, but I was supposed to go to bed earlier, but OldBoy called me out to eat a really late Korean BBQ dinner with him. I never turn down Korean BBQ.

    I didn't even have time to brush my teeth or wash my face. Ngoc was already at the airport and it would take me at least 30 minutes to get there. This felt almost exactly like my Con Dao trip when I was seriously late as well. Normally, if it's just me, I wouldn't really mind because I can always book a later flight. But I had people depending on me.

      I urged the taxi driver to just run the reds and just take as many shortcuts as possible because I couldn't be late. This was my first trip with Ngoc, and I couldn't miss it. I was in such a hurry that I didn't even have time for him to mess around with the change as the taxi pulled up to Vietnam Airlines terminal. I ran in at full speed and wasn't sure where Ngoc was. She stood in the wrong line
and I wasn't sure either where the right one was. I ran around behind the web check in counters where she stood and asked a guy who looked almost as clueless as me. Ngoc's cousin who is like a brother to her was also there to bid her off. A few days earlier I shook his hand and promised to look after his cousin. And here I was, the "travel expert" frantic over time and lines. I said hello and goodbye to him and got in the line that would surely have caused me to be late. I got in it anyways.

      I asked one of the staff members holding a walkie talkie and a piece of paper with all of the flights if I could cut in line because my flight was actually boarding right now. He said no. He said i still have time left. I've learned to never trust what people on the ground say and just beg my way to the front if I'm ever late to the airport. I'm almost always late. I don't recall ever being on time for a flight. I was a little bit agitated and wasn't going to just stand there, so I asked again, and the second time it worked. He allowed me and a few others to proceed directly to the front. Another woman came by and yelled at us for being late. After we checked in, I felt a lot better because we were going to make it.

     The flight itself was absolutely quick. As soon as the seat belt signs were turned on, they were turned on again. This was probably the quickest flight I've ever taken. Faster than Con Dao and definitely faster than Ca Mau even. I highly recommend flying to Da Lat instead of taking the six to eight hour bus ride. You'll save a lot of time and energy from sitting on a bumpy bus.

    There's a counter by the bathroom where you can get prepaid taxis for 180,000 Dong, which is much cheaper than going by the meter into the city. The airport is about 30 minutes away and the ride into the city also passes Prenn Waterfall. Heading away from the airport and being surrounded by open fields and mountains with fogs, made me feel extremely excited about traveling. I don't get that much excited anymore, but I was getting goosebumps seeing fog and clouds mix with each other.

     The hotel that we stayed at wanted 60% the rate for early check in. I said WTF, and dropped our bags down and called the taxi driver who took us to the hotel to come back. We had one agenda. We had to go visit Ngoc's birthplace, which is where her aunts and an uncle live today. She said something about it being an hour and a half away from Da Lat. It was actually more like three hours and a half. That was surprising.

     The road there was beautiful and the mountains heading towards Bao Loc and later Madagui made my stomach and brain churn. So we basically flew into Da Lat from Saigon and drove halfway back towards Saigon. It didn't matter though. I enjoyed Ngoc's company and our banter. Being with her just felt right. It felt like we've known each other for years.

      The family was waiting for us when we came. They all spoke in a Hue dialect because the community near Cat Tien comprised of Hue settlers who came down after the war. We stepped back in time. The food was decent and was considered a feast by local standards. I had a hard time understanding the aunts, but they were friendly enough and I didn't feel tension. But at times, it was difficult to have anything to say. Ngoc's Vietnamese isn't the best and her relatives weren't very talkative. Her cousins didn't even speak up. The aunts didn't ask any questions. The conversations felt very one sided and died before they could escalate.

         I tried a few new things I've never tried before- including a root or fruit called "sake" that resembled fried apples but tasted exactly like a potato. Food in the countryside is simple. Everything they ate was locally produced. There was even a lotus seed sweet che dessert brought all the way from Hue, where the family is originally from.

        After lunch, we walked a few steps outside in sprinkling rain to the cemetery where one of Ngoc's grandparents was buried. She lit up some incense and said a little prayer and that was that.
The field across from the cemetery was incredible. Farmers still make up the backbone of this country. Buffaloes are evident of that.

       Afterwards, we went to a neighbor's house and sat down to talk to Ngoc's childhood friend. Ngoc left Vietnam when she was three or so, and has very limited memory. She didn't remember her friend Yen, but Yen's family seemed to know Ngoc very well. So they sat down, only after the plastic chairs were wiped clean. Yen's family operates a micro store in the front. Once again, not much was spoken. Ngoc asked Yen what she does for a living. She just stays home to look after her two kids. Ngoc asked what Yen's husband does for a living. He just works around. And that's pretty much it. The rest of the time was spent staring at her kids and feeling what would have happened to Ngoc if she was still living in Vietnam, still living in that village. Two worlds. Two very different worlds.

        Before we left, we strolled through what was once her father's land. Cashew plants sporadically placed in between mango trees full of mangoes with a tangy wild taste. Ngoc even attempted to pick a mango after the aunts washed dishes in the backyard. Before more awkward moments of silence with the relatives, we tried to get the attention of the neighbor's cow.

      And then we headed back to Da Lat. Passing Madagui, passing Bao Loc, passing Di Linh, passin Duc Trong, and finally back to Da Lat. On the car ride back, I had a karaoke session singing the classic Vietnamese songs that I know including Chuyen Xe Mien Tay and Beo Dat May Troi.

      Ngoc and I were both exhausted. But I still enjoyed her company. The bumpy and windy roads made me feel like we were in some sense of constant danger. Having her around made the long day seem much shorter. When we got back to the hotel, we both could barely move.

      But we had to get up to eat a late dinner. We just decided on the closes eatery to the hotel and that was that. Dinner was uneventful. But Da Lat will be more than memorable. So stay tuned to this blog for so much more in the up coming days.

       When we come to visit our relatives, sometimes we don't get what we usually expect. Vietnamese people are not like Westerners. Some people hardly talk because it's a cultural thing. Young people rarely talk or state an opinion. Social communication skills aren't always strong for people in the countryside. So sometimes, when we see cousins or aunts who haven't seen in a long time, sometimes, they don't have anything to say at all. Sometimes they just stare and smile and pretend like they know what you're saying. Remember, these people are closer to your parents. They probably likely only care about your parents or about your parents money. Ngoc's family isn't strange or unique. Awkward moments with relatives in Vietnam are common happenings. Learn to embrace it. My family in the countryside is similar to hers. Her family in the city are way more outgoing and talkative. It really depends on the people and where they're at. But the point is, don't expect a warm welcome unless you bring gifts. And even if you bring gifts, sometimes the culture or the people just aren't going to be how you expect them to be. And that's perfectly fine because that's what sets Vietnam apart from America. The people are different. The key is to visit and to appreciate them while you have each others' company. The mere fact that we made an effort to come visit relatives who are actually more like strangers to us is worth the travel alone. It can be rewarding. Just try it. Go visit your relatives.

I'm really excited about producing these videos for you guys. The new camera has been difficult to use and a lot less stable compared to the older and smaller RX100, but you won't be disappointed with the quality. In the meantime, enjoy these photos.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Old Folks Home in Saigon: a revisit

     The day started off like any day.

Ngoc and I arranged a little lunch rendevouz with Marn and Andrew. Ngoc is a big Marn fan and Andrew was returning from America. King BBQ at Vivocity has a really good all you can eat lunch special. Even better if you're there between 2 to 4 PM.

A Viet kieu man from New Zealand who actually walked all the way from District 1 came up to me and asked me if I was Kyle. I said yes and he took a photo with us. I'm still not really used to that.

Afterwards Marn had to go back home to sleep so Ngoc, Andrew and I took a cab to Ben Binh Dong to visit Lam Quang Temple in District 8. This is the old women's home.

At first we had a hard time finding the place because the numbers weren't in order. 500s turned into 200s again. 300s skipped around. Eventually we did find out.

Cars can't go through the alley way, so the three of us made started walking. This little alleyway despite being across from Vo Van Kiet, which is one of the major highway roads of District 1 was like a slice of life taken from the Mekong Delta countryside. We were far from Vivocity, that's for sure. This alleyway seriously had no privacy. Doors and windows were wide open. Neighbors all sat merely a few feet from each other, staring at each other, eating with each other, and random little kids walked around. You can peek inside of the homes and see what people own and what little things people were selling. One lady had a vat of oil and fish cakes or cha ca on a little table in front of a pile of barbed wire.

Immediately before stepping into the temple, a few beggars greeted us with their hands reaching up. We walked past them and there was a small line to talk to the monk lady. A viet kieu family with three teens who looked pretty disinterested about being there. Their parents forced them to pass money or something out to the old ladies. They reminded me of me when my parents took me to Vietnam when I rather be elsewhere.

As we were waiting for them to wrap things up, before I could go in to make a donation of 200 dollars in large thanks to viewer Hieu, I noticed an extremely old lady already seated next to a man who resembled her son. She had a little pillow next to her and and a jacket to lay down on.

All three of us huddled next to the stone benches right next to her and as if we were watching a scene from a movie, she sat up right and told the gentleman to take her home. He told her that there is no more home because it was sold. Her voice quivered with a few troi oi troi oi, why why why, and begged him to explain further. He had nothing much to say except she no longer has a home. She asked to be taken home again and again. He said there wasn't a key- no longer a home to come back to. She replied back with gentle anxiety that she would just stay out in the awning somewhere. She said she was tired. Met qua. Met qua. Bring me home. His voice in anxiety and tiredness matched hers. I had to take a day off of work to bring you here. Just wait for the main lady abbot to come back. You can stay here tonight. All the way all the old lady wanted to do was to go home. He urged her to lay down several more times, but she just quietly pleaded to be taken home. He got up and left somewhere. A few minutes later, when she kept calling for him, I walked outside but couldn't see him at all.

And soon Ngoc helped the old lady lay down after she kept calling out for the gentleman. She would call out at any random person walking by. She called out the Viet kieu guy there. I told her that it wasn't him. She said she couldn't see. Ngoc asked her if she had any kids. She said they were all dead. And all the while, she looked in our direction and we received subtle smiles from her as Ngoc did her best to ease the old woman's anxiety. We were quite far from Vivocity.

So donations were made and the man came back. And all three of us left feeling a little bit shaken up about the whole experience. I didn't even record a single second of video or take a single camera shot. I didn't even take my camera out. I recognized a few ladies from six months ago when I visited with Nina. What a life. And I had to remind Ngoc and myself that that old lady was one of the luckier ones. At least tonight she would have a place to sleep.

So we stood out in front of Ben Binh Dong starting into the busy rush hour traffic waiting for our called cab to come. We waited and waited. And I couldn't help but respect and admire Ngoc more and more for her treatment of that old lady. You can really judge a person by how they treat the impoverished and the ailing.

A few hours earlier. A taxi ride before. A walk down a narrow alleyway and our entire mood changed. We laughed so hard during lunch. We ached so much after.

be sure to check out the Old Women's home video on my channel if you haven't seen it already.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Enter Ngoc. Enter NX500

      So Ngoc came into my life. Wow. What an interesting few days and the next five weeks will surely be even more memorable. I'll try to make them as memorable as possible.

      Ngoc also brought over my brand new NX500 camera. This camera shoots in 4K and has a detachable lens. I don't know how to use it. All of my shots are over exposed or under exposed. The codec that this machine uses is so futuristic that my computer and editor doesn't even support it. So I have to convert the footage, which are so big in 4K that my Lenovo y50 laptop despite being such a powerful machine is lagging like crazy.

       So there goes my whole plan to dominate with 4K. I also saw myself in 4K and I was shocked. I swear, 4K makes you age and appear way more gross than you actually are. Maybe I'm just really that gross then? So I'm kind of lost and stuck on what to do.
There are certain settings that I need to be manual when I'm shooting video. Pictures can be shot with auto mode. That's fine. But videos require manual settings for every shot. And that's the hard part

       So I've been just been on edge about the whole camera because I'm going to Da Lat in a few days with Ngoc and I still don't know how to use my new camera yet.

      The past month has been just hardcore working. The next month will have some more leisure moments with Ngoc. I just haven't been able to sleep much because I've been anticipating this moment of finally getting to meet her. She barely came into my life and now she's here and I don't feel so by myself anymore.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nam Dinh, Vietnam Travel: Churches and Ducks

      When I flew into Hanoi from Taipei, the first thing I did was go directly to the bus station. You see, I've always wanted to see the churches of Nam Dinh. In the past heading towards Ninh Binh on the road, the familiar towers and arches of massive gothic style French influenced churches would peak from beyond the horizon, sparking my curiosity. Later on, I saw many pictures of the online. So I knew that one day I had to go see them for myself. And it happened.

   The Hanoi Bus Station has quite a few buses in Nam Dinh's direction. In fact, every 15 to 30 minutes or so. I recommend going to a ticket office and buying a ticket first, but be warned that these mini buses still might take their time leaving to pick up more passengers along the way. Remember that. And the buses can be quite hot too.

   About 2 and a half hours later I made it to Nam Dinh, got into a cab and checked into my hotel. Supposedly being the best hotel in all of Nam Dinh- my hotel was actually pretty average. The outside looked grand, facing the Trang Hung Dao Statue and a park. But the inside looked like a run down place that very few people visited. It wasn't cheap, but it wasn't expensive. But they seriously have to do something about their hard beds. The hardest beds I've ever slept on and I've been to a lot of hotels.

  I rested for about an hour because I was completely exhausted from the early morning flight and the time on the bus. I tried to rent a car and driver with two rental places and they were all either busy or gave some outrageous number. So I contacted the same taxi guy that dropped me off. Then I realized that all of the churches were in the rural province of Nam Dinh and not in the city. This was a shocker because I was planning to see at least ten. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that they were next to each other, similarly to how Ho Nai in Bien Hoa's mega churches are. I was more than wrong.

   All the major churches are far apart from each other. You can ride a motorbike for sure, but it'll take you all day. I only had about 4 hours or so before sunset. So because I didn't know for sure where I was going and the driver wasn't an expert on the churches, we just opted to use the meter instead, which at the end of it was 1.8 million Dong. The first few churches weren't that far from each other, but they weren't on the main road. They are all tucked in little communities off of the side. The last one called Hai Ly or the Ruined Church as the locals call it was quite a ways away from all the other churches.

   I was disappointed that I couldn't see more churches. I was also disappointed that pictures made them look more grand and beautiful. But that's photoshop for you. There was also the fact that many of the churches were given a new coat of paint. You see, that's the problem and the double edged sword. These are active churches that people use. So naturally, they have to restore them and improve them. And a new fresh coat of paint is a part of that. Though, I personally would just have left it alone. But that's not the local mindset.

  So are the churches still worth checking out? Yes. Give yourself from morning to evening to properly explore them. Some of them are stunning. Their grand size made it impossible to film them completely. The people in the churches were so nice. From my experiences of traveling, church volunteers and visitors have always been nicer to me than temple people. Many of the church construction workers worked for free in the blazing sun. Some of them even invited me to drink some tea with them. They were proud to show off their work, and rightfully so. These churches were beautiful.

 The night concluded with a meal of roasted and boiled ducks. The restaurant where I got the food from didn't have any tables left and it was just too loud and dark to make a proper video, so I bought the food back to my hotel restaurant instead. Despite being a draining day, I slept like a baby on the hard rock of a bed and enjoyed my time running around Nam Dinh a lot.

   If you're in Ninh Binh. There is absolutely no reason to not stop by Nam Dinh for a day, especially if you believe in Jesus or if you can appreciate Gothic architecture. Nam Dinh is only 40 minutes or so from Ninh Binh after all. Here are some pictures followed by a video

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Respect for the Vietnamese countryside.

     1 o'clock. I'm in a car on Highway 50 heading towards the My Loi Ferry to take me from Long An to Go Cong. Steady rain greeted me throughout the short journey away from Saigon and towards something a little bit more homely. This trip was unexpected. My uncle passed away, so I rushed towards the countryside to be a part of his burial. Life can be rather short.

     At the ferry a little boy holding lottery tickets pressed his face up against the driver widow and asked if he wanted him to buy the ferry ticket. His sullen voice deprived of youth hurt me. I've lived here for a long time. I've tried my best to tune things like this out. Sometimes it just hurts. He saw me in the backseat and as he was about to try his luck at a more vulnerable me, the ferry gates opened and we crawled forward, sharing the ferry with numerous construction trucks.

   I've been on so many ferries. I still can't get over the fact how some women work and hustle on them- selling sugar cane juice in bags and boiled quail eggs as motorbikes and cars line up. What a life. The occasional breeze gave me some relief from the humidity as I peeked out a ferry window. A large bridge was being built in the background. Men lined the top like ants carrying some kind of reward back to their nests. It's scary how fast things change here in Vietnam, yet many things remain the city. The bridge will signify an end to the ferry- which means a new lease on life for many locals .
To you and me, a bridge is just a bridge, but to the locals, a bridge is such a relief. Count how many bridges you pass the next time you find yourself on a Mekong Delta road.

    And like water under a bridge, life constantly moves, yet somehow in the countryside certain standstills are in place that convinces me sometimes that I wish I had a simpler life. Passing so many little single story houses with bricks exposed or tin roofs and for a split second glancing into the lives of so many people made me yearn for something more basic. Road side stalls- some of them completely empty and weathered made me wonder what was sold on them and the people who sat on the road staring into the distance and hoping for some business- often times sharing the same produce with their competition aka their next door neighbor. Passing by midday markets and the eerie calm that follows when the morning rush is over and the post work rush hasn't begun. I noticed movement here and there underneath the umbrellas and rain awnings, but a lethargic afternoon life was exactly what I need. I want to take afternoon naps after eating mounds of rice without having to worry about my weight. I want to just consume fat from pork like there's no tomorrow. I want to stop wanting things that don't matter in the end. I want the basics. But I don't know if the basics would have me?

     Rice paddies aren't always green. Sometimes they're just brown mud. But sometimes they're so lush you can play competitive soccer on them. This afternoon, the fields were somewhere in between. I couldn't help notice the farmers tending to their fields. Their fields often contained tombs and graves of ancestors before them. Is anything more suitable than that? Growing the same rice you consume within the same soil that your relatives help nourish? I don't know. You tell me. I'm not here to get all philosophical about corpse rice. Either way, the land covered in green lines of wheat and rice are a pinnacle of what makes Vietnam Vietnam. I can't drive past an open green field and not feel emotional and think about the work needed to plant, raise, and harvest such a crop. And rice is the backbone of Vietnam. It's the fuel source. It's what keeps people goin'. And it's in the countryside.

    Sometimes we would pass a TX or a TT Thi Xa or Thi Trang- which basically mean smaller hamlets or communes, and familiar brands or flashy lights might be seen for a few moments. Sometimes some houses are bigger and grander because they own a certain business- perhaps wood working or furniture crafting. And sometimes the houses would immediately grow rural almost as instantly as more bricks are laid for a giant mansion next to them. The countryside- though seemingly similar and mundane at first glance actually has a lot going for it- if you pay enough attention. Tiny side roads take you towards dirt paths. Small and quaint temples can be found at the end perhaps or maybe nothing at all but more homes surrounded by the not too far wilderness. There's no shortage of coffee shops- dark ones and light ones. There are plenty of schools where no children could be seen, but the sheer amount of bicycles parked in the front must mean that they're tucked away in their classrooms. And of course, living rooms acting as storefronts or are the storefronts acting as the living room? The best of both worlds, I guess. Despite how modern the countryside can get at a glance, there's no use denying that the countryside will make a reappearance and sometimes it can be quite grand.

    I came in the nick of time, did some Buddhist related chants and incense lighting. The funeral didn't last very long. The music blared. I can't say much about this experience except I still resent funeral mannerisms in Vietnam. Paul bearers immediately all whipped out cigarettes and started smoking and talking loudly while the monks chanted. I didn't have much to say because it was over before I could say anything. I didn't want to fight Vietnam at another funeral. The important thing was I was there and I got a chance to know my uncle briefly over the course of the past few years. More importantly, my father on his return to Vietnam a few months ago visited my uncle and finally made peace with him after so many years of hatred. In fact, my uncle died grasping onto his phone waiting for my dad to call him. I later found out that since my dad got Viber, they both have been pretty busy getting to know each other again after so many years of bitterness. My dad didn't even want to see my uncle when he came. They had a long feud. But in the end, things were resolved and I'm glad. I have a photo of them together that the sentimental side of me cherished a lot. It was in my Dropbox, and I sent it to my dad finally, and I think we both shed a quick tear when he saw it.
I was extremely pissed off that three of my cousins didn't even go to their own uncle's (their mother's older brother) funeral. I'd like to have a long talk with them about this soon.

   I looked at my uncle's wife and I didn't know what to say to her. I wanted to give her a hug, but I knew that that might have made her crumble into pieces. Normally, she already looked deprived and weak, but now, I was shocked to see how frail she was. In the end, I said a few words to her and departed. I was the last one to leave. Everyone else immediately bounced after the funeral. I tried to stay as long as I could. I tried to answer as many questions as I could. I guess everyone was expecting me since my uncle didn't have any children. The whole process took less than thirty minutes including a quick late lunch with some relatives. I didn't know many people there, but they all seemed to know me. As we ate light trickles of rain splashed on us and we ate without much care.
Maybe everyone was too tired to care, but I couldn't help but felt extremely cleansed throughout the entire process. I couldn't eat much because my shirt was getting visibly wet. As the table finished, the rain ended.

    When all the cars and motorbikes departed that tiny road over looking that creek, I bid everyone goodbye and took a long walk and finally had some peace and quiet from the band and the monks to reflect. My earliest memory of this uncle was when my mother and I first came back to Vietnam, he actually took the bus up to Bien Hoa to see us from Go Cong. When I came back to Vietnam by myself, I hitched a ride to go see him down there, and on the way back, he insisted that he take me back to Bien Hoa and use that opportunity to see his mother or my grandmother at the time that she was still alive. We didn't really talk much. He had a slight stuttering problem and he wasn't the nicest person, but he was really nice to me and he was really nice to my buddy Michael when we visited.
Everyone knew his time was coming up. We just didn't know it would have been this soon. I would have visited him again if I knew his condition was this dire. We had our memories though. On my second trip back, I brought him a kite that lit up. I don't remember if he ever flew it or not. But his love for model and RC planes and cars still puts a smile on my face. He was always so impressed with everything that I did, maybe it was because he never had a son, but everything between him and my dad were strictly between him and my dad. He was always so nice to me.

7 o'clock, I finally made it home and back to reality and more work. I can't wait to go back to the countryside because it grants brief moments of escape and adventure. I feel like I'm on vacation again. I yearn to take a break to experience the real Vietnam. Whatever that is.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Kyle Le FAQs: An Updated Version.

With the recent steady growth and many new viewers, I felt compelled to do an updated FAQs for the sake of not having to answer the same questions over and over again. Thank you for the reading and thank you for being curious.

1. What kind of camera do you use?
My YouTube channel features a wide variety of cameras. Early daily videos used an HTC One S, iPhone 5, Samsung S4, HTC One M7. Early SoJournaling Vietnam videos used a Canon HV30. Action videos are shot with a Contour Roam and a Go Pro Hero 3 and soon to be a Xiaomi Action  Cam. Now, all recent videos are shot with a Sony RX100 (RIP) and soon to be a Samsung NX500 in 1080HD and 4K. That's right 4K is coming. OldBoy videos are shot with a Canon S120.

2. How do you afford to live in Vietnam and travel so much?
I am in education and work crazy hours in order to keep myself afloat. By trade, I am a history, theatre arts, and American university test prep instructor. I don't have a lot of savings because I dedicate all of my money on rent and travel. So it's as simple as working hard, finding time, taking off days, making those days up later, and finding the right time to go on trips. This is why most of my trips can not last more than four days.

3. Who holds the camera for you? Who does the post production?
When I am in front of the camera and there is no movement, then I use a tripod. If the camera follows me, then I have a friend who I am traveling with hold it for me. All other shots like close ups or long shots are filmed by me and only me. I do all of the editing myself on Sony Vegas and will never let anyone else do it.

4. How come in some videos you speak great Vietnamese but in others, your Vietnamese is terrible?
You are probably confusing me and OldBoy. OldBoy is a Korean American Ivy League graduate who has been living for many years in Vietnam. He's also my closes friend in Vietnam and has contributed to my channel when I was busy. If you listen closely to our English voices, we sound nothing like each other. If you want to see more of his videos just search for OldBoy Vietnam on my channel or
check out his own YouTube channel where he does all the work called Yevato Kim.

5.Where is (insert name of person here)?
People come and go. That's what living in Vietnam is all about for me. Sometimes you see people on my channel and sometimes you'll never see them again. Others have returned. If people aren't on my channel it's because our schedules don't align or there's no strong need to film a video if I do meet up with friends casually, which I wish I had more time for. Other than that, people are living their own lives and busy doing their thing.

6. Why do you always wear a caps with birds on them?
I like them. I also like to protect myself from the sun while I travel. I'm a huge Orioles and baseball fan for that matter. I check MLB sites more often than I check Facebook. I also appreciate birds and their beauty. The bent brims are a tribute to Hideo Nomo, my childhood favorite player, and a style that I've always rocked. I also don't have time to do my hair while I travel so a cap is just easier. I wear a size 7 5/8 if you're wondering. And most of the custom hats came from
I also consistently wear G-shocks and Lakai Manchester Selects- the latter I've worn for almost ten years now.

7. Do you have a Vietnamese girlfriend?
No, I don't.

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

9. Are you a tour guide/ Can you be my tour guide?
No I'm not, and no I can't.

10. I'm coming to Vietnam, let's hang out!?
I would love to, and I thank  you, but I'm usually quite busy and don't have time. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't ask. I love to meet interesting people. But first, ask yourself- what do you have to offer me? If you write me and don't introduce yourself or send a picture or bring up crap about girls I'm never going to take you seriously. "Hey I'm in town next week, I love your videos - lets grab drinks." That's not going to cut it. Put yourself in my shoes first. Remember that. With that being said, "" Private message only.

11. Can you recommend me something to eat?
I can't, but Mark can -

12. Where should I go in Vietnam?
Quy Nhon, Pleiku, Ninh Binh (Winter time), Con Dao, and deep North Vietnam in general.

13. Where are you from?
714, SoCal.

14. When are you coming back to America?
Sooner than later. Appreciate this all while you still can!!!

15. Do I need a motorbike license to ride a bike in Vietnam?
If your bike is above 50ccs then yes. Despite what everyone says about foreigners riding in Vietnam, don't be a law breaking idiot. Get a license. You wouldn't ride a motorcycle without a license in America, why would you come over to Vietnam with that mentality?

16. What's that song?
Chances are the song you heard came from the genius, Antti Luode. Just google him and his soundcloud and soundclick accounts will surely show up. Thank you Antti.

17. Ask away.

Hanoi Food and Hue Food Back to Back

I've been kinda busy so I haven't had time to properly write about two very recent videos.
But today I just thought I wanted to share with you briefly my Hanoi top three things to eat video and an evening of eating in Hue. These videos were actually shot about five months apart from each other so I had plenty of time to get my appetite back from that heavy Hue feature. Please enjoy the following if you haven't already, and make sure you give them a thumbs up if you enjoyed what you saw and want to see more. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bizarre Foods Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam FAQs

  The feedback from you guys have been overwhelming. Thank you so much for your kind words. The episode actually was the highest rated episode of Bizarre Foods this season on the Travel Channel. I'd like to think that you guys had a little bit to do with that.

  I was quite emotional when I finally watched the full version. I was actually scared to at first and held out for a day. When I heard Andrew Zimmern say "SoJournaling Vietnam" I just lost it. I was engulfed in this moment of shock and happiness. I can't believe the title of this blog and my travelogues was uttered on the Travel Channel. It was unbelievable because I didn't expect it at all.

   I really needed this. I really needed more momentum than what I was already doing. I grow every day, but more growth needs to be achieved if I want to keep doing this at an ever increasing uphill level. I needed the exposure more than anyone ever featured, and I got that and way more. I'm thrilled and mesmerized. It's surreal. I didn't eat anything for a day because it didn't set in just how cool this was for me. I watched Bizarre Foods a lot a few years earlier. Man..

   I've been getting a lot of questions about this whole experience and I'd like to take a moment to answer them.

-How did you get on the show?
The segment producer contacted me on Facebook. I thought it was a joke at first, until I looked up the name and the production company. I had a Skype session with a few people and the rest is history. In fact, The producer and director of the episode, Patrick Weiland, can be credited as the person who Googled Vietnam and up came my videos. So that's it. I didn't know anyone on the show or had any connections. I merely made videos that weren't that great six months ago and uploaded them. Back then I had around 8000 subscribers or so. Now we should reach 30,000 by the end of the month.

-How come you didn't take him to eat something more bizarre?
I didn't have complete control as to what was featured. The producers already had a theme of youth and entrepreneurship and I had to fit the mold. They specifically assigned me with street food in a given vicinity due to shooting schedules and times. It had to be in an area that's photogenic and beautiful enough- yet couldn't be across town from each other. So with those things in mind, it was my idea to pick youth street food and there was nothing better than banh trang tron for that. The duck tongue bit was not my idea at all but the restaurant's convenient location  next to the Notre Dam made shooting easier. The snail and shellfish was my idea and I'd like to think I had something to do with the inclusion of a "hot girl", but I didn't choose the location or the girl. If it was up to me, I'd like Andrew to try the coagulated duck blood with the rice crackers.

-How long did the whole thing take to film?
The whole thing took about a five days or so. I was involved with three days- two of which comprised of getting b-roll footage while the remaining night was when I actually filmed the segment with Andrew. That took about fours or so. Four hours condensed down to 10 minutes, yup. The first night it was just me and some friends including Mark Wiens and his wife Ying, Marn, Patricia, and Kikki, sitting around a table and eating. You see glimpses of that in there combined with my own footage. I was shocked to see that they used my footage. I didn't expect that much either. That was a truly amazing moment to see the Sapa travelogues and the Ca Mau travelogue on TV. The final b-roll day took all day and consisted of the landscape and other filler shots like the snake in the bag- which took hours to find a snake in Saigon that somebody wanted to be filmed, and the girl releasing the bird, etc

-Did you get a boost in subscribers?
I didn't expect anything extraordinary. I didn't expect an instant jump of 10,000 or whatever large number. It's still too early to tell, but my Instagram and Facebook have been exploding with new likes and comments, mostly positive feedback from you guys, which are much appreciated. It's gotten so bad that I had to change the settings on both to stop notifying me of new likes or comments. It's kinda crazy like that. I never thought I'd get to that point. Beyond that, a few people commented about how they saw me and all that. A friend's coworker even mentioned it to her. So, even if the growth is not immediate, the next month and few months will definitely help. This episode will air 5 more times this month and in over 40 countries coming up. That is intense.

-Can you get AZ's autograph for me?
No. I can't. I don't think I can even get AZ's autograph. Aside from following me on Instagram, Andrew is a super busy guy. He has his own food truck, his own company, food and cook lines, a family, events, and a hectic travel schedule in Bizarre Foods. I wish I had him on speed dial, but I'm not really buddies with him. In fact, I remember reading something somewhere that said that he hasn't called his friends to just hang out in years.

-How come you didn't ride your bike?
I didn't know I had to bring it. I also couldn't ride a vintage Vespa that was provided not only because of the gear shifting in the hands, but because the bikes couldn't idyl in traffic. I also don't know how to navigate the streets well enough from the hotel meet up point to the first location and so forth. So for those reasons it was just easier to get driven. It saved a lot of risks and it was just easier to hop on and off at locations. Trust me, I was a nervous enough wreck as is- taking the Ninja into that traffic wouldn't have been a good idea- though it would have looked cool, but for production purpose- it's got a pretty loud muffler- and convenience purposes it wasn't the best option.

-What's the deal with the snail sucking stare?
I can hardly remember that segment because I had half a beer and I was really buzzed. Even though it was edited with the cheese scallops first, I was already drunk at that period. AZ had to take away my beer and replaced it with Sting strawberry soda. That whole segment took over an hour to film.

If you have any more questions feel free to write them down below.
Once again guys, I just wanted to thank you for the support. Thank you for the views. It has been a long journey. I'm glad someone recognized my hard work on another level. It hasn't been easy. But thanks to the producers, I really saw a firmer road ahead and they were the ones who helped convince me to produce better videos, and so as you can see in the past six months, video and audio quality has definitely increased. a 4K camera is coming soon. I wont shoot all 4K all the time, but I promise you the 1080 footage will still look stunning compared to what I have now. Thank you Ngoc for bringing it over to me when she comes in a few weeks. Who is Ngoc? You'll find out soon.

Thank you everyone. Here's to better videos.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Bizarre Foods in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

Yeah. It aired. I haven't seen a full version of it yet- an amazing friend of mine webcammed it over to me. THANK YOU NGOC . But with the brief glimpses of myself on the Travel Channel... geeeze. I'm just still in shock. When I heard Andrew Zimmern say "SoJournaling Vietnam" I just... marked out.. pulled my hair out.... Thank you guys.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Channel Trailer is here finally!

    This has been long over due. I simply didn't make a channel trailer because I did not have the computer power for it. I was editing on a four year old i5 Thinkpad for the longest time. The screen wasn't even full HD, so that's why earlier videos had really high contrast colors. This won't happen anymore because I recently upgraded a new Lenovo i7 laptop that has been much easier to edit. It definitely has saved a lot of time because previews don't lag that much anymore.
But making this channel trailer did lag the hell out of it because I didn't have the raw files anymore so I had to use rendered clips that were all at least 1 gig each trimmed down to 1 second each. That's a lot of memory being utilized there. Either way, after a tedious day and a half I managed to complete it. The writing itself took me five minutes. Choosing the clips on the other hand...

    It was impossible to feature everything and every destination. I even left out Ninh Binh, which is such a shame. Not to mention everyone else who I could have featured as well. I'm sorry if I left anyone prominent out. But I just didn't have much time to work on the trailer, so I just chose whatever files I had available. I also didn't have the memory drive space early on to save all the raw files, but that will change because I own five external hard drives now and I will save all raw files for future references if needed.

   It was a fun little stroll down memory road to see all the places I've been to. Seriously, I don't know how I found the time to do all of this when I work six days a week full time. I can't wait for more adventures in the near future.

    Check it out if you haven't. Let me know what you think, and feel free to share it with your friends.

As always, thanks for the support.
Instagram @KyleLeDotNet