Friday, January 23, 2015

Suoi Tien Amusement Park and Giang Dien Waterfalls

      I tout myself as somebody who knows Vietnam well. But, I don't know everything. In fact, I didn't know Giang Dien Waterfalls was a place worth even going to.

     The first time I heard about it, some dude was planning to take his girlfriend there by bike. I had seen the sign leading into it every time I passed my grandfather's house. I hadn't thought much about it. My history with waterfalls hasn't been the most pleasant. I've seen a lot of waterfalls in Da Lat and the likes of the Central Highlands, and I never really was blown away much mostly because I was surrounded by hundreds of other tourists.

     I was kind of surprised that my friend from Canada wanted to go there. I raised an eyebrow at that. But I wasn't very busy that day and Mike was visiting, so I thought it was a good idea to just get out there and do something new. In the end it was actually pleasant.

     We left late as we always do. I wanted to stop by Suoi Tien because it was along the way, and I haven't been there since my first trip ever to Vietnam. I remembered just how packed and crowded it was, By and large I didn't really want to return ever. Most of the time, my family packed into the golf cart and rode around complaining of the heat. This was also the first time I had ever seen an arapaima fish in my entire life.

      Many years later I found myself alone across from Suoi Tien. It was my first trip alone in Vietnam by myself. This was towards the end of the trip when I went to Thu Duc by myself to try to meet up with my cousin Hiep. I was quite confused about the whole bus situation and somehow I found myself in front of Suoi Tien. It was a really chaotic moment because I was surrounded by dudes who appeared as if they really wanted to beat me up. This was after coming back from Hanoi and Bac Giang where I was in some pretty shady situations. This was my first time traveling and leaving America by myself. Early OG followers would know the Vietnam by Myself series.
I flagged down a cab and got myself out of that area ASAP.

     Many years after that here I was again- riding the same golf carts with the same covered up female drivers. I tried my best to remember just how hot the summers were. It was such a nice day for being out. Summers in Saigon are awfully hot. I don't look forward to that at all again. This time though, the park was empty on a Tuesday afternoon. We didn't do very much because we had a time crunch. I had to be back somewhere at 6 or else.

     The ATVs looked fun. It would have been something my family would have never let me or my relatives do.
      Another thing that impressed me about Suoi Tien was the massive crocodile enclosure. I've never been that close to crocodiles before and definitely not that many. And the strangest thing happened too. A viewer named Kevin who had written me asking about hotel information (which I didn't know about) randomly came up to me and said he watched my videos. I kind of freaked out and was in complete shock. Each time it happens, I don't really know how to react. I just freak out and act all boyish. It's such a small world. The power of the mind can be really impressive.

      The new road bypassing much of Bien Hoa was really smooth and pleasant to take. It really cut time down, except when our lackluster driver got lost. We witnessed a pretty severe truck on truck accident that involved some hogs.

       Giang Dien Waterfalls also seemed pretty desolate and empty that day. We virtually had the entire paradise of a place to ourselves. There were a few people staying at the resort style hotel. But for the most part, the only other humans we came into contact with was this half white half Vietnamese guy and his local girlfriend. We didn't really say much. It was kind of awkward because my friend's kids were half white half Vietnamese themselves. The dude was probably thinking about how he was staring into his past representation right before him. There was also a Vietnamese dude taking photos. I remembered how he asked me if he could take pictures of my friends as they went swimming. I was fine with it. His camera equipment was too legit for him to be a creep. I mean, he had on gloves to take photos. He also complimented the C100 camcorder I was holding my hands too. That felt good. I mean nobody takes the the RX100 seriously- by the way, I used both footage from both cameras in the video and most of the time, I can't even tell which is which, except the C100 was a lot shakier due to its weight and full manual settings.

       Anyways, the waterfalls were beautiful all the way around. The bamboo lawn chairs sprawled out on the trimmed lawns. The trees and the pines reminded me of Da Lat and not Dong Nai. This was well worth the trip. I didnt go swimming, but I was able to enjoy some Sting soda and some beef jerky for a change in relative silence. Something I've been yearning for for a long time.
   
        Two things I learned that day that still stands out until today. The first is that I will never underestimate the traffic into and out of Saigon during rush hour. It was so bad that I had to hop out and get a xe om driver, who rode from District 2 to District 7 in a mad rush going against traffic and on sidewalks like never before. I made right back at six. Damn. I wish I had a go pro during that time, that would have made an amazing traffic death defining video that would have gotten the driver in a lot of trouble. The second thing I've learned from hanging out with my friend and his kids is that I'm nowhere ready to be a father figure. I freak out and worry too much about injuries. I grow anxious and nervous when they're in a situation where I think it's dangerous. I would go crazy.

       And then I realized why my mother wouldn't let me ride a bicycle or skateboard as a kid or why she wouldn't have approved of the ATVs either. I'm so similar in my mom even though I try not to be that it's scary. It's scary.

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Vietnam - I don't really know what to title this post.

         I haven't booked my tickets yet, but I'm pretty sure Jakarta is going to happen.
Hanoi might happen shortly after that too when I have time off for Tet. But, looking at the flights right now, it's a tad bit expensive. We'll see though. I have really really good reasons to visit Hanoi again. Lets just say these Hanoi videos would be star studded, but flights during the Tet time are ridiculously expensive- as much as 350 dollars round trip from Hanoi to Saigon.

          Normally, I don't flinch when it comes to traveling, but this Jakarta trip already looks expensive. I have horrible budgeting abilities. I don't control or handle money well, and in the end, I spend more than I should, and end up regretting it. Every YouTube video that I make, every time that I go out, I need to be more cautious and plan better. For instance, if I were to take a cab into District 1, I would try to film as many videos as I can to make something worthwhile to watch. I can't just cab it into the city, eat a meal, and not film anything. I can't just unwind and relax without a purpose to film. My whole life is like a big storyboard now - one segment - one clip at a time. So what does that mean? A lot of planning on my part, which I no longer enjoy doing.

        Many years ago I remembered sitting in Historical Theory class drawing up an itinerary of my travels throughout the Mekong Delta, emulating my visit a year earlier when I hit up a dozen cities in twenty something days. I used to day dream and plan my trips like it was a religious experience down to the T. Nowadays, in a more realistic world, and having done it so many times, I'm not envious about that one bit. In fact, all I want to do is sleep and watch 2014's best movies. With the Oscar season around the corner, nominations have given me the chance to preview some potentially amazing films. Unfortunately, all I have time for now is to watch the trailers during meals in front of the computer. I need to find a better balance in life. Free time away from the books and free time away from editing. Writing this blog again gives me a sense of inner peace that I've missed for a long long time.

        Everything is happening quite fast and I want to try my best to capitalize on the momentum and relative "fame" that I'm experiencing now. I've been recognized in Saigon quite a few times lately. More and more people write me daily describing how they enjoy my videos. Ultimately, that's what matters in the long run. But in order for me to continue doing what I'm doing and traveling as much as I am, I need to create more opportunities to make a little bit of side cash. T-Shirts are a first start of my overall "business" plan. I'm not a business guy. I hate making a profit off of people, but it comes down to the line now where in order to make better videos with more food and more exciting places, I simply need to generate more money. Now, the designs won't be the most amazing or unique. I take pride in designing my own things and creating my own products as a wannabe artist. The designs will be related to my YouTube channel and this blog. I won't have generic Vietnam stuff. It's not about trying to sell as many shirts as possible, it's about my loyal followers appreciating my efforts before I get burnt out and go crazy. Money generally makes me feel safer. I'm not expecting to get rich or anything like that. I just want some extra food or travel money, that's all.

       I've already taken less hours and less class time. I'm cutting back in favor of YouTube. I've turned down potential money changing opportunities in favor of creating the best videos from Vietnam. I truly believe in this now. A year ago it was for fun. Now, it's a lot more serious. You'll see what I mean from the next few slew of videos. Every video is going to just get better and better. I'm really excited to generate more and more for you guys. I appreciate you guys writing and commenting and sort of believing in me as I guide you through Vietnam. Hearing you say that your parents watch me too - now that's some what of an achievement already. I'm ever so grateful that this will always be a part of my life - this showcasing Vietnam to the world. I just need to learn how to manage my life better.

     December was such a loaded month in terms of travel and filming. January has been definitely quiet, but busy professionally. February will be even more intense. The days are just flying by.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Da Nang, Vietnam and how things just fall into place.















             I had no plans to return to Central Vietnam because I was just there six months ago by myself.

            Then I returned on a last minute whim because flight times were convenient enough for me and I had a friend who has never seen the region as well.

            We flew in early. Early mornings at the domestic terminals = blah. for lack of a better term.We ran late like usual, but made the flight like usual. Never ever think that early flights mean empty airports. That is not the case with Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, or most countries in Asia.

          I hate flying. Even if the flight was an hour and a half. I still hated flying.

          As soon as I left the airport and hopped into the cab, hearing the drivers Mien Trung or Central Vietnam dialect brought a smile to my face. This signified that I was far from Saigon and that I couldn't understand him much at all.

           The hotel was further away from the beach than I had thought. It was okay though because the weather didn't make it possible for me to swim, nor do I ever swim when I go to beaches. Da Nang was chilly.. like a Da Lat summer day. The hotel wasn't ready for us. So with empty stomachs, barely a few hours of sleep the previous night, and a massive headache from flying, I walked down the street to the beach to relative emptiness. Looking into the horizon reminded me of the brewing storms from Quy Nhon not too long ago.

          With no plans and no sleep, I saw the giant Me Quang Am statue in the distance. I wanted to go there because I have never been there before. But first, mi quang was on the brain. A random taxi driver took us to this restaurant that looked a little bit upscale for me at first. But it turned out to be such a good deal because the quality and quantity was extremely high. For 50,000 Dong a bowl of the dac biet, it better be worth it. It was. That was as an incredible bowl of morning noodles in the cool beach air. I'm literally salivating right now.

      We worked out an agreement with the taxi driver to pretty much rent his services for the entire day. Normally, if I was traveling by myself, I would just use a xe om. But, with a friend to split the costs, a car was far more comfortable. And besides, we were on a time crunch because we had to be in Hoi An that particular night. We went to the Linh Ung Temple to browse around for a bit. I've been to many spectacular temples and have seen many large marble Buddhas before. It wasn't a big deal. The template layout with the bonsai tree was pretty zen. It would have been more zen without all the selfie sticks though. Oh well.

       Up until now, I still haven't had concrete plans. I was just  researching on my phone that barely supports any battery now. I will definitely get a next gen. phone this year when the latest flagships come out. Goodbye HTC. Hello anything but an iPhone. The taxi driver mentioned a former US airbase on Son Tra Peninsula. We were already there, so I agreed to go up there. It was a winding road up to the top of Monkey Mountain where we actually did see some healthy looking monkeys wandering through the brush. I was hesitant at first because I wasn't sure if it would be worth the money in taxi fees to go up there. Usually, former airbases are just restricted areas that have been decimated or currently in use and thus civilians are restricted from entering. Giant telecommunication ball things rose from the hill. They were quite interesting to say the least. I wanted to explore behind the walled facilities, but upon walking past the restricted signs and along the path, someone from up top spotted us. The moment is actually captured in its entirety in the video you'll see. I didn't want to edit the video too much because I want my content to be real reality in moments. I didn't want to shape how I want it to be conveyed. I want it to be actually how it is. So that's why I didn't add any music to this extensive vlog. Anyways, so I was nervous because I didn't want to get in trouble with any officials up there. The guard up top just looked at me for a while. I made the first verbal hello and it just went downhill from there, so we left the area without really getting to see much. Oh well.

       On the way back into town, I spotted a fishing beach filled with basket boats. An icon of central Vietnam, these boats represent not only the traditional, but the laborious tasks of individuals whose lives are dependent entirely on the seas. The seas were rocky that morning for sure as hundreds of boats lined the shores with Da Nang's skyline in the far distance. As I explored more, I discovered many washed up dead creatures, which I later discovered were from fishing nets. An old man walked up to me and asked for some money. I didn't realize it at the time because I barely understood him. He picked up metal scraps that washed up, hoping to sell them for a few thousand. Maybe not even 5,000 Dong. Either way, I gave him 100,000 Dong because he looked like he needed it more than me. When he told me was 60, I let out a big holy shiiiiit, which I purposely edited from the video because it was actually very profane. I was shocked that he was 60. My dad is older than him, and he looked like he could be my dad's dad.

         By now, fatigue had set in. The noodles were long gone. I wanted to try the famous rolled steamed pork and the taxi driver knew exactly where to go. I lucked out with this guy- and mostly because Da Nang is small enough to where all the famous places are known. He took me to the spot for heo cuon. And the premise is quite simple - high quality perfect rice paper, with steamed rice cakes, fatty pork, and a mound of veggies so delicious I forgot that I was eating veggies. Honestly, I've never been passionate about leaves and roots until recently. The flavors... you just.. have honestly got to try this dish. At first, I was very hesitant because I'm afraid of the taste of pork fat. It's something that could cause me to gag on the spot. This didn't. In fact, it was the best thing I've eaten in a while. This bit in the video is a little bit short because the last part wasn't saved. After I bit and swallowed, I went on a poetic notion about this, but it wasn't saved for whatever reasons. It's okay though, I honestly, don't really like showing myself eating too much. I'm not entirely comfortable with it. I don't consider myself a foody or anyone who wants others to watch him eat. I produce travelogues and if I happen to be eating, then so be it. But.. I rather show you the food, than my mouth.

         After that incredibly satisfying meal, the Marble Mountains had to be seen. In fact, I've never even been there. The elevator to the skies really intrigued me. Many people complained and griped about its construction. It doesn't look that pretty from a far, but trust me, it's awesome. What a great idea. It really saved a lot of time. You still have to climb a bit after it though. You're not at the peak when you leave it. Also, it stops running at around 5, so make sure you time your duration well. I didn't have much time. It was already getting dark and I wanted to make sure I had a chance to see the 18 Stages of Hell Cave near the parking lot. So we explored around for a bit, never made it to the summit, went into a cave with some shrines and bat poop. It was actually very spiritual and beautiful. Definitely worth it to visit despite all the tourists around. I would love to see all of the Marble Mountains, but for this trip one was enough. We had time to visit the Hell Cave below too. That was scary fun. I also highly recommend it. I don't recommend the part where they turned off the lights on us when it was closing time. Hell closes at 5.

    Somewhere along the way down from the Monkey Mountain, I picked up two Chinese girls who walked up the mountain and wanted a way down. I exchanged numbers with one who happens to live in my area in Saigon, but the call didn't go through because we were on the mountain, so I never got her number. I did give her my card though, but no contact has been made. I definitely think this channel could use a Vietnamese speaking Chinese girl for sure.

      After Marble Mountains we went to Hoi An. That video is coming up soon.
     
 




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Monday, January 19, 2015

My grandfather's grandson.

        My grandfather has been hospitalized for the past few days now. Any good grandson would make the five dollar journey by cab to go see his grandfather as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I'm not that good of a grandson. I waited a few days because I put other things in higher priority... like editing YouTube videos. 

       This morning I found myself walking through the familiar halls of Binh Dan Hospital. The droves of idle people situated on any chair, bench, or any ground clearance possible. Of course a straw mat has to go between them and the floor. It's a must. The forgiving weather the past few days have made today's stroll a lot more pleasant than before. Yet, still to my left and to my right patients auditioned for the Walking Dead, while their exhausted caregivers looked on with tired eyes.

       The elevators took quite a while to open and when they did a nurse kept hitting the open door button so we stared at each other awkwardly for the longest time as the door remained opened for at least a minute. And in that minute, more people faltered in. This man with a mustache and sun charred skin stared at me as I pretended to use my phone, flickering through Instagram photos of attractive people completely in a different world from where I was standing. A fan installed in the elevator made me laugh out loud.

      My dad's cousin took me in and my grandfather's room was actually pretty decent compared to other rooms and other scenes. Hospital conditions here aren't comparable with western standards. But at least, his room has air conditioning, and there was room to move around without having to step over some caregiver sprawled out on the ground. He looked as frail as ever. I can't believe this was once a man who would beat my dad up and forced him to kneel naked on durian spikes. This was once a ferocious man. And now, look at him. Not an ounce of fat on his body with his bones clearly visible. Yet, I still noticed his bone structure to be quite large compared to mine. I silently shook my head at my mother's horrible genes imbedded into me.

      I didn't say much to him when I sat down on a stool directly beside his bed. Four or five other relatives were there visiting him as well. I sat with my arms folded across my body as if I was cold. I wasn't hot either. I was just scared of the toilet in the background when another patient in the room, shirtless with lots of tubes coming out of him, walked out. I quietly prayed to Buddha that that dude wouldn't cough up anything that would hit me. He looked like he was about to gag last night's dinner.  In the cracks of the door, I saw the original Saw torture room. The torture device was the squat toilet looking mightily painful. I cringed and squirmed from the thought of even entering that wet chamber with everyone's hanging laundry. 
 
      Another relative brought back a box lunch consisting of some fish and soup. My grandfather sat up and barely ate. The relatives openly discussed his lack of stools from lack of food.
Then they discussed about giving my dad's cousin some relief by letting him go home and another relative would sub for him. Unfortunately, there were all women there. A man would be needed to help him into the bathroom and all that. When that came up, everyone realized there was only one person to do that. A wife caring for her husband next to us chimed in and pointed at me and said something along the lines of let him stay overnight. The room fell silent. I looked at her. My other relatives spoke up and just simply said I wasn't able to do it. But the truth is, perhaps I'm just not man enough.

       An old looking tube came out of my grandfather's hospital pajamas into an older looking bag. Red fluids filled the sack, and I was grossed out. And then in the brief time as I sat there, I felt extremely disappointed in my self. I was disappointed that I felt disgusted by my grandfather's blood and his stained pajamas. I fought with myself so much to ignore hygiene. The love I have for my own blood should be greater than fear of his blood? The nurse came in and gave him shots without using gloves. After she left, he removed the cotton gauges from his arms and like clock work a relative grabbed it from him without any fear of contamination. Is that real love? That's something I wouldn't be able to do. I wouldn't want to grab my grandfather's blood with my bare hands. Does that make me a terrible grandson? I first met him when I was 15. Is that even an excuse? I'm from American. That's a poor excuse. I don't know what true love is. Unless it's towards women who don't care about me. I fought with myself so hard over this as I sat there in relative silence next to my relatives.... his real relatives.

True love?
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Vietnam Blog Day 3

      I started using my spare bedroom as an office and I've been a lot more productive. Okay, maybe not really.

    Many of you are writing asking me how to help you find a job in Vietnam, especially in ESL. Unfortunately, even though I am in education,  I don't teach English, so I can't really help you. But I would advise that if you wanted something, just do it. Just go for it. Have a safety net and just try your skills.

      But it's nice to be able to finally make it to some use. Then I realized that I have a horrible tendency to just drop things all over the place without much organization. I have that problem with video and audio files too. I definitely need better life and tech. organization.

     I keep thinking that I'll have time over the weekend, but I never do. Something always comes up that requires me to be away from the comp, may it be going out to get more footage or just hanging out casually with friends when I'm not filming.

     The weather has been nice. But I still sleep with the AC on. It tends to get stuffy for whatever reasons. The weather today reminded me of southern California wedding in Saigon. It was bright and sunny, but a gentle breeze replaced the normally humid air. I didn't feel dirty or sticky today much.

      I'm really enjoying your messages to me on Facebook. They are personal and mean a lot to me. It's still pretty surreal that people watch my content and have the drive to actually write me. Like I said before, the only way to ensure that I'll read your messages is send me a private message over at http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net. It's the sure fire way.

      I started having this weird stomach ache. Usually, I time my bathroom activities to almost a T. But lately, it's been sporadic. Riding a bike in a hunch over position is a terrible way to hold it in. Sometimes I just have to wait until I get home. Good days are when I can control my own bowel movements. Bad days are when I can't. That's life in Asia.
     
      Someone I thought was a friend told me that she is often scared of saying the wrong things around me because she's worried that I'll just disappear or kick her out of my life. That made me realized how quick I am to react or overreact. I'm not quite the forgiving person under certain situations. I'm a little bit cruel. The good news is when I happen to fall in love with someone, I'd do anything for them. I'd even leave Vietnam if the situation was right. Yeah. I still miss you. 
As much as I'd like to wipe you from my memories, I still miss you, Sarah.

      I've been eating tamarind with ice - da me- every day during lunch this week. Each day before dinner my stomach is just overwhelmed with so much acidic pain that I can barely ride. I had to just eat something before I could even get on my bike today. It was really that bad. I've been struggling with whole what to eat in Vietnam fiasco again. I just don't know what to eat for dinner at times. Often times, I just end up buying a white bread chicken sandwich or a hamburger. Sure, banh mi is great, but you get sick of it after a while, especially when you get sick from eating it. The truth is, street food does make me sick from time to time. It's hard to narrow it down. Most of the time it's che or some random pickled veggie.

      I hate Instagram. I mean, I love instagram- i think it's an awesome way to put photos in a gallery for the world to see. However, instagram seems to be full of spammers and people commenting for the sake of getting follows. Instagram is too vain. There are too many beautiful girls with boyfriends filling my feed with couple stuff that either grosses me out or depresses me. I wonder what it's like to be in love with someone and be able to share it on Instagram. It's so fascinating how typical the male mind works on instagram. See a hot girl - follow her - drool - repeat repeat repeat. I do regret not using it sooner. I'm a little new to all of it.

     I've been watching a lot of John Oliver as of late. He's a brilliant political and current affairs comedian.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vietnam blog day 2.

     In an effort for people new to the channel and new to me to get to know me better, I've decided to write an entry every day for as long as I can. Ya know- the real nitty gritty of it all - whatever that means.

    I actually don't know how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. I never learned.

   I don't proof read this blog. I don't reread what I wrote. Everything you see here is quite raw and spur of the moment. Often times I'm doing something else in the moment. Often times I'm on my phone and I happen to find some time to jot a few things down before it gets too hot. Sometimes a blog entry is started and stopped over five times. When I'm done, I'm usually too tired to bother reading it again.
I just don't feel the need to proof read much because I don't really want to be perfect. These words are the words from my thoughts and my thoughts are far from perfect.

Happy and thank you for 15,000 subscribers. That was fast. Let's see how long it'll take us to get to 20,000. This growth is astonishing. Thank you thank you.
Big changes coming up. I'm overwhelmed. I'm on my own.

 T shirts are coming soon.

I really want to start working out again, but the two recent crashes have prevented that. Nina and Seb are on their way out of Vietnam. That was seriously a fast six months. I can't believe time flew by like that.

Why is it I mess my house up really easily? I mean one minute, the maid came by and cleaned everything up to a perfect sparking T. then things went out of control again. Seriously, the maid needs to come weekly now. Not whenever I have so much body hair on the ground that I start coughing up my own hair balls at night. I need more organization in life and time management. I swear I've said this the past three years.

Recently, some people have suggested that I stop editing my own videos if I'm so busy. I lawled at this. I know many of the big time YouTubers don't edit their own content. They have a crew working for them. I'm not a big time YouTuber. I actually take editing as an art and a form of expression. I like editing, just not so often hahaha. Oh well. arghhh- after I wrap this up, guess what I'm doing?
I'll never let anyone edit my videos. I just need a better computer to edit smoother.

I'm like half a sleep right now. I don't remember what I even ate for dinner. Did I even eat anything?
I should go to bed before this gets weird and it seems like I'm talking to myself still. Tomorrow is an even longer day.

It feels good to be writing again. I missed it a lot.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What happened to my blog about Vietnam?

       If you wanted to get a hold of the real me the only way to do that is through my Facebook page private message at http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net
Comments on Google+ and YouTube are often times brushed over by someone NOT me. I wouldn't try to get into a serious discussion with "me" on there. Just a heads up.

      This is just not acceptable. Seriously, this lack of updates... is just not right. In fact, it's almost half way through January and I haven't written anything. There's so much I want to get off my chest, but I can't because I've gotten somewhat mainstream now.

        I remember talking about how I would never sell out. But I sensed that after my Myanmar trip, I started to tone things down, which in turn has made me a lot more popular. Then again, I also think it's because the content quality has gone up. But either way, I'm going to write an entry each day from now until the end of the month.

       The semester has started again and it's a full grind. If you guys only knew what I go through in a day, you would appreciate my videos a lot more and how I find the time to actually make them. It's getting to the point where I'm at crossroads. I'm fed up with working 12 hours a day and then having to go home and edit videos. Something has got to cave. The depletion of this blog has been a result of that. But it's a fair trade off I guess. More people watch my videos anyways. I'm averaging 30,000 views daily. That's up from a lot. It took me 15 months to get 10,000 subscribers and in the last two months I've gotten almost 5,000 subscribers now. Now, a long time ago those numbers didn't mean anything to me because they were under a thousand. But I'm starting to take note of them.
As this recent surge in popular continues to grow I feel extreme pressure to produce better videos. Everything takes planning now. I can't freely do and eat whatever I want anymore. Every time I hang out with friends or travel, I have to have a purpose. Videos and blogs must derive from everything.
Dare I say... it's more like a business now?

       After meeting Mark Wiens, things came into better perspective for me. Seeing him in person and how he does his work really inspired me to push harder and excel even more. Speaking of which, have you seen the two videos of me on his channel? I should appear in one or two more. I also have two more unreleased videos featuring Mark as well. I'll upload them soon. I felt extremely nervous in the banh xeo video and it showed. I don't think Mark has featured anyone in his videos like he did with me as far as I know. But beyond that, it was a great moment with worlds collided.

 
 Recently, I got a chance to fly to Hue and I met up with Xuan, a purple haired formerly blonde girl from Florida. I'm sure you've seen the video by now, but she's amazing singer. Too bad she lives quite far away. I took a chance and sacrificed a weekend and a lot of money to fly up there to produce this video amongst a few others. Everything was planned out on the whim- something I rarely did before. The attention that this video has gotten has been tremendous. I mean- it's got more likes than any other video I have. It's really spectacular. I had never expected that. When she busted out with the Vietnamese singing out of the blue, I knew we had a winner. I knew we had a star. I had known that Xuan could sing and play the guitar prior, but I didn't know her time spent in the countryside helped her that much.  When I first met her in person, I didn't know what would happen or how the video would play out, but things worked out so well.

Many people have been curious as exactly who she is. Well, the long story short is that she's a young American girl visiting central Vietnam for an indefinite amount of time hanging out with her Vietnamese American friends also from Florida, who exposed her to this world. She's only been there for two months and prior has never been to Vietnam. I flew up, rented a car and driver for the half day to go see her. I had a flight out at 8 o' clock and decided to come see her at 2 after meeting up with Luong to explore a tomb. The ride to her village was difficult because the roads were still being built. The driver got lost a few times. It wasn't that far from Hue, but it felt like we were stepping way back into time. It got rural and it got rural fast. At first it felt like any other village. We met up and had some really bad ice cream and smoothies at the best place in the village. When she mentioned something about tombs, I didn't expect much. Then I saw these massive tombs and that literally blew me away. I really have seen so much of Vietnam. It takes a lot for me to get impressed. That moment was it. Stepping out of the car and gazing up at these sky high tombs and structures in that cemetery just made my jaw dropped. Along that same road there was a beach at the end with clear water. A buffalo passed us by and its owner started bathing it in the water. Another first for me. A beach bathing buffalo. That was fricken amazing. FRICKEN AMAZING~!!!! What a fricken sight. That made the entire journey so worth it. Then we went to the local grilled frog restaurant where the bathroom went through someone's bedroom. There was an old dude sleeping in the heat shirtless. The frog was so fresh it was still moving. The frog meat was rich and sweet. I drank a few beers (one) and got buzzed that I had to stop for a bit. That was so fun. Leaving felt like leaving my close friends behind. That was so worth it. A special thanks to Xuan and her friends in the village for making everything possible. You get to watch a condensed version of everything in the video I made. If this video does really well, I'll try to get more of her in the future. But like always, if you appreciate what I'm doing here, then please help share this video and my channel to your friends who might be interested in Vietnam. All it takes is for you guys to post a video you like on your Facebook wall and that would help me so much.


        My health hasn't been the greatest. That massive anxiety attack during New Years Eve messed me up. I recently suffered another fall off my bike going up a ramp when some idiot decided to go down the ramp and cross into my lane. Spilling over and downward, the bike crushed my left leg again. Unfortunately, I didn't wear knee pads that day. I will never ride without knee and shin protection again. It seriously takes 30 seconds to put my set on. It would have saved me from a night of pain. Riding the Ninja and getting used to its brakes has been the biggest challenge so far for me. The brakes are stronger than the FZS and the Ninja pulls much harder and faster. This only exacerbates how moronic some riders here are. Just a few hours ago, I was turning right along a curb and some woman decides to turn left straight into me. If I didn't stop my bike completely, we would have had a full on collision. She rode off oblivious to everything.

       I also burnt my knuckle on my muffler when I inspected the bike shortly after. That was painful.

Anyways, I'm out, in the mean time be sure to follow me on Instagram.com/KyleLeDotNet

See you tomorrow.









Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year Everybody!

        I've tried to sit down and write this post at least five times now. Each time, something came up or I was too exhausted to properly formulate my thoughts in a cohesive way or I couldn't delineate enough to make it worthwhile. I have time now because I was able to finally schedule time with my maid who should have come a month ago. It's sort of embarrassing to have to wake up at 5 AM to do a quick clean up first before she came. When she swept underneath my bed, I couldn't help but feel so dirty. Ultimately, I just blamed it on Mike and claimed that he brought his shoes into the house. The fact is, when you balance the amount of things on your plate like I do on a daily basis, ranging from actual commitments that pay the bills, to video editing, to maintaining a social life back home and here, in addition to getting out there to gather footage, things tend to fall on the back burner. A clean apartment has been one of those things. I keep wondering how is it possible for me to be this dirty? How is it possible that I attract so much dust and dirt wherever I go?

        The internet has been incredibly slow the past few days. And I've been literally too tired to edit videos after coming home each night. That's why I haven't released anything new on YouTube the past few days. As video quality gets better and better, I'm going to need more time. So daily videos are a thing of the past. But I will release as often as I can. Hopefully, at least three or four videos a week on
non travel weeks. Aside from that, if you really miss me, you can interact with me on Facebook and Instagram and all that good stuff. I'm just excited about the next few week's videos to come. There's a lot of great stuff heading your way in the next few months. I'm excited to sit there for hours editing for a change.

      Visiting Central Vietnam again was a last minute sudden decision that saw me book flights one day and leave the next. I didn't want to go back that soon. I was just there six months ago. But, arguably, those three days were some of the best travel days ever. I was just motivated to see and eat as much as possible. Planning wasn't my biggest strong point. It never is. But, I felt like there was so much captured for the first time even though this was my fourth time there. I'll write more about specific things once I release videos about them. Hopefully my memory won't fail me.

        So, it's 2015. Wow. that was fricken fast. What a life- what a past few months. We're 14,000 subscribers now. Up from 900 this time last year. Incredible, but there's still a lot of room to grow and expand. It'll happen sooner than later. I don't know what's in stored a head, but I'm going to make sure 2015 is going to top 2014. I'll travel as often as possible. I'm at crossroads right now between day time commitments and YouTube. Eventually something has to give, and I don't think the former is going away anytime soon. So here's to uncertain things. Here's to Vietnam- a place I'm still not quite bored of yet.
And here's to finding time to write more frequently.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Vietnam Videos of 2014

I've released many videos within the past year. Heck, the past year had the best videos ever. The past six months has had the best content to come out of Vietnam since ever. Period. So, it was hard to choose, but I decided to narrow down 10 of my favorite videos from 2015. (No SoJournaling Vietnam videos are included because they are in a league of their own)

10.

I was in the deep Can Tho countryside and this was a cousin's engagement party in a sense full of wild animal meat. I'm just sorry I didn't try much or filmed myself eating it. I just love the POV aspect of it and how clumsy I sound from virtually no sleep the previous night.

9.

I returned to fish breeder lady whose daughter ran away with a lesbian. This time her stock was poisoned by a neighbor obsessed with roosters. So to help her out, I buy six hundred fish. You can't write a movie any more strange.

8.

I really enjoy making montages at times because I can use such awesome music from Antti Luode.
This was just a short and simple few hours at Dam Sen with some friends. This is one video
I can watch over and over again. This was a really fun day.

7.

I'm sure there are plenty of snake eating videos, but this has got to be the best on the net right now.
Mostly because Tien is in it though. There has been some awesome videos this past year. This is one of them. It's just complete.

6.

Once again the brilliant music by Antti Luode just flows so well with this top things to do in Hanoi.
I have some typical things, and some not so typical things. This video was difficult to make to say the least. But, I'm glad it exists to give others ideas. I really like the pacing and editing of this video.

5.

Sometimes the best videos are completely unplanned. I was going fishing with my little cousin in Dong Nai. I thought it would be a video about childhood fishing trips. Then it turned out to be fishing with gangsters. The rest is history. This video brings you so close to real Vietnamese people that I actually called my parents to thank them for embedding the language into me well enough so that I can interact with people like this. There's no other channel that can do that. It's 3 AM, right now as I'm doing this.
I have to wake up in 4 hours. I'm still writing this because I'm just so damn passionate about bringing you guys Vietnam videos. Damn, this was a good video.

4.

I just love this video because it was so fun to make. I hope to do more of these in the future. They're pretty painful to edit, but the end product is something so culturally niche that people truly in love with Vietnam would be able to understand. That's why I'm thankful to you guys as followers and readers.

3.

There's really so much happening in this video. I love Vietnamese weddings. The food shots
and the underlining message of not fitting in really makes this video stand out for me. I wish more
young Vietnamese people could actually appreciate my experiences in their motherland so they don't have to come into it completely surprised and shocked.

2.

I know you guys enjoy these longer vlogs, so I'm going to keep bringing them to you. This was just
such a loaded day. I know down the road, I'll watch this video and be reminded of how awesome life
was in Vietnam. Plus, you get to hear a lot of my accents and dialects attempts. FAIL

1.

To many of you this is just a clearing in front of a mountain. But the amount of travel time I had to do from Saigon to this place from Pleiku just for this video. I went through a lot of hurdles and hassles before and especially after filming this. This was also the most expensive to film to date by far. I don't know why it hasn't done well even though it's the first footage of that area in 20 years. This video represents the lengths I'm willing to go through to bring your the best videos from Vietnam. I'm proud of that fact. What an adventure this was.

You might disagree or agree with this list. If you disagree, tell me which  videos were your favorites and why throughout the past year. Just leave a comment below or on my facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net
Like my instagram too at http://www.instagram.com/KyleLeDotNet

here's to the future, thanks guys. Now tell your friends.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top moments of my 2014.

       I've been trying my best to keep moving forward, and not dwelling in the past too much. But I can't help but realize that 2014 was probably the best year of my life. I want to take a moment to glance back at specific moments that I hope will remain with me for a long time. There's no specific or chronological order. Everything that happened was special in their own rights.


      Onward to the list. - in no specific order


- Experiencing the cremation temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. I didn't do much research before I went to Nepal. It was a spur of the moment decision to go there without any prior knowledge. I didn't even know what the capital city was or what to really expect. There was a trickling rain when I got to the temple, so I found shelter under an awning. Local Nepalese people surrounded me as I blended in. I remember hearing the cries of runaway children asking for their mother a few feet away. Bodies wrapped in white cloth were carried swiftly through the courtyard. Clouds of smoke fighting against the rain meant that bodies were being burnt. In fact, bodies are cremated all the time at the temple.
So I walked around, and watched from across bridge to see families gathered around platforms, bodies lined up awaiting their burn. Ashes being dumped into the murky rivers made me
cringe at the thought of where it went down river. That was quite a riveting sight to be seen.  


- Visiting the Philippines Refugee Center at Morong, Bataan, the Philippines. The plight of the Vietnamese boat people have been dear to me ever since I was made aware. This location was home to thousands of people who left land and hit the uncertain seas. The ones that were fortunate made it here. They also built temples and a cemetery here. This is the kind of thing that young second generation Vietnamese kids abroad should learn about. This is what really matters- the plight and struggles of their people. This is what really matters. Reading the Vietnamese names buried beneath Philippines soil gave me chills. A friendly security guard who grew up and played with the Vietnamese refugees welcomed me and showed me around. Most of the original grounds have been demolished, but a museum still stands today, and operates when people stop by. Not many people stop by anymore, but I'm so glad I did. 



-Keeping a promise I made with a Hmong lady named May in Sapa, Northern Vietnam. Four years prior, I trekked the mountains of Lao Cao District and at the end I promised I'd return. This year I had a chance to do it again. The concept was very simple and exactly the same was before. I called May, arranged a rendezvous time and date, met up with her, went to the market, and bought goodies. Then we trekked for four hours in some remote terrain with magnificent eye candy views of the true Vietnam. The first time I trekked, I was wearing skate shoes, and I fell many times thanks to the mud. The second time I trekked, I also wore the same kind of shoes, and paid the price. I never learned. But seeing May again, seeing how fast her children have grow, seeing her house and the development around her, proved to me that in most parts of Vietnam, you can still find truth. In her village, in her hand crafted house, huddled around a table drinking happy water in the blistering cold, I found a lot of truth.


-Flying to Hanoi for a day just to see Tien again for the last time. With our goodbyes already exchanged, and everything on the table a week earlier, it was such a gruesome day of heavy travel and such a heavy heart. It was a joke at first to fly up for a day. Then it really happened. I left Saigon and arrived in Hanoi. We met up at Starbucks after hatching an elaborate plan for the entire thing to even happen. One of us wasn't as free as the other. There were a lot of risks on Tien's part, and I'm forever gracious and thankful that she put her neck on the line for me. We didn't do much, and I didn't cry very much at the end. I remember closing the day off with boba with her, another forbidden thing on her list. She was breaking all sorts of rules for me. I hopped into a cab. I could have and should have cried more. Hanoi traffic was a nightmare. The cab driver ripped me off. I didn't care. I launched from the taxi, and did a full sprint to check in with barely any time left. I remember gasping for air on the plane because I hadn't stopped running since the time I slammed the taxi door shut. It was hard to breath knowing that this was really the end. 


-Letting my family meet my friends in Bien Hoa, Dong Nai.  Growing up, my life and my family life were often separated. They were like two parallel coexisting universes that blended. But in Vietnam, family and friends can cross dimensions anytime. This is exactly what happened one day, when I invited my friends to my parents' hometown, my grandfather's house, and to my cousin's place for an awesome indoor BBQ. It was so surreal seeing friends next to be so familiar with me. My friends interacting with my cousins and uncles. Wow, just wow.  Time and money well spent. This was one of the best days I've had in Vietnam.

- Watching the Hong Kong skyline lightshow. I've grown up surrounded by Hong Kong films. It's been a passion of mine since the day I moved to Vietnam to visit Hong Kong. I finally got the chance recently. The overall trip could have been better, but I'm not going to complain because it's something I've been looking forward to for a long time. Finally doing it, was just a culminating aspect of things that I wanted that I was able to do. The power of will. The skyline was breathtaking. I was in awe. But, I was more in awe over the fact that I worked hard to accomplish something that I really wanted. I did it. I went to Hong Kong. 


-Drinking and snacking away with complete strangers in Ca Mau, Vietnam.
I've been to most places in Vietnam now. Ca Mau was kind of like the last southern frontier of sorts. It's a land that made me fearful of mosquitoes. The cape of Ca Mau wasn't an easy place to reach. I flew in with limited time not knowing how I would get there. I found a random xe om motorbike taxi dude and trusted him. He knew a boatman, who gave me a ride out there. The actual tip was disappointing and hot. There just wasn't much, but the idea that I was at the southern tip of the motherland, a place very few people like me get to experience. I was feeling bummed out about being alone because I was going through some emo crap during that period. On the way back, the boatman decided to stop at some random stilt house where dudes were drinking. I joined them, forgetting that they used their hands to grab my ice, forgetting that I shouldn't get drunk, and yet once I let my guards down, I was able to really soak in that moment. We didn't talk much about anything. But the mere fact that I was sitting in a circle of real Vietnamese cape people. It still amazes me how different our lives were up to that point. We had nothing in common except we were all Vietnamese. At that point we also shared a common interest of sipping on beers and shouting loudly to make our points. Without that moment, Ca Mau would have been incredibly boring.


- Seeing Yangzom again in Bangkok, Thailand. I always knew deep down inside that I would see Yangzom again after bidding farewell to her four years prior. I just didn't know where or when. For a while I thought it was going to be in Vietnam. Then briefly, I thought it was going to be in Nepal, and then suddenly, I found myself in Bangkok riding the rails without much knowledge, 30 minutes late to see her. I played this very event in my mind hundreds of times before. The moment was a bit anti-climatic because I had made her wait for so long, but I waited four years. And I can't describe that feeling of seeing her again except it was an emotional overload. We chose a place to sit down, but could only speak when the live band in the background took a break in between songs, but it didn't matter. I was just so happy to see her again.

-Eating coconut ice cream at the Merlion Park in Singapore.
Singapore represented a redemption of sorts for me. I hated the place when I first went there, but I gave it a second chance, and I enjoyed it a lot more. I still feel there's so much more left unexplored, and I can't wait to go back. I picked this moment, because not only do I love modern skylines, and Singapore is full of that, but I really enjoyed the simplicity of my existence at that time. I was with a local girl named Annabelle who watched my videos on YouTube, and there she was in the flesh, and we were eating ice cream together. That was just so awesome to meet new people, and to get to know a complete stranger. We'll be friends for a while, I'm sure.


-Eating cow cartilage with Luong, in the streets of Hue. I never thought I'd ever go to Hue again. This city fits quite well in the theme of my 2014 as a place full of redemption. I found it. Hue was awesome the second time around, but mainly because of the fact that Luong was around. It was the last night of my stay in the city. We sat roadside looking at traffic like we've done thousands of times before. It was cool to be sitting with another viet kieu in Vietnam, doing our thang. Our origins differ, yet there we were, virtually the same, eating the same thing. This was a defining moment of the Viet kieu in Vietnam experience.  You won't get Viet pride any higher than what we had there on that road. 


-Accepting myself in Hoi An, Vietnam. I don't quite know what I was looking for. I came into Hoi An this time thinking I'd grow more independent and free. I wanted a break from work, from YouTube, from everything. I just wanted to be, so I had Onra's Chinoi series 1 and 2 on repeat in my earphones as I walked around the Old Town of Hoi An. I first accepted the fact that I was by myself and alone. I'm okay with being alone now. I paid attention to the tourists and to the locals, and found myself closer with the people of Vietnam more than ever. I don't care whether you're born in America or born in Vietnam, I don't care if you can't speak Vietnamese, or know nothing about Vietnamese. Vietnamese people are Vietnamese. I accepted that fact and stopped questioning myself or my identity. Only immature people question whether they are this or that. It's hard to just put labels on culture. I'm Vietnamese. I'm American. There are some parts of me that's very Vietnamese and some parts that's American. The end. Hoi An as amazing as ever though. 

-Finding LZ-X Ray in Pleiku, Central Vietnam. After a rigorous motorbike ride hours deep into the Pleiku wilderness, without having any maps, or GPS coordinates, I found what I thought was Chu Prong Mountain. LZ X Ray itself was a mystery that I just stumbled on because I got lucky. Thousands of people died in that field. I was the first person to record footage of that clearing in over 20 years. It was an area that the average person would not be allowed to enter because it's a restricted zone. I guess I'm not an average person after all. LZ X Ray is landing zone where a famous battle took place that inspired the Mel Gibson film, We Were Soldiers. Why is this a top moment for me? It showed my willingness to go out there to capture footage. It was such a stupid and dangerous thing to do. That video didn't get many hits, but oh well. At least, I did it. At least I was there. 


-Visiting the floating markets of Can Tho, twice. Here's another thing off of my Vietnamese bucketlist. Even though I did this first in 2013, the second two times were way more meaningful. In early January, I went with my Vietnamese family. In late December, I went with my Canadian friends and their family. Lets just ignore the fact that the floating market is f'n cool. There's nothing like eating noodles on a boat with all that surround and smell. So much controlled chaos of traffic in the waters. But, this made it onto my list because each time I traveled late into the night, with no sleep, when I was up to see the market. And each time, being out there instantly woke me up. At times, I thought I was bored of Vietnam. Moments of travel like these help rejuvenate my spirits. Vietnam isn't a place to live for everyone. But the possibilities for travel helps keep me sane. The floating markets are just too cool. I just wish they didn't have to open so early. 



Damn, I did a lot of things. Is there even anything left to do in 2015?
Special thanks to the people I've met this year. Thank you guys. Thank you thank you.
Thank you readers and viewers. Thank you thank you. Here's to 2015.

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