Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm so lucky in Vietnam. / A week's glance.

    I can't believe it took me a whole week to start writing this. Naturally, it won't be as exciting, but on the night that I came back to Saigon, I was exhausted beyond belief from a full day at Vung Tau with Kikki.

     This was a random thoughtless moment of lets just go to Vung Tau on a Monday when everyone is working type of a deal. I'm really lucky I'm able to do that because in the past three years I've worked really hard to be where I'm at right now. So I can take a random Monday off if I wanted to.

    So I rented a car and a driver and we went. I got the dog ownership experience that I've always wanted since I was a child. We both got the new "Vung Tau Express Way" experience, that turned out to not really be that much faster. Maybe by 30 minutes or so? But not by an hour or two like I had originally thought.  We just wanted to get away from the city. Two weeks into the new semester, and I was already burnt out. I needed to just sit by the beach. The beach was a little bit dirty with debris, but it was empty.

      There's not much to do in Vung Tau. It's pretty boring after a few hours. You can ride the cable cars up a mountain with an amusement park and spend time there. That might be great for kids. I didn't feel like jumping in the water because I don't like bathing in the same water as ships and oil rigs. That would be like bathing in Long Beach. If you head further north to Long Hai and Ho Tram, some of the private resorts offer decent beaches. But the heart of Vung Tau isn't great.

       So why go to Vung Tau in the first place? It's a road trip potential. It's one of the closes beach cities to Saigon. And it offers different vibes. Perhaps it's the breeze and less humidity, but Vung Tau feels like Vung Tau and not like Saigon. On the weekends the crowds converge and romance fills the air as couples wander the beach front blvds.

         On Monday it was relatively empty. We didn't stay until night fall. We were out of there by 5:30 after checking out the lighthouse. My friend Joe wasn't even in town, so I felt deprived of his presence. Joe's like a best friend I never see or communicate with. If you watch the Vung Tau video, he appears in it. But I digress. I shot a few videos with Kikki, which will all be up very soon.

          When we got back into the city, OldBoy and Kikki met for the first time. We went out to eat some quail and other grilled stuff together in the District 4 of all places. Then I went home and my lower body just gave in. Before that I had a serious stomach issue all day. I couldn't unclench myself and just enjoy the beach. I think it was because of the banh khot that I ate earlier in the day.

          Tuesday night after commitments, I met up at with Canh to get some curry crab and oc buu. I'm an oc buu guy.

         Wednesday afternoon, in between commitments I went with my mechanic to check out a beautiful CBR400. It was so perfect except it has Da Nang license plates. If I'm going to pay 100,000 million Dong, I want Saigon city plates because it'll just be easier to resell in the future. I'm committed to upgrading my current motorcycle.

         Thursday night at 8:30 or so, I was more than worn out from lecturing all day, so I just wanted to unwind. I really wanted to wrap up the Sapa video. Unfortunately, local friends were in the area and invited me out. I figured, I had to eat, so why not. Restless nights. Early mornings raged on.

          Friday morning was extremely difficult to wake up to. Friday night,  I booked my flight for Hanoi very soon. I'll book another flight to Singapore pretty soo,. That's right, I'm going to give Singapore a second chance.

         By Saturday, I was a zombie. But I still went to the grand opening of Frugos Yogurt. A video will be up very. I'm a fan of frozen yogurt, and I'm glad I have a place close by and located in the front of the Crescent Mall next to the popular Phuc Long coffee.

          The next day, Jake invited me to a dam do in Binh Chanh. Now Jake's an interesting guy because he's the most fobby, yet Amercanized guy I know. He speaks perfect Mien Tay Vietnamese, and perfect English. I've yet to meet anyone who was raised in America, but speaks like a local like him. In fact, he lives like a local. Even though Binh Chanh Rural District is still considered Saigon, but trust me, you don't feel like you're in Saigon at all. At all. So the music was blasting. Patricia and Tommy came along too. It was very different for Patricia. She's had this Vietnamese party experience before, but never in the countryside like this. Everyone was drunk by the time we came. As we hopped out of the taxi, all eyes gazed at us with such strong fixation that I felt rather uncomfortable. The food was amazing. The deer was some of the best protein I've ever had. The shrimps were juicy and moist. Jake spent 30 million on this party. Some of his relatives have never even seen a white person before. They were so drunk that some of the old women started to grind up and make out with Tommy. When things escalated to more molestation, I had to get my friends out of there. It was too hot. The locals were going crazy. I laughed a lot. But if it wasn't so hot, I would have enjoyed it more. Major props and thanks to Jake for inviting the crew. I was drunk after one beer.

         I went home and slept because the night before I didn't go to sleep until 4 AM. I woke up hungover at around 5 or 6 PM. I had plans to visit the Tax Center to buy some t shirts because supposedly prices are half off because the mall will be torn down due to the subway construction. I met up with Kikki, and tried a new youth hip style restaurant centered around potatoes called Mr. Potato. It's basically fries, chips, and potato wedges in various flavors and dips. Not the most original, but it was pretty busy for a Sunday night. We called it a night early because I had to wake up really early the next morning.

         Then the next day, and I found myself in the outskirts of Saigon. By the way, I've said it before, but Saigon is massive. The outskirts are very much like the Mekong Delta "Mien Tay" countryside. The scenery and landscape are pretty uniform in the sense that the flora and fauna consists of coconuts and dust with the occasional pond or two or three. A car picked me up, and I went to an interview at a university. Now, I wasn't looking for a job, but someone referred me to a potential theatre gig. So I applied thinking that I would be running a theatre program. It turned out that there was some miscommunication and that they were more interested in using me as a TOEFL teacher. There's no one else that knows this test better than me in this city. Hands down. My scores and my students' scores prove this. But I'm a history and theatre guy.  Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to work for them and as much as they wanted me there,  I couldn't give up what I already have in the city.

          The dean of the school was kind. We spoke English and Vietnamese without hesitation. I would have loved to work there. We share a common passion for theatre. After lunch with some staff I felt incredibly depressed. I couldn't give up what I'm doing now and its flexibility. I have my own private office now, and I don't need to hold office hours. I'm on top of the totem pole. But either way, I had a great experience out there for a few hours. It's good to see a different side of the Mekong Delta. But the city is where it's at for me. On the quiet and stormy ride back, I realized just how lucky I am to have what I have now. I felt bad because they really wanted me. But at the same time, I'm doing extremely well in the city now. I'm established. I can wear a t-shirt if I wanted to. Sometimes I do. But this interview experience will be quite reflective in my life for a while, because I'm not quite sure why I still feel torn about it. It's a no brainer. There's way more pros about what I have in the city now, and a lot more cons in the countryside. I don't want to go too deeply into exactly what they are. But trust me, I have good it in the city right now. Yet, for a minute I was a bit torn because the people in the countryside seemed extremely inviting. I'm not going to work there though ultimately. The decision came fairly quickly, but it feel great that such an institution wanted me so much. But I'm just sorry that the current situation wasn't more ideal. Remember, I'm trying to work less so I can bring you more videos and travel experiences. An increase in workload isn't exactly what I'm looking for right now. Yet, I feel torn because I'm afraid to disappoint people. They were really nice to me.

         I'm pretty lucky. I've paid my dues. But I'm also pretty established in all of my positions. Things are a lot different now. I still get stressed out tremendously. I'm not going to complain as much about the daily grind anymore. I'm working a lot smarter. I have a greater sense of balance now.
Life is great. Tien, Nina, and Jennie will be here in the next short months ahead. I'm extremely excited about the near future.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dam Sen Water Park: A week after the facts.

      This must be a first. This blog is in a drought. I've been yearning to be able to just sit down somewhere and start writing. Every day, every night that's passed since last Sunday has been a struggle to do that.
This is why there hasn't been any new blog postings.

     Last Sunday I had an opportunity visit the Dam Sen Water Park located in District 12. This popular attraction is literally adjacent from the theme park next door. Dogs are not allowed inside. (I called and asked) Old Boy wanted to bring his daughter there because she's been wanting to go swimming. He invited me and some of my friends to his family affair.

     I'm not a big water guy. I don't know how to swim. I'm mildly afraid of water. When I go to the beach, the water won't touch anything higher than my ankles. The last time I went into a pool my eyes were red for months because of the chlorine. I'm not scared of germs, but I find sharing the same water with strangers and children who have limited bladder control a little bit daunting and unpleasant.

     So I went because I felt like it was worthy of a video. When I got there, I realized that I didn't feel comfortable at all filming random shirtless dudes and girls in outfits that resembled bikinis. The bottom line is I hated filming people with wet clothes and people seemed like they just wanted to enjoy their afternoon out. I felt like a voyeur  with a camera. I felt disgusted in myself. Filming random people, even though it wasn't intentional, there reminded me of how grossed out I felt of my cousin who always filmed random girls in his home videos many years ago when he returned home from Vietnam.  So I put the camera down and just filmed a quick walk around and enjoyed myself along the sidelines after the rain let up.

        The rainy season was on full display that day. Old Boy had just mentioned how he wanted it to rain because the experience would be more "intense". I might have echoed this in the video as my own beliefs. I really have no opinion. I was worried about my shoes. Towards the end I just wanted to find shelter among the waiting parents on the chairs. Underneath the umbrellas, surrounded by half naked children, people showering in public, too much skin for my conservative eyes. Bare feet squishing around in water. Fully clothed people in pools. Children confessing to their parents things I didn't want to hear.

      The first time I went to Dam Sen Water Park was the second time that I went to Vietnam. Many years ago girls didn't sport top bikinis. Didn't see an G strings though. Guys didn't have as many tattoos as they do now. Tattoos were actually quite common on many guys. Some guys seemed pretty fit. They looked like they had money and time to go the gym. A few bleached white girls didn't seem to care that their vampire skin was being exposed to the sun. Maybe their makeup had SPF protection? Speaking of such- the store right by the main entrance actually had SPF sun block for sale. That was actually really interesting to me.
So what do all of these aspects mean? Vietnam is modernizing.

Tickets were around 5 dollars or so. They close really early at 4:30 or so.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Annoying Vietnam Questions answered.

       I never expected to become an unofficial ambassador to you guys out there interested in Vietnam. This blog was just for me and my friends. My YouTube channel was not meant to be an information station. It was meant to display my art for my memories and my friends' outlet if they miss me. But, ultimately what happened was that people looked at me as the go to guy for things related to Vietnam concerning Viet kieus, travel, and life. For that, I am thankful. I am appreciative. I have met amazing people from this online presence. A few doors have opened. Forever friendships have been formed. I'm generally a very helpful guy. I enjoy sharing Vietnam with people around the world. I answer most intellectual questions. Yet, sometimes I wish people would think before they ask, or Google first.

1) How much money do I need to travel to Vietnam?
I hate such broad questions like this one. Without telling me more details, I seriously don't know where to even begin. How much money you need to bring to Vietnam depends on you. What are you going to do? Where do you want to go? How do you want to travel? Are you even going to travel? Are you a FOB who wants to impress his old friends? The mere fact that you're asking me how much money you need means that maybe you shouldn't go to Vietnam and should save your money for next year. But to keep things simple, I wouldn't bring less than 2,000 dollars for 1 month in Vietnam. If you have a lot of relatives and friends, double that amount.

2) How much money do I need per month if I live in Vietnam?
Once again, entirely up to you. What are your eating habits? Can you toughen it out in a little room? Do you want a sky rise apartment to yourself? Do you want to live in the more expensive expat area? Are you going to have a girlfriend? Are you going to travel? Everyone is different. Locals can barely get by at 200 dollars a month if they don't have to pay a lot of rent. Some people live off of less. Personally for me, my expenses are naturally higher because I bring you YouTube videos, which means I have to actually go out and travel and eat at certain places. Yes, costs in Vietnam are lower, but it depends on how you want to live. Motorbike gas is going to be a lot cheaper than car gas. But certain food costs might be higher. Maybe you'll go out more? Either way, as a single person by myself, I need at least 1,500 dollars a month. 2,000 dollars for extra breathing room, like shopping and sickness.

3) Is it dangerous to travel in Vietnam?
No. It's actually quite safe. Even women shouldn't have a hard time traveling here. Solo travel can be very rewarding. Just play it safe and don't do anything stupid. Don't flaunt your gold necklaces or smartphones. You're not going to get kidnapped. If you worry that much, then maybe you shouldn't even go in the first place. Your biggest enemy though is going to be motorbike mufflers.

4) Do you get bitten by mosquitoes?
Yes, but not as bad as you think. It's not a problem because I am in AC most of the time. There are mosquitoes in Saigon, but most of them are harmless. Expect to get bitten in the Mekong Delta, especially if you go out at night. If you're in the jungle, you also might get attacked. But for the most part, mosquitoes aren't a big deal in the city. I don't recall the last time I got bitten in Saigon. Knock on wood.

5) How did you get a job / Can you help me get a job in Vietnam?
Just like any other jobs out there. You bring credentials to the table and you apply. If people like you, then maybe you'll get hired. I can't help you get a job in Vietnam. You have to do the research yourself. But I do warn you that the work environment here can be quite different. Certain rights and expectations you have should be left back in America or wherever you came from. What's the best way of getting a job in Vietnam? Apply.

6) I'm Vietnamese looking and I want to teach English in Vietnam, will I be at a disadvantage?
Yes and No. Your looks will mean that it's going to be harder for you to get your foot in the door. But if you are talented and actually know how to teach, you will be elevated higher than any white guy ever would. If you carry yourself professionally with staff and can connect to students, you will stick around and be rewarded. Most Viet kieus I know are actually awful teachers. Just because they know Vietnamese as well as English doesn't mean that they are great teachers. If you're a legit teacher, especially if you graduated from a good university, know your grammar, and is actually serious, then you will find work. If you can teach SAT then you're hot demand. Don't let the myth that Viet kieus are discriminated and can't find work fool you. They are, but white dudes who aren't good won't stick around if the kids don't like them. It'll be harder for you to secure work, but it could happen. It's an up hill climb, but it's not impossible. Don't feel entitled just because your Vietnamese though. Feel entitled if you got the skillz. that's skills with a z.

7) Can you film this ___________? Why don't you film _______? Can you go to __________ and film?
Unless you can present reasons logically why I should film something or some place, then I'm not going to fulfill requests. If you pay me then I'll be glad to. Money talks. But, I'm not going to just do whatever you ask. That's not really how this whole you watching videos for free works. I find it hilarious that people demand to see certain things when I really have no benefit from it. I will not film Vietnamese girls without their knowledge. I think voyeurism is disgusting. If I don't get permission, I will either blur out their faces or obscure their faces. My channel isn't a request channel. I'll take requests though, but you either have to prevent logical reasoning or pay me enough to make things happen. For instance, a viewer wanted to see LZ X Ray in Pleiku. We worked out a deal. I didn't make any money off of it. In fact, I lost money, a lot of money to be able to bring that video and other recent Pleiku videos out. Most again, I love to hear what you have to say, but please present me with something that could benefit me as well. Try not to sound so demanding.

8) I'm going to Vietnam, can you show me around?
No. The straightforward answer is no. Unless you can present some compelling reason why. Can you just imagine yourself as me for one moment? Imagine if complete strangers who don't introduce themselves, ask you randomly to hang out. Would you? No. I don't think you would. If you're an interesting person, if you have good grammar, and you take the time to write and introduce yourself, then I would definitely consider it. If I can't and I'm busy, don't get butt hurt. Please understand that I have a life too. And yes, I will ignore all messages that say, "Hey I'm going to Vietnam, can you show me around?" "Hey I'm going to Vietnam, do you want to meet up?" Summers can be rather difficult. I'm getting anywhere between five to ten messages a day from rude people who think I'm a tour guide or don't have anything better to do. I'm down for meeting new people, but formal introductions need to be made. I've met some of my close friends thanks to this blog and YouTube, so I'm definitely opened to that. But, do not ask me to hang out without telling me anything about yourself. Do not ask me to hang out months in advanced.

9) Why don't you respond to my message on YouTube/ this blog / Facebook? You'll lose me as a fan if you don't respond to me.
If I don't respond it's because I'm too busy making more videos or living my real life. The bottom line is I try to reply to as many messages as I can. I don't always get to read all of them. Someone else helps me with that. I'm not going to suck up to you for your views. My mentality is that if you don't want to watch then you don't have to. I'm trying my best here aleady. I really don't owe you anything. It's not intentional. It's because I'm preoccupied.

10) Where's OldBoy? How come OldBoy doesn't have his own channel?
OldBoy has a life. His life is incredibly busy because he has a family. He makes videos as a favor to me. I asked him to make videos for your viewing pleasure. He's a contributor to my channel. He doesn't have his own channel because operating a YouTube channel is a lot of work. You have to remain consistent. He's just not that motivated in creating his own because our collaboration is great. But please don't have any expectations. OldBoy is doing this out of his own time for your viewing pleasures. Unless you sign up for, then don't have any expectations or demands about his videos.

11) Do your parents give you spending money? / Is your family rich?
Yes, if you can believe it, please ask me this from time to time. Many people assume that I have rich parents who give me money and I just hang out in Vietnam doing nothing. I wish this was true. I would love to live like that for a while. Nothing in life has ever been handed to me on a silver platter. My parents are very low middle class. They have never given me a single penny since I've come to Vietnam. Everything I have and all the places I've been to are because of my own hard work, not because I happened to be privileged. BTW, my grandfather is not rich at all- for those of you who saw the video of his house.

12) Is it easy to get girls in Vietnam?
Perhaps easier than in America, but it's not as easy as you think. Don't think that if you're Viet kieu then girls will throw their numbers at you. You're really ignorant if you think that. You should stop reading or watching my videos. It's not 1995 anymore. Nowadays, younger girls don't even care about Viet kieu. in fact, there's more negative stigmas associated with deadbat Viet kieus than anything else. If you want to get a girl anywhere, you have to be real and create connections. Perhaps some Vietnamese girls aren't demanding of certain western ideals. Some Vietnamese girls don't really care about their man's looks or height for instance. But nevertheless, you have to be a half decent person in order to attract a girl. Nothing's instant. Surely not love. Noodles aren't even that instant if you think about it. Settling might be though.

13) Why do you always have fish and ear picking videos?
There's demand for it. I enjoy fish. I like ear cleaning. People eagerly await for both types of videos. Remember, my channel is not necessarily about educating you about Vietnam. My channel is about my life and what I like. I'm doing a lot of people a favor. The difference between me and other people is that I'm not just in it for monetization purposes. I actually make videos as an art. I actually make videos because they can bring joy to people. Fish and ear cleaning does that. Remember, you don't have to click if you don't want to. If you do, then thanks, but if not, thanks anyways.

14) Why don't you have more subscribers?
It's probably your fault for not whoring my content out to your family and friends. I've called on you and relied on you to do the marketing for me. If I don't have more subscribers, its your fault. That and maybe I'm just not likable enough. Maybe there aren't that many people interested in Vietnam and English. There are many reasons. Either way, as always, if you want to see SoJournaling Vietnam grow to greater proportions, then you need to help me. How can you help? Share a video you like with your Facebook friends or via email. All it takes to a copy and paste. Thanks.

15) Whatever happened to John?
He went back to America over a year ago to continue life in the real world.

16) Who edits your videos?
I do.

17) Have you ever been heartbroken before?
Yes. Three times in 25 years. As recent as six months ago. None of them were local Vietnamese girls though. I don't take it well.

18) How come in some videos your Vietnamese is okay, but in other videos your Vietnamese sucks?
If you can't tell my voice apart from OldBoy we have a serious problem. We sound nothing like each other. In videos where the person can barely speak Vietnamese and has arm tattoos, then that's OldBoy. He is a Korean American.

As always please like my Facebook page at
for a lot more updates in between blogs and vlogs.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

FAQs about Me.

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 2. Now, all videos are shot with a Sony RX100 and a Canon S120.

2. What are you doing in Vietnam / What is your occupation?
I am in education and American university test prep. I do not teach English or ESL at a language center. My daily life is a lot more rigorous than that. By trade I am a history, theatre arts, and more recently a film and mixed media facilitator of learning experiences.

3. Why are you in Vietnam?
I grew up quite oblivious about Vietnam and about travel as most second generation Vietnamese Americans tend to be. Some members of my family went to Vietnam during the summers, but my parents were never interested. I went for the first time in the 9th grade. It was quite different, and I enjoyed it, but not enough for me to want to go back anytime soon. The second time back was five years later. This was a painful and miserable experience with my parents. I vowed never to return to Vietnam again. The following year after a series of events, mostly because I met Yangzom, I wanted to volunteer in Hanoi. This fell through, so I still traveled there by myself for the most part. I covered many cities from the south to the north and back. And this was when I fell in love with Vietnam. In my last year of university I was constantly mesmerized about the idea of traveling back again. By chance on a given day, two international students sat down next to me and their English was so horrible that a light bulb went off in my head. The original plan was to come here to teach English, but luckily, things have evolved into higher levels of academia.

4. How come sometimes you don't release videos or blog for a while?
Because YouTube and this blog does not put food on my table or pay my rent. Please understand that I have a rigorous day job that requires a serious amount of time. During the usual semester, I tend to lose my voice at least once or twice a week. I'm often on my feet. I fight traffic. I blog when I can, and I edit videos when I can. My priority is not to entertain you unless you be my sugar daddies/mommas. That's not going to happen anytime soon, so my main priority is to the hands that feed me.

5. How come you always wear hats with birds on them?
I'm a fan of baseball. I'm a fan of sun protection. I don't bother to do anything to my hair when I travel. The Orioles are one of my favorite teams. I like birds. Though, I don't really recommend wearing a prized hat though. You'll likely ruin it by sweating it out. I have a lot more rarer hats in America that I would love to wear, but I would never ever bring them to Vietnam.
I also wear G-shocks and Lakai Manchester Selects.

6. What's your favorite city in Vietnam?
Aside from my kin roots in Bien Hoa, I'm a big fan of Da Nang and Ninh Binh. I'm a proponent for North Vietnam travel. I'm not a big beacn guy, but I enjoyed Quy Nhon a lot. In other words, I really like Saigon for its modernity.

7. How can you stay in Vietnam for so long?
Three years is a long time. I don't disagree with you. The secret of staying in Vietnam for long is to keep yourself busy. You must also leave Vietnam as often as you can. There's a plethora of countries to visit around Vietnam. I have been to 10 in three years with several repeats. You must travel out of Saigon if you live in Saigon. You must travel to Saigon if you live elsewhere. Have some diversity, but keep a sense of routine. I also recommend having your own place and living in a sky rise apartment as high as possible to avoid noise and congestion. Some people dont mind living in a shared expat house or in a little place in a deep alley. Both of those things aren't for me. I enjoy my privacy and peace from a higher place. Moving to the suburbs was the best decision I've ever made. The real bustling Saigon is overrated and can cause a lot of stress, especially for people from smaller cities like me.

8. Do you have a Vietnamese girlfriend?
No, I don't. I'm over that phase. I'm not interested in serious relationships with local Vietnamese girls anymore. There's a wide variety of reasons deserving of a separate blog entry. But the basic reasons include language and cultural barriers. Even though I understand Vietnamese at a very complex level, English is still my native language. I've been on a lot of dates and have met many interesting and beautiful girls, but I don't see myself with anyone of them long term for a variety of reasons. Perhaps I just haven't met the right person? But either way, I've never officially have been anyone's boyfriend over here nor am I looking to be one.

9. 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. 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.

10. What's your background?
I consider Garden Grove, 714 my hometown. Long Beach will always have a place in my heart for four years. I love that city. I used to want to be a geologist when I was younger. I have a theatre background. I miss it very much. I did it seriously for over ten years. Theatre Arts was my Vietnam before Vietnam became my Vietnam, if that makes sense?

11. When are you coming back to America?
I don't know. But there will be a day and it's sooner than later. Grad school has to happen, and I'm not getting any younger.

12. How old are you?
25. 1989.

13. How did you and Oldboy meet?
By random chance / The universe wanted it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Random ramblings from a really tired and sleep deprived person.

        I was riding home late one night the other day. 10:30 PM or so, not quite that late, but pretty late for me to be on my bike. I hurried home because the next morning was filled to the brim with things to do.
As I split lanes and went on the left car only lane, not really caring much about getting pulled over that late in the night, I noticed that all the bikes on my right were of couples returning back after a Sunday night outing. Girls would cling onto their guys like magnets. Guys would steer with one hand and hang onto the girl's hand with another hand. Of course, this is only possible with automatic or semi-automatic bikes. The funny thing is all of their bikes were inferior to mine, yet I was the only one riding alone. So what does that say? It means that you don't really need a fancy bike to get a girl. And it means that for a brief moment I actually felt alone. Then I realized I should really focus on the road.

       I haven't felt that way for a while because I've been surrounded by support through friends locally and abroad. The past few months have been more social than most of my life. Normally on a work night, I would never meet up with friends. But I've been ignoring my responsibilities for something  I haven't been on a date in a very long time, mostly because I don't feel the need to be around local girls because mentally there hasn't been any connection for the longest time with anyone. Secondly, I just haven't met the right ones or have had the time for ones that might be questionable. Either way, maybe I should try dating white women.

        But, let me digress for a bit.

        The next few weeks are going to be extremely busy for me. You'll see a decrease in the amount of videos produced, but I'm coming out with the Sapa and Nepal travelogues very soon. Definitely before the end of the month. You'll see both. I'll also have a Damsen Water Park video soon. OldBoy will have his own version of Top Things to Do in Saigon in One Day. I'm heading to Hanoi in the next few weeks for a while- so be prepared for a bunch of videos from the northern regions. Nina is coming back really soon. I'm really excited about the next few weeks. But summer's gone and the fall semester has begun. A lot of minor changes has made my life more stressful than normal.

     The other day I almost bought a 2000 Ducati Monster S400cc. The size of the bike was perfect for me, but unfortunately, it was too powerful. One slight throttle and my field of vision literally went blurry. There's a big difference between a 250 and a 400... at least between a Japanese thumper and an Italian beast. I was so close to buying it, but for once I was able to control my spending. I would have been very poor and unable to travel anywhere if I bought it. I was rather tempted because I've been obsessed with buying a new bike for a while now. But I'm glad I put my foot down on such a potentially amazing deal. 400cc in traffic doesn't make sense. I almost crapped in my pants at how fast that bike was. I was literally trembling at how fast first gear was.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Top Things to Do in Saigon, Vietnam 2014.

    I'm sick of other sites recommending places completely out of Saigon on their list of things to do. Come on, the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta are both no where near Saigon. Should you visit them? Definitely, but they are more day trips than actual places to see or do in Saigon. So I compiled my own list, most of which can be seen in the video link below. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. In no specific order.

   Visit the Saigon Zoo (Thao Cam Vien) - The amount spent vs. the hours spent ratio means that this place is such a bargain. You can see the big five African animals for a dollar. Where else can you do that? Certainly not the Santa Ana Zoo. The grounds and cages are actually much improved than in the past. My mother used to tell me stories about how she remembered that lions were fed rau muon. I still don't know if she was pulling my leg or what. Either way, I enjoy the zoo because I like animals. This is actually a pretty decent place to spend some quality time with someone that you love. You're surrounded by children and animals, two things that all women should love. It's a good place to judge a girl's character. Or it's a cool place to just see some big snakes.

    Drink smoothies and coffee at a coffeeshop - It's no secret that Saigon is full of coffee shops. In fact, there's at least one in every street corner. Some are on the streets, and some are sky high (more on this later) Either way, there's an endless supply of novelty and themed coffee attractions, especially in Phu Nhuan District. I like the UP Cafe because the concept is rather simple, yet unique in its own right. There's a castle theme place, a Harry Potter dungeon theme, and even a tree house one located in Go Vap. So the next time you're craving for some Starbucks, maybe you should consider some local brew instead.

   Eat lunch at the Lunch Lady - After OldBoy raved about her broth, I had to try it for myself. I'm glad I did. She cooked some buon Thai on Monday. I didn't know what the hell that was, but in the end it turned out to be delicious. The difference between the Lunch Lady and the local establishments is that her ingredients are higher. The shrimps are bigger. Yes, her prices are slightly higher, but her food did remind me of how my mom cooked noodles. My mom didn't go cheap on the ingredients. Your mom probably doesn't either. The Lunch Lady is well worth a visit. She's actually located pretty close to the zoo, so you can just hop on by around lunch time. Definitely worth the visit even though I was hesitant to recommend her at first. Either way, the hype is real.

    Go shopping for clothes at Saigon Square - I always tell people to pack light when they come to Vietnam. They can buy t-shirts, pants, and even jackets when they arrive. Saigon Square 1 and 2 both have shops that sell decent quality clothes for affordable costs. You can try your hand at bartering too. But don't be too cheap. Here, you'll find an array of name brands and name brandz. I'm not a fashion guru, but I occasionally find shirts that I really like there. The great thing is that I'm surely going to find a size that will fit me. I don't have to shop at the teen boys section anymore.

    Buy souvenirs in the Backpacker Area - The first impression is that I should have recommended drinking beer or loitering into the night at Pham Ngu Lao, but I'm not a proponent for this kind of "Khao San Roadesque" vibe. The Backpacker Area is good for really three things: tattoos, and a variety of foreign food like Mexican and Indian, and trinkets and beads. If you're looking to buy a keychain, a novelty t shirt, or magnets, this is a good place to start.

     Visit the War Remnants Museum - This is a must visit. In order to understand Vietnam today, it's imperative to examine its war history. I mean, if there wasn't a war, I wouldn't exist and many of you wouldn't be where you're at now. So in order to understand Vietnamese people, you need to understand their history. This museum offers a perspective worth noting. It also has excellent air conditioning if you want to escape the heat of the midday. I especially enjoy the planes and tanks outside. Definitely worth a visit.

     Go fishing - There are many spots around town for this to be possible. My favorite is in Binh Xuyen in District 8. It's a little ways out of the way, and some areas of Thanh Da Island might be closer to District 1, but who knows. I'm recommending Binh Xuyen because they also have decent food. I really like the classic fried giant gourami (ca tay tuong) and their crispy burnt rice isn't bad either. Now, will you actually catch something? Probably not. But oh well. Binh Xuyen is an awesome place to escape the city. You'll feel like you're in the jungle for a bit.

     Explore the riverside canals of District 7 - Tran Suong Song Street has an extensive waterway that is not only beautiful, but raw. Aesthetically, it might not be the most pleasing, but it's a side of Vietnam, a real side of Vietnam, that you should see. People live on boats and vend fruits from their boats right onto the sidewalk. It's a lovely scene during sunset.

     Visit Phu My Hung - If you're in District 7, you might as well swing by the modern city of Phu My Hung. Wander about on Nguyen Duc Canh St, stroll through the million dollar mansions, and meander about the Crescent Strip leading towards the Starlight Bridge or the Crescent Mall. Phu My Hung is definitely a must visit. This sprawl is an excellent example of how advanced Saigon can be. I know there are people who claim that this isn't the real Vietnam, but excuse me, if it's in Vietnam, and a part of Saigon, then if it's not real, then you're either too poor to live there or too ignorant to accept the facts. I vouch for modernity. I wish my parents can get the chance to see this place one day. Maybe their opinion about Vietnam as a whole would change. Oh, there's lots of Korean food there too.

       Eat oc (shellfish) in District 4 - Yes, there'are  plenty of places to eat oc at night. But I personally like Oc Oanh in District 4 because it offers such an interesting vibe. Imagine a crowded and noisy place where the wait staff just yells random orders into the air and the cooks are expected to understand by precision. Imagine a place where street entertainers blow fire and hawkers and vendors bother you often.  Occasionally, boy racers will ride by risking their lives and the lives of others around them because they want to show off.  It's all apart of the real Vietnam experience, whatever that is. Oh yeah, back to the oc... it's good shit. I wasn't fond of oc at first. Eating it is kind of messy and not filling, but this is an after dinner meal. Don't eat this expecting you're going to get full. Eat it because the flavors are out of this world.

        Drinks at the Bitexco Tower - The top of the Bitexco Tower closes pretty late, but not too late. You can swing by for a semi-romantic cocktail in a semi-romantic setting. I always like being up there, especially during thunderstorms. I'm not a fan of paying money to be in the observation deck where you get a 360 degree view of the city. You might as well pay for drinks and get to sit down and relax to some music. But, if you're cheap, don't go there though.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Under the weather. The weather down under.

      It's been a rather unproductive week since coming back from Bangkok. It's hard to believe that tomorrow will be a full week. Where has the time gone? Seriously. Where has the time gone?

    When I was young, my mother used to threaten me with getting sick whenever I went to school not dressed for the part. Rainy days, chilly SoCal winter mornings, El Nino winds... all required extra layers. * I just heard a loud bird squawking outside. I wonder if those wild parrots still fly by and make noise from time to time in SoCal anymore?

   After coming back from Bangkok, I got rather sick. I used to never believe my mom that the weather could make me sick. I spent a good amount of time under mother nature's rainy wrath my last night in Bangkok. Making up in the middle of the night to covered in sweat isn't fun. Aside from that, life continued in Saigon. I still added a bunch of money onto my phone when there's a khuyen mai 50% free giveaway on certain days. I still got up and ate rice and began the usual routine. I've slept a lot this week. Sleep is good. 

       And yes. I'll be the first to admit that the quality of posts have been declining. There are two reasons for that. The main reason is that there's just not much to write or complain about. The second reason is that I've been busy with life offline as well as busy creating better videos. It's all about balance.

         I've been getting a substantial amount of people hitting me up to hang out and such. I apologize if I don't have the time. If for whatever reasons you really want to meet me, you'll get a chance to meet OldBoy and I both when we launch our official weekend evening tour!!! That's right, you heard it here first. On some tours it'll just be OldBoy and some tours will feature just me. And if you're lucky, we'll both make appearances. Now this is just in its early developmental stage. Most likely it'll be in developmental hell for a while- depending on the feedback that I get. I know most of you won't be interested because you're cheap, but in the grand scheme of things I can't just meet random people from the internet unless you have a very compelling reason. I'm not going to even respond to people who don't introduce themselves and ask me to hang out months in advanced. Feel free to write me though. Don't let this deter you. I will respond back on my Facebook page at Do not leave messages here or on YouTube.

           When I feel better, I'm going to work full fledged on the Sapa travelogue that has been delayed forever now. At the end of the month OldBoy will visit Phu Quoc and I will be in Hanoi onward to Cao Bang or something for a couple of days. I'm also planning a quick Mekong Delta road trip video to Ha Tien and back. Yaaaaaaah.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bangkok, I hardly knew you.

       The morning started off incredibly early because I wanted to make sure I wasn't late again. I got out of bed and attempted to iron a shirt without much luck. I left the hotel alley way and made my way towards the BTS as if I was actually living in Thailand. It already felt like Bangkok was home. I guess rapid rails can make you feel that way very suddenly.

       The McDonalds between the BTS and the ARL was our rendezvous point. I stood by a ledge and watched traffic underneath for a while as I waited. Like clockwork she was on time. I was hoping for something really dramatic and cinematic, but she mentioned that I looked sad upon seeing her. I was aiming for something more "bad ass" but all I got was a sad face. I need to work on my dramatic expressions.

       The first stop of the day was Saint Francis Church, and the supposed Vietnamese market behind their. I wanted to get in touch with the Vietnamese community in Bangkok, but with limited time, all I could manage was some chao ga or chicken porridge with some banh cuon. The area known as Ban Yuan has a lot of ethnic Vietnamese people, but after so many years, most of them have either forgotten their Vietnamese or have assimilated completely with Thai culture. We went a little bit later in the morning, so many shops might have already closed up. But the majority of the vendors despite claiming themselves to be Vietnamese, hardly spoke the language. One lady selling rice paper, noodles, and cha spoke Northern Vietnamese extremely well. But that was about it. To seek more Vietnamese people, I just shouted random Vietnamese phrases out loud in hopes of meeting alert eyes. Unfortunately, nobody perked up, everyone just stared... barely any traces left. Check back soon for the pilot episode of a new series called "VieTraces" aka "VietnaMigration" where I chronicle the Vietnamese diaspora abroad.

      With the heat full fledged, we embarked to the JJ Market aka the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This has got to be the largest market I've ever been to. It's massive. You have to go there to really see the grand scope of things because it doesn't end. It's like a flea market city. My main purpose was to go check out the aquarium scene and fish there. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was blown away with the diversity, price, and abundance amount of shops. This was heaven. I could have spent the entire day there going through the animal section. But we spent about two hours roaming this place. The heat was unbearable at times. A quick boba drink made us both very happy. I can't wait to edit and upload this video. There were some amazing species of fish that I have never ever seen before in real life. Real quality stuff. I can't stress enough how awesome it was for me. If I ever go back to Bangkok, you bet I'm going to head straight there on the weekends. Kid in a candy store x 10000. Good times. Miss my dad- he would enjoy this too.

       Afterwards, I wanted to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art or MOCA. I knew that Yangzom would probably get bored of the fish, so I wanted to make up for it. She seemed to really enjoy this type of thing. I enjoyed the air conditioning a lot. But the art itself was really cool. Some pieces had me cursing with surprise. Some pieces had me repulsed. While some had me vividly impressed. I think I stared at one and almost cried. More drinks followed at the museum cafe- including a Thai tea for me. Art is pretty damn cool, but better with someone to enjoy it with.

       Next up on the list was the Ananta House on U Thong Prong Road. This colonial Italian looking mansion was quite touristy, but for the right reasons. It felt like I was transplanted to Europe somehow. Upon walking towards the house, a man came up to me and greeted me. We shook hands twice because I was kind of amazed by the fact that someone knew me. He claimed he watched me on YouTube. We didn't talk much because I was shocked. I wasn't sure if it was really happening. I felt kind of proud for a moment to be recognized, especially in front of Yangzom. That was a really special moment. My ego was so inflated.

       With dinner time rapidly approaching, and without any lunch, I was pretty hungry. To further continue the exploration of Vietnam and to give Yangzom a renewed taste of Vietnam, I opted to eat a Vietnamse and More. Now, the bottom line is, you can't go expect a lot from Vietnamese food outside of Little Saigon or Saigon, but overall the food there was decent. Alex, the owner from Hacienda Heights was really chill. He lived in Bangkok for 12 years. In fact, Old Boy used to live in Hacienda Heights. Another Vietnamese American guy from Anaheim came in to eat some pho as well. Then we a mini SOCAL / ORANGE COUNTY reunion there. The pho I had there compared to the pho in Cambodia, Nepal, India, Singapore, and Yangon was the closes to SOCAL pho I've had.

        We entertained the thought of watching an IMAX movie for a bit after dinner, but we were both pretty drained from the heat of the day and the heat of the night. We hit up the Siam Paragon for a bit to stroll about. Had another drink to replenish our energy from the MSG. BTW, the MSG hit us pretty hard. Siam Paragon was so massive. Wow. Just... you have to go there to experience it yourself. No matter which words for big - gigantic - colossal - mammoth - I use words just can't describe the grandness and size. For Sunday night, Bangkok was pretty busy.

          The entire day was spent on the BTS rails and taxis getting from point to point. It wasn't easy traveling around because taxi drivers barely spoke English. Some of them flat out spoke no English at all. Even though I had the name and address down of these popular destinations, many of them didn't know. It's not like in Saigon, where a simple address is all you need to travel there by taxi. The communication factor was the biggest issue for the day. We both looked like we could speak Thai. But we couldn't. It makes sense to me why many Vietnamese travel to Bangkok through tours. It would be otherwise impossible for them to just roam about like I did without knowing English. There was a lot of navigational issues. The city is big. Not all taxis want to go to certain places. Factor in rush hour and you have a lot of stress and uncertainty on your plate.

        This was exactly what happened when I dropped Yangzom off at the familiar location just like the night before. Unfortunately, tonight, our driver was an asshole who wasn't happy that we kept telling him to drive straight. We gave him an address of the area that we were going to, but he was upset about having to go too far out of the main area. This wouldn't happen in Saigon- drivers here would prefer to go further. He finally shut his face when he realized that I would be taking the road back to the ARL (BTS).

        So there on the side of the road, I bid Yangzom another goodbye. This time was easier than the one four years ago because I'm happy for her and content knowing she's happy. Plus, this time, there wasn't any uncertainty about when I'd ever see her again. I'll see her when I see her. Whenever. And if I never see her again, then I'm just thankful for the memories and the laughter.

     I traced my steps just like the previous night, but I stood on the railing at the ARL station looking towards the direction of landing planes every few minutes. I just gazed into the distance and appreciated the silent darkness followed by an onslaught of jet engines as each plane descended.
Their blinking lights reminded me of stars. Before I came to Bangkok, I thought I'd cry in the end, but I didn't. There wasn't any reason to cry. Infact, I couldn't hide my smile on the train home.

      Even though there were plenty of seats open on the train, I opted to stand and to listen to some Onra to close the night out as the the rains thrashed from above. When I got back to my area an hour or so later, the storm clouds followed me back. I waited around the desolate station for a bit, but decided to just endure a little water on my way back to my hotel. It wasn't a little water. It was actually coming down hard enough to soak through my hat and shirt. There wasn't any reason to run though. I just walked slowly to appreciate the ambience of wet Bangkok nights alone. When I got back to my hotel I was drenched. I don't know if I'll ever get used to that feeling. The feeling of being by myself in such a big city.

       I slept for a few hours and caught an early flight back to Saigon at daybreak to begin life again.

Monday, August 4, 2014

And I finally saw her again.

      Yangzom told me that she was about thirty minutes away from me.

I think we both forgot that Bangkok is massive. And it was rush hour.

I left my hotel thinking that I could simply get into a cab with an address and all would go well.

Several cabs rejected me, and I wasn't quite sure why. I made a random effort to use the BTS Sky Train because I really had no other options. Luckily, the Phramphong Station was close enough, but when I got there everything seemed so confusing. I asked for some help behind a counter, and a nice Thai girl instructed me. All I heard was Playa Thai, and zoned out everything else she said after. I couldn't figure out the machine at first. Only coins were accepted. I didn't know this. When I finally got change, I wasn't sure how much to put in. The numbers didn't mean anything to me. I didn't relate the station location and the number next to it as the amount in Bhat. It's actually pretty easy, but my mind wasn't completely clear. This was the first moment in four years that I was about to see Yangzom. This was the first time after so many attempts and missed connections. It was finally happening. My mind was so foggy. The signage, the steps, the rumbling train noises, and this frantic race against time meant that I was a nervous wreck. I kept checking over and over to see which direction I would be heading. Was I going to Mo Chit or to Bearing? What if my card didn't work, and I'd get stuck or questioned by the security?  For someone as well traveled as I am, I realized in that moment why people prefer to just book tours and travel without much thinking. Then again, most people could figure out such a simple thing. But not me. I had to sweat it out.

         When I got to Playa Thai, I thought that I could just take a cab directly there. I went down from the station, and asked a motorbike taxi guy. He said my address was an hour away. It was already 7:20. We were supposed to meet at 7:30. I had no way of contacting her. I went back up, asked another girl behind a window and she told me to switch to the ARL rails and to stop at Lakradbang, which was about 20 minutes away. I stood behind the yellow line, completely drenched in sweat, with the noise of the guard's whistle, it was time to board. When I got to Lakradbang, it wasn't easy to get a taxi. I had to run around for a bit. The taxi driver didn't quite know English numbers. I handed him my phone, but he still looked puzzled. A few minutes later, I saw her.

         She stood there waiting for me. I was incredibly late. The whole thing was a lot less majestic than I had planned. I played this moment in my mind many times. I always imagined that I would be there first, and I would have some kind of body swing with a slow neck rotation upon hearing her footsteps. But it was more like me running up to her because the taxi dropped me off too far, panting, and then it was as if the last four years of separation never existed.

        We walked around for a bit. Indecisive about what to eat because food was probably far from our priorities. There she was. In the flesh. Living Yangzom. I couldn't help but smile a lot. More than I usually do. When we sat down, we ordered random food that wasn't that great. There was a band in the background which played Thai cover songs of popular American songs. It was quite loud and at times we had to yell or squeeze in as many thoughts as possible in between songs. The meal wasn't anything to rave about. She wasn't that hungry. I was, but didn't care much for food. If it wasn't for her, I would have never come to Vietnam in 2010. That trip lead to my ultimate decision to move to Vietnam in 2011. If it wasn't for her, there would be no I don't remember what we talked about. I'm sure Vietnam came up a lot. London also came up. I would have never guessed that I'd see her again in Thailand out of all places. Sometimes, you just can't predict or control life. Don't get me wrong, this was not a random thing. This was possible because I wanted it, and after the fact and writing this right now, I'm glad I made the effort. The night ended with some ice cream at 7-11. I remember just looking at her and thinking, "Wow, it's Yangzom." I had a grape bar and she had some taro bar. And after a guy gave me a dirty look for taking a picture of his grilling fish, we bounced.

      Since it was already late, and I had quite a few things planned for an early start tomorrow, I dropped her off and took the same rails back. By this hour, the compartment was relatively empty. Everyone had a seat to themselves and I sat looking at my own reflection wondering how I would feel around this time tomorrow when it was time to really say goodbye to her.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bangkok Thailand IMPRESSIONS and hair gel.

      I woke up and didn't pack a single thing yet. I do this to myself every single trip. It's just how I travel because my schedule is so tight and my time management skills are horrible. Nevertheless, I made my way out with about two hours to spare before the flight time just to be safe this time. I didn't want to beg my way through security again.

       Tan Son Nhat seemed pretty quiet for a Saturday morning. I got in line at Air Asia and across the counter on the opposite end, I spotted LAzee Luu and Candace. As if some invisible force bonded us together. We ate breakfast together. Burger King was incredibly delicious. Then I bid the duo farewell as they returned home via Taipei, and I was bound for Bangkok. Time sure does fly by fast when you're in Vietnam. Each day transpires in a blink of an eye. A slanted eye or two.

      The flight over was uneventful. I was incredibly thirsty from the fries, yet I didn't want to haul over 2 dollars and 50 cents to buy water. Aside from that I also noted plenty of Vietnamese on tours on the same flight. You can spot them easily because they all tend to be adorned with the same hat. It's quite fascinating to see teenagers and old people exploring different countries for a change. I wish I could get into their heads. I wonder if they would appreciate the glory of Bangkok as I did.

       Not everyone understands English in Thailand. My taxi driver had no clue. He kept saying, "No English" and I kept replying back with "No Thai" Then we both laughed really hard at random stuff.
I would try to speak English and he would try to speak Thai, but in the end we just laughed.
You'll also notice the amount of cars on the road, especially compared to Vietnam. Lots of people own cars. The middle class can own cars. They also rarely use their horns. What a relief.

       As I approached the city, all I could do was look up with an open mouth in awe. Skyscrapers lined the horizon. Sky rise apartments decked out with plants and glass appeared to be common sight. Bangkok is massive. It's fricken big. I decided to stay closer to the downtown area this time instead of the touristy Khao San Road. The hotels around the downtown tend to be a bit more expensive, but they also tend to be nicer and more comfortable.

       I hadn't planned to meet up with Yangzom until the next day. When I called her when I arrived, plans suddenly changed and I was about to see her in a few hours. And then I realized that I've been waiting four years for this moment, and it's coming sooner than later, and I didn't even bring hair gel.
Meanwhile, the rest of the day, I spent walking the downtown area, trying to blend in as a local Thai,  I sat at Lumpini Park for a bit in the same spot that I sat with Kim a few years ago pondering about my existence in Southeast Asia. I did the same thing again.

      When the skies unleashed, I found myself at the Emporium Mall, not too far from my hotel.
I wandered about for sometime to wait for the rain to die down. When it didn't, I just walked in the rain back to my hotel for a bit. I took a nap, and woke up to buy gel at the supermarket next door. People thought I was Thai. They spoke to me in Thai. I just stared back blindly. I also picked up some cotton balls, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and soft baked cookies. They were insanely expensive, but delicious. I also noticed that quality of products from Thailand seemed higher than that of Vietnam. The Snickers bar tasted a lot more like a Snickers bar from America than the ones in Vietnam. The hair gel was also an imported Japanese kind that I usually buy from America. For 10 dollars a jar, it was pretty good.

       I walked back to my hotel and realized that I probably didn't pack the best clothes. Oh well. I played around with my hair for a bit, and then it was time to go see Yangzom after four years of anticipation, it happened a day sooner. Yeah. I was about to go see her. Yeah...