Thursday, April 24, 2014

I LOST MY FREEDOM.

      My friend sent me a message asking for me and my bike to both be models for her photography project. I instantly said yes because this would have been my first crack at becoming Vietnam's Next Top semi straight Model. But then I realized that the bike was at my mechanic's shop until the weekend. Uhhhhh...There goes my chances.

       My pre-ride ritual in the morning includes a few minutes of stretching my legs, followed by suiting up, and putting on a mask and gloves. Then I tend to ruin my hair by smashing a helmet over my head and off I go gripping a beast between my groin. But recently, the only thing between my groin is another dude's back. It's been two days since I've ridden. I won't see my bike again until Saturday at the earliest. I don't understand how Old Boy and many others here can live without owning their own motorbike.

         Sure, xe oms are plentiful. There are taxis on every corner. But I hate having my life controlled by someone else. I hate how potentially unreliable their bikes could be. But the problem is I hate depending on someone else. I hate walking up to them and getting on. I don't enjoy riding at all when its in the bitch seat. It's traumatizing. If I hadn't worn my jacket, I could have gotten hurt yesterday when some ass hole on a bike rammed into me in traffic. That would never happen on my motorcycle because I would just rev really loudly and scare bikes away. The xe om dude acted like nothing happened.

        You already know how I feel about riding a taxi by myself. Not only is it a waste of money, but I feel uncomfortable seeing families enduring the traffic and congestion, when I get to sit in my taxi like some kind of prince. I hate that. Sometimes, I wish the taxis wouldn't allow views from the inside out. I want to be a commoner. I don't want to be some elite inside of a cab by myself. It ain't my style. I also don't like the attention that it gives me when I'm alone.

        I see it all the time in District 1. Foreigners getting driven around by xe oms. I get flashbacks of scenes from colonial China or Ido Japan when the coolies would give white people rides using their own manpower while running and pulling the rickshaws. I know it helps them out when I use them. I know many dudes. I'm happy to have gotten to know them and their struggles. But still, I find it very feminine of me to sit on the backseat of someone. It's just something cultural that has been embedded into my brain. Two dudes aren't supposed to share a motorcycle.

       So why don't I just rent something for four days? Well, I've inquired, but all the rental places just rent out semi automatic or full automatic bikes. I only know how to ride full manuals. So in the meantime, I find myself on the behind a xe om man, trying to keep myself awake.
        I know most of you visit Vietnam as tourists, so it's okay to ride around in a taxi or a xe om, but on a daily basis, going short distances or long distances, it just wouldn't make sense.


Komine jacket, and knee pads. RS Taichi gloves. Andes Helmet. 

Vietnamese girls. Where to take them out on the first date in Saigon.

        I get this a lot. Many people ask me what places to take dates on or what to do with a local girl on the first date. So here, I've managed to to develop three different kind of nights for three different kinds of Vietnamese girls that you might encounter here in Saigon.

* No movies on the first date.

*Do not take any local girls to eat Indian food. They will take a bite of the naan and that's it. You're wasting her time and your money.

* Stay away from anything too western.

* Aim for AC environments as often as you can.

* Take a taxi. No matter what kind of bike you have, don't have helmet hair on the first date.

* You don't have to visit all of the locations. If the girl isn't exactly what you had imagined, then feel free to have a sudden stomach ache that requires you to take her home and never see her again.

1) Countryside girl.

A) KFC, Lotteria, or McDonald's
B) Kem Bach Dang
C) A stroll around the Notre Dame Cathedral area and park sampling some street food.

The key is familiarity. Don't introduce her to new things. Fast food is actually pretty nice for most Vietnamese locals. She might not welcome anything too fancy or expensive. So treat her to something that she recognizes.

2) Typical City girl who earns a steady income.

A) Mon Hue or anything at the Vincom Center.
B) Bud's Ice Cream (Also present at the Vincom Center)
C) Some light oc in District 4.

A city girl has done the fast food thing already, so treat her to something higher end such as a mall food court. Despite what you may be thinking, the Vincom Center offers a clean and conditioned environment for a first date. Stroll through the shops afterwards, and enjoy a more premium ice cream. Then head over to District 4 for a plate or two of oc. Most local girls love sucking on snails.

3) Hot girl Vietnam

A) Indochine Restaurant
B) Haagen Dazs Ice Cream
C) Drinks at the Nikko Hotel Lounge

(alternative)
A) Ty Coz French Restaurant
B) MOF Japanese Sweets and Coffee
C) Alta Helipad Bar at the Bitexco Tower

(alternative)
A) Sushi Bar
B) NYDC
C) Maya Lounge second floor.

This is pretty self explanatory. Good food in a decent environment. Now most Vietnamese locals won't like the cream in French food, so be careful. Order for her and choose something common to her. A lot of locals aren't as adventurous as foreigners when it comes to trying new food. There's no reason to prove to her that you're worldly by letting her try new food. She won't like it. Trust me.

EXTRA) 4. Viet kieu girl.
A) Binh Xuyen Restaurant
B) Kem Nhan Chu Tam (Longan ice cream in the streets)
C) Ngay Xua Ay Cafe
D) A cruise to the Nha Be countryside to experience the stars together.

(alternative more Western approach)
A) The Deck Restaurant
B) Fanny Ice Cream
C) Panorama Cafe
D) Strolling through the Crescent Mall Strip while photo bombing locals.

http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net















Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Preparing for Kathmandu / Burnt out to a crisp.

         As soon as I come home from a grueling day I unbutton and rip off my dress shirt and slam it on the ground wondering why I still haven't bought a dirty laundry basket yet. I then count the sweat stains that have collected throughout the later half of the day wondering why I haven't bought any new inner-shirts in such a long time. I guess I need to wait until these white shirts turn dark brown instead of a light mustard brown. Ahhh mustard, I used to hate mustard on my hot dogs. Now, at this very moment of sitting sideways on my chair designed to be sat on like a normal chair with my feet firmly planted on the ground, I wish I had a hot dog right now. Some thick mustard on that would sound great. The entire day was spent in thick heat and then in AC that wasn't cold enough. Why can't I just have a normal office job where I would start my commute early in the morning and crawl to work during the cooler hours? Why can't I just sit in AC all day until the evening hours when the sun is gone and I crawl back to home among the hundreds of others? Why must the sun and I be best friends on a daily basis? A motorcycle jacket despite being made out of mesh is still f'n hot. Sometimes a gentle breeze would blow giving me some relief. The only place with cold AC here seems to be my house in my room with the AC set to 16 degrees C. Then I get to wear a track jacket and cap and it reminds me of being back in California on an autumn day where I didn't have as many sweat stains on my inner-shirt.

      I can't wait for the upcoming break. I'm requesting time off on a weekend in order to go to Kathmandu. Right now I'm pretty damn close, and I'm feeling extremely nervous and underprepared. It's like every trip I take. But this time, it'll be different. This time, I just want to be there and not actually do or see much. I'm looking forward to just checking into a decent hotel for a change and relaxing with some chicken masala and street dumplings. Of course, I'm looking forward to taking Yangzom to eat some Pho for nostalgic purposes, and perhaps some lobster in the mountains. But in the end, I don't want to do much because I'm tired. The past few months with this recent scorching weather here hasn't been on my side. I just want to sit a cafe and sip on some tea and to catch up with Yangzom in the middle of the crazies of Nepal. It's going to be crazy. Coming home today on foot because my motorcycle is back in the shop (time to break bank and buy a CBR250R) , I noticed how many single dudes were sitting by themselves at a coffee place sipping away without having to worry about writing a blog entry or editing a video after work. I kind of felt envious of them for a moment. I don't really remember what it's like to just sit and watch the traffic go by like that. In the back of my mind, I have to rush home so I can wash the gel out of my hair so I can work on internet stuff. When I'm in Kathmandu, I'll also go on hiatus from this blog and from YouTube for a few days. I need it.

        With that being said, the next five days or so, will feature some hilarious daily videos. So please subscribe if you haven't already. These might be some of my recent favorite videos. And hopefully before I disappear for a bit, I'll have the Ca Mau travelogue up.

        Speaking of hilarious, there were a few questions about W4 on the recent LIVE STREAM BROADCAST. To completely come clean, W4 and I are done. The whole thing didn't work the first time and it didn't work the second time. In the end we were just too different. I decided that we both shouldn't waste each other's time anymore. And that it's best to just go our separate ways.  So I called her up and told her exactly how I felt. The disappointment, the cultural barriers, and the fact that we just can't joke around each other means that it isn't right for me. She couldn't support me emotionally, nor would I be able to put up with her superstitions. (if you hang out with gay people, you'll turn gay). She seemed fine with it. She thanked me for the good times. I hung up the phone and felt such a sense of relief. I'm so free. I'm extremely free. Thank God things ended gently. With that, I'm done going out with any local girls here. .. until I get my CBR250R. Then the two of us will go for long night cruises together. Kyle Le and machine. Yup. a match made in heaven.

http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Google+ Hangouts + SoJournaling Vietnam

      I was expecting 20 people to watch. There was a total of 732 playbacks. 500 being from California. The highest peak of concurrent viewers was 80 who sat through the 2.5 hours like it was 2.5 minutes. Thank you guys. That was actually very fun.

     The morning started off with me waking up late as usual. Old Boy and I both have been having stomach problems. I actually had the setup in a different room but the fluorescent lighting combined with my laptop's webcam made the video strobe. So I frantically found another room and used natural sunlight. By now, I was already sweating bullets. By 9 AM in Vietnam, it's already nearing 90 degrees lately. The AC takes a while to actually warm up to cool down the large room. Old Boy was half asleep. I had a few hours of sleep. But then you guys just woke us both up.

      Thank you for your questions. Some of them were very entertaining. Old Boy and I both laughed a lot. It's good to laugh sometimes. Pleasure to speak directly to some of you. I apologize again if I missed any. The stream was laggy at times. I apologize again for the glitches and tech problems in the beginning. I probably lost a few viewers in the 20 minutes that it took me to figure out the audio. It was my first time using Google+ Hangouts. But for those of you who stuck around, you got to see me panic. The internet here isn't always the greatest. I'll learn from my mistakes and move forward in the future.

      Speaking of the future. Next Monday at 7 PM London time. 11 AM Pacific Time. 2 PM Eastern Time. 4 AM Melbourne Time (Tuesday morning) That's 1 AM (Tuesday morning) Vietnam time.
So obviously the times are almost strictly for Europeans who couldn't make the first one. Not to worry though. Unlike the first event, the second event will be uploaded to YouTube directly after the stream is over, so for those of you who couldn't stay up or work during this time period in America, you won't miss much. Joining me for the next event will be Nina from
Denmark http://www.kylele.net/2013/08/danish-viet-kieu-banana-guest.html
 and Kim from Norway. http://www.kylele.net/2013/06/where-in-world-is-kim.html



The link will be up soon.

Once again, thank you for engaging. Thank you for watching. The real Viet kieu spirit lives on.
Special thanks to Ken Le and Tom Nguyen.








Monday, April 21, 2014

Vietnam Travel Documentaries. SoJournaling Vietnam. Where I started and where I am.

     
First time at Tan Son Nhat. I was an Angels fan back then. 

        I didn't just wake up one morning and suddenly decided to make travel documentaries of Vietnam. It was never in my intentions when I came to Vietnam to do what I'm doing now.

        It just happened.

        Before my initial trip to Vietnam at the end of 9th grade, I would be intrigued by my cousin's trips the two previous years. Each time they would visit Vietnam, they would return with a cassette tape full of shaky footage and random shots of women in the streets. The ironic thing was that our whole family would gather to watch it and that awkward moment of a random girl would appear and everyone would try to ignore the fact that my cousin's husband was a perv. Men in Vietnam.. (sigh) The video would be a simple capture straight from the mini DV tapes without any editing. I'd watch them and study them over and over to prepare for my first trip to Vietnam. I wanted to see what my cousins over here looked like. I wanted to see what Vietnam looked like. Remember, back then I didn't have cable TV nor was YouTube so prevalent as it is today. I actually didn't even have a YouTube account back then. Now, hundreds of hours of new Vietnam footage are uploaded on a daily basis by tourists all over the world.

       On the first trip my father couldn't go. So we went down to the local Vietnamese electronics store... Century TV on Bolsa (lol) I still remember the TV infomercials that those salesmen made (Di dau ti di, Century TV hahaha) I came home with a camcorder within budget. HD cameras were not even available yet at that time. So on my first trip back I filmed as much as I could. Most of the footage made people dizzy or even sick. Uncle 7 mentioned how he wanted to vomit. I think that was the turning point. I would love to get my hands on this footage but they're sitting in a box somewhere in my parent's home.

         Flash forward a few months later and with Vietnam off the brain, the 10th grade was full of video assignments. Theatre Arts with Ms. Ingram meant that we had to produce our own music videos. This was when I started to discover movie editing thanks to Windows Movie Maker. I spent many grueling hours (just like I do now) in front of a computer and slowly but surely learned.

       Five years later I went to Vietnam this time with my father and mother. This time, I had a slightly better camera (still not HD though), This trip was interesting in the sense that I was miserable half of the time. I couldn't stand being around my parents and sharing a room with them. We didn't really do much as the main purpose of the trip was for my dad to visit his parents after so many years. Instead of filming everything this time, I aimed at specific short clips and segments. This was when I started my YouTube presence. I actually met people who recalled specific clips such as the "Bumpy Road gives me a Boner" or "Little Kids fighting in the Streets." There was one even one clip where I recorded of myself right before leaving for the airport where I vented my frustrations and wanted to write essays in school instead of being in Vietnam.

      A year later, with the same camera, I still had no real intentions to film an edited travelogue. I just wanted to capture as much as possible for my parents and friends. I filmed more than I should have during that trip. There were specific moments when I should have just put the camera down to appreciate my surroundings, but instead, I kept rolling. When I got home, I found myself in a complete stage of depression and hours of footage. Literally, for one month, I didn't step outside of my house. That's true. I was that sad. I was just livid about how much I missed Vietnam and a certain someone. Then I poured my time into editing those clips today. Unfortunately, that series, "Vietnam By Myself" is no longer available on the internet because I used copyrighted Japanese music. Remember, back then YouTube wasn't that strict, and I was clueless about things like that. But that series was the beginning of it all. I found a certain craft that I enjoyed doing. It was tedious work, but I enjoy telling stories through visuals.

     And a year later, I finally had an HD camcorder and took time to learn a real editing software, and the rest is history. I re-uploaded a video I made before the first episode of SoJournaling Vietnam, where my friend and I went to Morro Bay. Watching that again not only made me miss California, but I realized I've gone quite a long ways. Now, I'm not too fond of video editing because I do enjoy the final product. Perhaps the final product is worth all the long painstaking hours? So now with my near DSLR quality camera, I can't wait to produce more. Even within the SoJournaling Vietnam videos you can see how I've evolved, yet videos from Khronicling Kyle are still pretty apparent. Things just came to be. Its a metaphor for my current life. I've changed a lot, yet I've remained the same. I don't go backwards as often as I used to. I'm less flashy, yet I'm still me. Cold openings, outros...The best is yet to come. Share with your friends please. If you like a video, please let others know that such videos exist.

What's in store for SoJournaling Vietnam? Ca Mau, Manilla, SAPA, Kathmandu, Pleiku Part 2




Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Viet Kieu's Biggest Fear in Vietnam.

     You know what a Viet kieu's biggest fear is in Vietnam? Falling in love with a local girl? Getting the runs? No. It's another Viet kieu... someone who is more westernized. I realized this when I sat down to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant. The guy whose back was against mind was obviously from America because he kept on saying "Bang Anh Bang Anh" meaning, "my state, my state." He mentioned something about his state being near water. The girl feeding him with chopsticks asked if the water was fresh. The only thing I could think of that wasn't fresh was her.

    I noticed that he had a few other ladies all glued to his every word at their table. They ripped open some kind of freshwater fish and Walking Dead the shit out of that fish and the peanuts that covered the fish. I couldn't imagine being at his age and being in Vietnam to flaunt like that. I wondered out loud if he had a wife back in "Bang Anh".

    A Viet kieu's biggest fear is another Viet kieu undermining him in Vietnam. It makes perfectly sense now. I've met so many supposed Viet kieus who barely spoke any English who were dead afraid to talk to me past, "What you do in Vietnam?" "You workin? " Where you live?" "What yo name." "Westminster, yeah man." lol. Then there's nothing else to talk about. There mere fact that I don't relate to these older dudes makes SoJournaling Vietnam (the videos and this blog) that much more niche. For a brief moment I wanted to turn around and hand him a card. But I didn't want to embarrass him by revealing to his ladies that he probably couldn't speak English.

    It happens all the time. It happened when I was in school. As soon as I hear a FOB accent, there seems to be a trigger in my brain, some kind of chemical release, that puts up tense walls all around me and that person. When they hear my syntax and flow they kind of back off too. It's like an empty rap battle as we be spittin' chemicals that only the brain could sense. This happens a lot with older people. What's even scarier for them is when they hear me speak Vietnamese.

http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net

If you guys don't already know, Old Boy and I will do a live VLOG event where we'll discuss and mingle with you guys. Check out the link below. The fun starts today!! Sunday at 7 PM Pacific Time.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

LIVE EVENT. MARK yo Calendars

I'm going to attempt a live vlog  Live YouTube Stream this SUNDAY NIGHT (4/20) America time. For my peeps on the west coast click on this link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg6EPUFRC-4

Or just click play on the video on the header.

At 7 PM Pacific Time.

For the homies on the east coast

It's 10 PM Eastern Time.

That's 9 AM Vietnam local time (Monday morning)

Old Boy and I will answer your question on Vietnam travel and expat life related things. No politics though.

We'll also discuss various topics of interest.
Looking forward to seeing you some of you there.

http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net



Friday, April 18, 2014

Living in Vietnam TODAY. A year since home.

         It's been a whole year since my last trip back to America.

 Wow.

      Everything has grown so much since then.

    Yet, I'm still the same in many ways.

2.8 years later and I'm still the same.

I still wake up excited when I see rain. Then I realize that I might have to commute in it. But I still appreciate Vietnam's rains just as I once did my first time here. The rain makes me forget about the humidity for a while. That earthy smell. Splashing other drivers. It's a pain. No rain poncho for me. But I still love rain, especially when I don't have to go anywhere.

I still get sick from eating food. Some days, I'll eat something- usually some veggies and then I'll have cramps throughout the day. I don't use public bathrooms, nor do I really want to in Vietnam. So I let myself strain. I clench real hard. Trust me, it ain't fun to hold it in when you're maneuvering a 300 pound something motorcycle through traffic. Sometimes it's so painful that I forget that I have diarrhea in the first place. Sometimes, I just forget about it, and then it roars suddenly back. Luckily, by then, I'm already at home. I still love that feeling of finally letting it out. Oh man, I have to..

I still enjoy the serenity of of living away from the hustle and bustle of D1. Rent is damn high. I wish it lower. But I still prefer quiet nights and day trips into the city feeling as if I was a tourist. I still longer for that feeling of just visiting. I'm still scared of the thought of no return flight home. I think about this all the time. I still prefer the modern and as far away as the real Vietnam as possible, because visiting the real Vietnam from time to time is much more rewarding.

I still feel the desire to travel Vietnam. Let's face it. I'm one of the most well traveled Viet kieus you'll ever meet. I have yet to visit Con Dao. Everything else has been done. I can't think of a notable place that I haven't some significant time in. So, what's left? Oh... there's still so much to tell and show. The hard part is finding the time to travel. I'm still f'n busy. I still have f'm commitments. If you stay committed to sharing SoJournaling Vietnam with your friends and family, I promise I'll stay focused on creating more travelogues. (at least for the next six months)

I still am single. And I'm perfectly okay with it. I still have western expectations for women here. I still want to be with someone wholesome and perfect. That type of person wouldn't exist here. I still have crazy expectations. I still haven't looked in the mirror under bright lighting. I'm perfectly okay with being single. I know life could be more fun with a girlfriend here, but life could also be filled with drama and restrictions. Cultural barriers still exist. A year won't change anything. A lifetime might not either. I've realized that no one locally here would be able to provide the verbal support that I need in my more native language of English. So in the meantime, I'll be hanging out with the homies instead.

Most importantly, I haven't lost my identity. When in Rome, do as the Romans.. F that.
I am who I am. A different environment won't change it. I still haven't lost my roots because my roots are in 714.

Time just flies. It just flies.
BAI BAI BAI BAI BAI BAI

http://www.facebook.com/KyleLe.net
If you like this blog, may I suggest that you share it with your friends and family? I know there are many Vietnamanics out there. (did i just coin a new term?) YES! Share di. Cam on ca nha.

Some things I miss most about America:








Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vietnamese Family. Visiting grandson vs. actual grandson.

           6:30 AM. I get a phone call. My first inclination was that my parents should know better than not to wake me up, especially since I just went to bed not too long ago. But after checking the screen, I realized that the caller ID read, "Grandpa"

          I grew up without grandparents. My father's parents were both in Vietnam and my mother's parents were both dead. The whole notion of grandparents is foreign to me. I really tried bonding with my grandmother when she was still alive. But early blog followers would remember how miserable and angry I was during her funeral. My grandfather now is the last remaining grandparent I have. I do want to spend more time with me. But unfortunately, our ideas and philosophy on life acts as a barrier separating us. I won't back down. He won't back down. I'll just end up offending him. Sometimes it's better to barely know someone. That way, you won't create negative impressions. I want my grandfather to think of me as the university graduate grandson who was studious and won awards. I don't want him to think of me as a person challenging traditional Confucian values. I don't want him to think of me as a risk taker, that would just worry him. I don't want my grandfather to know me too well, because he wouldn't be able to handle the real me because he's 98 years old.
It seems like the more time I spend in Vietnam, the image of who his only paternal grandson is have drastically changed the more he gets to know me. I'm not what he had envisioned.

       The first thing he asked me was how come I haven't called him in three months. I remembered not calling him for two months, not three. I was still half a sleep, unsure why he would call me in the first place. Without a proper hello, a proper how are you, a proper hey grandson. How am I supposed to answer that question? I wish I could just tell him the truth. I wish I could just say that I wanted to call him, but there would be nothing to talk about just like every other time that I've called. I wanted to tell him that we don't have much in common and that anything new in my life would put fear into his. I wanted to tell him that I'm okay and that there's nothing to worry about. If I perish, he'll find out. I wanted to tell him that maybe I'm not that thoughtful and that I don't know what it's like to be loved with a grandparent. But instead, I chickened out and told him that I was just so busy. He wasn't happy with that answer.

       He kept at it, telling me that I am to call him every two weeks. I asked him if there was anything new. He said no and that he's old and sick. Nothing's new. Just old and sick. Just like every other damn time. I told him that I was going to Nepal. He warned me about how "dangerous" it could be. I chuckled a little bit, and added that I was going by myself, which alarmed him even more. Quickly, realizing what I had done, I stopped. He then added that I had to buy something for him for memories. I don't buy much when I travel. He was mad at me for not getting him anything when I went to India. I didn't buy anything for anyone in India because I was at a damn beautiful resort for most of the stay. Old people here seem to be very materialistic. My grandfather loved the fact that I bought him some Phu Quoc fish sauce. He still remembered that bottle from way back. Afterwards, I never got him anything else. I'm just not that thoughtful because I didn't grow up in a loving home. Remember, Lac Su's father said it best, "I Love Yous are for White People." The Vietnamese language can be very difficult to express affection and love the same way that English easily can.

        So a few minutes later our conversation seemed to fizzled and suddenly the connection ended without a proper goodbye. Locals here often will just hang out. There's no proper bye or confirmation. That annoys the shit out of me. I was pretty annoyed. This was not a good way to begin the day. I didn't appreciate being nagged at. My grandfather questioned why at 6:30 AM I was still in bed. It was so different when I was the grandson that was only seen three times. I remembered the first time I met him, I actually cried. But the more time I spent with him, the more Vietnamese he expected me to be. If I didn't know a certain word of cultural context, he would blame my parents for not teaching me. This would of course makes me mad. My grandfather has a weird love/hate relationship with my dad worthy of its own blog/movie. I absolutely despise it when people fault my parents whenever I don't understand something. None of my relatives have worked harder than my folks. They don't understand anything about America. They're actually pretty lucky to live in Vietnam. But that's besides the point I'm trying to argue here.

       I don't even know what it's like to be someone's grandchild. Remember, respect is earned. I don't believe in the whole ideology of without them there's no you.

      I laid there thinking about how I wanted to get closer with family. I resented the fact that there were relatives of mine that I barely knew. I still barely know them. I've tried. But it seems like the closer I get to them, the farther apart we grow. I rather let them have a fixed impression of me. It's difficult for them to understand that there are certain needs I have... such as AC and toilet paper. ... and free will.

My grandfather (seated) with his homies. circa 1950

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vietnam Travel FAQs. Things to consider before you visit Vietnam.

        Here are some common questions that I frequently find in my inbox.

1) When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

     Short Answer: Whenever you're free. Stop bitchin' and just go.

 Long Answer: The best time to visit Vietnam is during December or January. The weather in Saigon can be very comfortable at night. The rains are easily forgotten because the skies remain relatively dry. The breezes at night are what I live for. Ha Noi during this time can be downright cold. But North Vietnam is best experienced this way. It'll feel so different than Saigon, I really recommend to experience Vietnam when it's cold. And yes, it does get cold. Other than that, the rainy season can be a burden for many interested in sightseeing. The rain is relaxing at times, but having your limited days revolve and depend on the clouds is risky.

2) What kind of tours do you recommend?

     Short Answer: Absolutely none. Stop being a bitch and just do it yourself.

Long Answer: Vietnam's tourism infrastructure is developed enough now that you can do many things yourself. You don't have to rely on tours or agencies to book tickets for you. Information is readily available on the internet. Many people speak English enough to get by. Plus, there are plenty of reliable guide books out there. Now for the lazy, old, or old and lazy people out there- I definitely recommend a tour of Ha Long Bay. I also recommend taking quick day tours into the Mekong Delta or to Cu Chi. These are so affordable, and you barely have to lift a finger. Everything is pretty much taken care. Remember, you get what you paid for. There are plenty of these options on De Tham or Pham Ngu Lao in District 1. But if you're adventurous enough, just do it yourself. It'll be more rewarding in the long run.  Other than that, I don't recommend any tours of Saigon as this city is best explored by oneself. If you need a tour in Saigon, then I guess you need someone to spoon feed you some pho too?

3) Is Vietnam safe?

        Short Answer: If you have to ask me that, then please just stay home like a bitch.

Long Answer: Yes. Vietnam is safe. If you practice safety measures like not flaunting your smart phone in public towards traffic, then I promise you'll be fine. No one will kidnap you. I've said it before, I feel safer in Saigon at night then I did in Long Beach. Now, you do have to be careful when you're on a motorbike or on the back of a motorbike. Seriously, though, that is one aspect of Vietnam that might be considered more dangerous. Practice safety measures. If you never rode a motorbike before, you might not want to just jump on and drive it in Saigon's traffic. Even I limit my riding in the main parts of the city. Also, a car will always win when it comes to four wheels versus two. Remember that. Other than that, Vietnam's safe.

4) Should I eat street food?

        Short Answer: No, just starve like a bitch.

Long Answer. Absolutely. One of the most rewarding things about visiting Southeast Asia, and Vietnam in particular is eating like a local. The street food culture is prevelant here. There's street food on ever corner when the sun sets until the sun rises. I really recommend dishes like banh xeo Mien Trung or bo la lop. It's best to stay away from the tourist area for street food though. If you want real street food, just go anywhere else. There's decent grilled chicken places all over town. The place next to the airport is decent. The possibilities are endless when it comes to street food. Roasted or fried quail in butter from a cart? Hell yeah. I'm going to get some tomorrow.

5) How would you travel to Vietnam with kids?

         Short Answer. I wouldn't. I'd use birth control so I wouldn't be a bitch with kids.

Long Answer. Some kids love Vietnam, while others are going to be downright shocked. Depends on the kid. But I recommend taking things slower if you're here. Don't go climb a mountain, don't spend too much time on the road, and more importantly, don't exhaust them in the midday heat during the summer time when they're likely here. Do family orientated things, such as a visit to an arcade at any of the major malls or department stores. There are also a few amusement parks nearby that would entertain the kids for a day or two. Despite what trite people always gripe about, the Zoo is a great place to take kids. I really recommend it. If your kids are old enough, do teach them a little about Vietnam's history. I think they would appreciate the country a lot more. Their trip might be a lot more rewarding if they knew exactly whats up. If they're too young, you probably shouldn't take them on the trip anyways.

6) I want to ride from Saigon to Hanoi, can you advise me?

          Short Answer. No, I'm a bitch, I don't do that shit.

Long Answer. This idea has never even crossed my mind. I'm not wreckless like that. Everyone that has done it that I've spoken to have warned me how dangerous the mountain roads to Da Lat and Nha Trang can be. It's not something I'd consider doing because I value my life. Plus, sitting on a bike and cruising for hours on end seems pretty lame to me. My flat ass wouldn't like it. I'll do it for a few hours, but I don't want to spend a whole day being uncomfortable. I guess I would sleep pretty well at night, but I wouldn't do it. Before I leave Vietnam, I'll put my bike on a train and I'll ride from Ha Noi around the mountainous roads towards China. That would be fun. But yeah, I really can't advise you on that aside from just making sure you get a reliable bike. I recommend a full manual because thats what I prefer to use nowadays. Don't cheapen out when it comes to a bike, especially a Chinese copy. Make sure your bike has bright lights. Wear a jacket for safety. Try to get at least a semi proper helmet. Spend extra money, your life is really worth it. Or is it?

7) What should I bring for my relatives in Vietnam?

           Short Answer. Ask your your parents.

Long Answer. Money. Chocolates. Anything from Costco. The more famous and cliche the name brand the better. Perhaps you should try a USA T Shirt? People in the countryside aren't picky at all. They'll appreciate any gesture, especially Eagle Brand Medicated Oil ( The one with the shiny box ).
City people might appreciate electronics like an iPhone or a laptop. Even though all the major consumer electronic players have influence in all major retailers here, locals still prefer something hand carried over. It's that self hating mentality, I guess. If it's imported, therefore it must be better. Sometimes it's true, but it's not always true. But be sure to bring your relatives something. It's the culture. Don't just show up empty handed. They'll treat you a lot differently. Cash also is great. Maybe invite them out to a lavish dinner. I should really do that with my relatives one of these days.

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