Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One Kilo

I was joking around with my coworker saying that I went up 1 kilopound, no kilometer.... no.. kilowatt? Shit...



yeah, that's it, 1 kilogram and she goes, "WHAT? no.. you at least gained 3 kilograms since you arrived!" I don't even know how many pounds that is! DAMN IT!

Its cuz the food is so good, but I exercize so much! UGH!

This is the team chowing down on some Dim Sum. And then me shopping afterwards. The company is so chill.

I was supposed to be shopping for friends, but I ended up getting more underwear for myself. It's the only thing that I know that's appropriately priced. I was looking for some sunglasses for my brother. They're 25k on the street, 70k at the tourist market and the guy at this place was asking 120k!!!! WTF! When I walked away he shouted, "how much do you want to paaayyyy??" Im like, fuck you, just cuz I'm a FOB and my Vietnamese is ugly!
Shopping in Vietnam is seriously stressful, what's the right price?! AHHH!!
Yesterday i took a Swing Dance class... I'll probably go again next week. And a couple of weeks ago was Salsa. This women grabbed my hips and corrected my sway. Hehehe, love it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Last night I had a date with Romeo.

He suggested a really posh coffee shop on a really upscale street. So posh that the prices were in USD. It was a bit more romantic than I had planned. I made sure I had enough money to cover him.

I told the waiter not to take my order until my friend arrived, but after 20 minutes, I felt stood up. I took out his business card and called him... nothing. I waited five more minutes. I started to walk downstairs. I passed my waiter, "he never showed up." I was obviously disappointed.

And as I walked towards the exit, there he was waiting for me. Probably thinking the same thing. "Hello! I'm sorry my phone was dead, I should have checked upstairs. I was late."

We talked from 7:30 to 10 about everything.

His mother tongue was French, he studied Vietnamese for 3 years and he knew English from high school. He also knew a bit of Spanish and Japanese.


He talked about how he loves to dance and doesn't need to get drunk because dancing gives him that adrenaline. He waved his hands in the air to simulate what he looked like on the dance floor... very cute. He also told me how he hated techno or whatever that music is and would rather dance to hip hop or pop because it's more interesting. *swoooon!*

He told me that when I go home, I need to sort out my priorities. I asked if he missed his family and he said yes, but it's his life he's living, not theirs and he's happy in Vietnam. He also reminded me that the salary in Vietnam is very low, but the experience you get is very high.

With experience comes money, I should be patient.


We talked about how Vietnamese people live with their parents until they are married and most aren't taught to think for themselves. We talked about how things will change in the future and the little mom and pop shops will all close down because of the flood of foreign retail investors in 2009 when Vietnam's trade doors swing wide open.


He told me about his psycho exgirlfriend and his current girlfriend. Hehe, yeah it wasn't a date, but I wish it was.

He was in a two year relationship.


He was so willing to talk to me. He suggested places to travel. His pet peeve is being a tourist. So if you travel, you should travel with a local. He told me how he spent 3 nights and two days on a diving trip. The whole package: $300 which included a secluded bungalo and 6 diving adventures of an island.

When we parted ways, he offered to take me to the backpack district, but I didn't have a helmet and I didn't want to risk getting pulled over.

I came home too pensive to eat dinner.

Instead of wondering who I am and where I belong... I am now wondering what are my priorities?

My 2 month venture to find something is coming to an end and my questions have yet to be answered. Ohhhh Romeo, how do you have things SO figured out?!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Get it Tailored!

I got my American-purchased-made-for-white-man suit shortened and made to hug my body for 6 bucks. And 3 sexy button downs made from scratch for 12 each (including the fabric). Hot hot hot.

My local girl cousin got this cute dress made. She saw a picture, bought the fabric and bada bing, bada boom! She has the dress!

Big question: How long will these clothese last?! Especially in American washing machines?!?

Okay. So this is how it works. If it's made in Vietnam, it's GOING to be cheap. These are the things that I saw that are made in Vietnam:

American Eagle

Anyway, if it's made anywhere else, its more expensive. It all makes sense now!


Things made in Vietnam are normal and people are scared of things made in China! So anything "American" or "Japanese" is highly sought after!

Happy Ending

Everytime I explore a new street, I feel as though I conquer another piece of Saigon! I highlight all the streets that I've walked and explored on a map that I carry around. Yesterday I did more than just explore the streets.

I found a Sauna/Massage palor called: Golden Smile (Same owner of the bar that Tino works at) on the internet and I mapped out the route. It was definitely far. I had no intentions of visiting the place that day, but decided just to walk in the direction.

I ended up on a main road with heavy traffic. There was a lot to see, but a lot of the same stuff. There were bright lights and tons of people. I decided to turn around when I found a street light so that I could cross safetly. On the other side of the street was majestic pagoda.

This was the pagoda that was near the sauna... hmm.. how about I walk just a bit further? I found a cross street. But it wasn't it. I thought to myself- I'm already here, lets just find it and then go home. I walked to another cross street. 640, 644, 656... there it was: Golden Smile Club.

I pictured a shady small door with a hidden sign in a dark alley. Being a very popular gay massage place made me assume that it wouldn't be so out there. But it was huge and bright and couldn't be missed.

Well, I'm here. What to do now? Ask for prices? Why not?
The lobby was nicer than many hotel lobbies. There was a pond. 100,000 massage ($6), 70,000 ($4) sauna only. All these other services such as facial massages with seawead.

I read on a blog, that it was worth it.. and I figured, if anything shady happens I can try to resist. I'm already here. Right?

I bought my ticket and changed in the locker room. On a board, I selected the person who would be touching me. There was only one cute guy. I sat in a beautiful waiting room. I was really nervous, tense. There was another guy there wearing onlya towel, eating snacks and smoking. He was middle aged.

What the fuck am I doing!? I felt my heart race.

"Your room is ready." fuck.

I walked up stairs and met my massager, he was cute. And I rested on the table. We made conversation. He was also 23. I was really tense. "Just enjoy the massage" I thought; I tried to relax. I told him, this was my first time. That statement alone, didn't help my case. His small hands were strong. This was a nice legit massage, nothing to worry about!!! BUT while massaging my back, my elbow somehow go wedged into his crouch. Okay... this is where it gets very interesting and less legit.

I'm not going to tell you what he did exactly, but interesting is the appropriate word. I got a full body massage so to speak. Legs, feet, arms. He cracked some of my bones as we made awkward conversation. Once again, my foot somehow go wedged into his crotch. Not so legit.

When I was laying on my back, I watched his facial expression. To him, this was work. He kept looking at the clock. He works 4 days a week 10am to 10pm, if he has no customers, he just sits around. I was his 3rd customer today.

This was terrible. I felt bad for him and I told him that he should stop.

On a piece of paper, I was told to write my tip. I put 25%. "It qua!!" (too little). I shrugged my shoulders, how about 50%? "kung duoc." (That's fine). I left and headed to the Sauna.

I couldn't enjoy the massage because I was nervous. I realized that I can't enjoy a massage from a stranger. A regular massage or an interesting massage; I'd have to know them to be comfortable. But my muscles were definitely less stiff.

This would be the cruising for sex part. (Sorry mom)

I was told by a fellow blogger, that the sauna was a sea of men.. and amoung them a couple of hotties. The blogger hooked up with a carpenter or brick layer; he described this as quite memorable.

I told myself, I would regret it if I didn't just go. Deep breaths. I wish I had a friend.

I wrapped my bare body in a towel and cruised the joint. He was was right, about 2 or 3 hotties amoung a sea of closted businessmen, foreigners and bears. The place was small, but artisitc. There was a patio and a resting area, a dry sauna and a steam room and lots of plants.

I played cool. I wanted to be hit on. So I sat for a while exchanging smiles. Then I thought to myself, "I should just approach the boy I like." There was a big bear between me and probably the hottest guy in the room. When the bear left, I aggressive scooted and said hello.
"umm.. so how old are you?"
"huh?" my broken Vietnamese was difficult to make out.
"how old are you?"
"21" wow.. 21?!? and you're in a gay sauna. He was tall, handsome, nice swimmer's muscles.
In two seconds, he stood up and bolted to another room. Not walked away, but he sort of RAN AWAY!

Damn. So, maybe it's like I'm a FOB and my terrible Vietnamese turns these guys off. I should have tried English. OR maybe the age thing was a terrible line. I felt... very unsexy.

I headed to the steam room. I watched these two guys get it on. The guy next to me rubbed his leg indicating that he was interested in me. I can't do this. I walked out of the steam room. I checked out the dry sauna. When I entered 3 guys started to laugh. "You should have been watching the door!!" They immediately left when I entered.

I have an amazing talent, of clearing a room.

Okay, one more thing to check out, the jacuzzi. Yes, you go in naked and it was a luke warm jacuzzi. I watched this guy get closer to another. And then I noticed his facial expression and shoulder movement. There was def. something going on. I got out of the jacuzzi and headed to the showers.

I used a lot of soap. No.. like A LOT OF SOAP. So... this is what it means to be sexually promiscuous. There was a gym upstairs, but I didn't feel like checking it out.

I returned to the lobby. "Are you taking a motortaxi home?"
"No, I'm just going to walk."

And I walked out of the Golden Smile feeling strange. I felt really clean and relaxed, but thinking about what it meant to go these "clubs." What it meant to be hit on and what it meant to be rejected because I was ridiculous enough to select the hottest guy in the room. Haha, Right? I'm crazy. But I was happy that I went. And now I know what it's like.


It was 9pm, and it would take me a little less than an hour to walk home. I took a different route and it started to rain lightly, I had an umbrella. I picked a bad, poorly lit street. I walked passed these two shady guys who said something to one another and nodded their head towards me. I quickened my pace.

My heart started to race faster than when I had initially entered the massage parlor. I watched my shadow to see if there were any shadows following me. Shit, I just had a gay massage, now I'm going to get a gay beating.

I turned the corner and stood next to a crowded restaurunt. I turned around to see if they were following me. They weren't.

Deep breathes. That was the first time I had been scared in Vietnam. I take that back. 3rd time. First time was during the airport check in and second was that massage.

I made it home safe and devoured a soup that my aunt had made.


I never got the "happy ending" that I guess I paid for.
But that's okay, that's not how life should work anyway.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vietlish Jokes

So I stole these from another blogger

So this guy is taking his girlfriend to a local food vendor.
He asks: "hey baby, you hungry?"
She says "no."

So the same guy brings his girlfriend to a local shoe vendor.
He asks: "hey baby, you like these shoes?
"She says "dép."


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gay in Vietnam II

I'm dying. Especially when I go to the pool, there is a fair share of hot guys with beautiful bodies.

I got Romeo's email and I'm having coffee with him on Monday. EEEEE!!!! Did I mention that he has beautiful back muscles? You can see them when he hangs off the ledge of the pool.

I met this guy named Tino who lives next door and he is freaking FIONE. Tall, works out, cute smile. I got his number too.

I'm finding that I'm a lot more aggressive. I think this is what "networking" is. I guess I left that all behind at Berkeley. But this is so necessary because I'm getting lonely and I have two more weeks to rock it out!

You know how straights pretent to be gay with eachother for laughs. yeah they do that here too and it's strange. Guys hold hands frequently and no one gives it a second look.

Tino, my local cousin and I were walking down the street and I caught him grazing my ass. I giggled hoping he would do it again. I love it, I touched his back affectionately and his shoulder and arms etc while crossing the street pretending to be scared of the traffic. It was just 'straight' boy love that the states is deprived of because everyone is so paranoid.

I found out that Tino works at a gay bar, but he didn't know it. I began to watch his mannerisms... oo, a little gay. His mannerisms probably changed when he realized he got better tips by fliriting with men. I day dreamed about coming home with him, I wonder what his mom would say.

So this is how it works: "Gays" are boys who like boys. "Ladymen" are a guys that acts like ladies. It's hilarious when my cousin pretends to be a Ladyman... because not much changes in his body movement.

"Your cousin says you're gay." Tino said bluntly. This is ironic, my cousin's self giving American name is Liberty.
"yeah.... you don't know until you try it once!" he was joking, but I was awkward. I was glad I wasn't further pressured to expose my sexuality. I was tempted to ask Tino if he had "tried it once," but decided not to make the situation any more awkward.

I debated if I should come out to my cousin. I think it's better he didn't know, but I'm sure he suspects. Tino invited me out to drink sometime and I'm definitely taking him up on that offer. He wears this cute necklace with a ring attached, "is that from your boyfriend?" I joked.

"Noooo! Best friend!" Yeah right.

As we were walking down the street some guy on a motorbike made kissing noises to Tino.
"Is that your boyfriend!?" I joked again
"Noooo! Thats a friend froms school." Yeah right, he probably goes to your bar, I thought.

The bar that Tino works at is called "Golden Smile."
That's so fucking gay. I gotta check this place out. Tino's main job is the flirt with men and get them to buy more drinks. He gets a percentage of what they buy.

My girl cousin said he was probably hired because he has a nice body, but not a cute face. She said this with Tino next to her. Gosh, Vietnamese people are blunt.


I'm considering going to a Sauna and getting a massage from a boy. But... maybe not. I dunno, sounds like a terrible idea. And dangerous. I heard stories about people getting massages and then being offered a "massage down there." =.= Extra services for an extra fee? No thanks, I'm on a budget.

Ahh.. I have boys on my minddddd!

A Lesson about Vietnamese Families

At least the color is cute.


I was watching the Vietnamese Version of Family Feud! It was sooo captivating! The categories were ridiculously easy:

Fruits, other than oranges, that you can make juice from.

I couldn't remember the other ones, but it was interesting.

On the topic of families, I got my cousin in trouble and her mom started to yell at her and she yelled back and cried a bunch. I felt terrible and apologized to everyone. They assured me that it wasn't my fault and there was more to it.

It was so awkward, I felt like I had burdened the family. But I know that I will never truly understand what family burden is.

My cousin, who is younger than me is expected to clean and cook the house just because she's a girl. She's also responsible for feeding her paralyzed grandma and changing the grandma's diaper. Which she doesn't mind doing because she loves her so much.

I never did that shit for my grandma... I just came over, ate her food... kissed her on the cheek and left. And when it was Tet, I recited a line, kissed her on the cheek got my red envolope awesomeness and left.

It's interesting.. this Asian American complex. "Oh I feel so bad, I'm so disrespectful and unappreciative" and rarely we do anything about it except feel bad and then move on.


It seems like these kids are taught to be dependant on their families until they're married and this "burden" is just a part of the cycle of mom takes care of child.. child returns the favor. But Asian Americans are confused... they feel that "burden" yet escape it with all the energy that they have.

When our parents get old, we hire someone to change their diaper. It's the epidome of an American spoiled child... and we wouldn't have it any other way.


Disagree? Would you change your grandma's diaper and spoon feed her apple sauce everyday if she was paralyzed due to a stroke?

Drunk Foreigner

Last Saturday, at this posh club, this guy was having a going away party. He knew so many people that the club dedicated some "happy hour" drinks entitled "Mikes Favorite." I was given two free drink passes and helped myself to some very strong Long Island.
At clubs, you're not allowed to take pictures, but you can see that no one cares and security who does not speak anything other than Vietnamese doesn't know what to do. The same thing goes if I get pulled over. Just speak English and they'll just let you go.. but I'm not going to test that theory.
This is my baller expat cousin

Even though I had two drinks I was determined to get an AMF. This is a tribute to my boys back at home, it tasted so good. Fuck I miss you guys.

Wear whatever you want in Saigon! It's fucking hot here!
Very westernized bar to tailor to westerns
I met these German girls who were quite fun! We danced all night long. I was so wasted. I ditched my cousin or rather he bounced early and I followed these ladies to a good time!

So... if you're a foreigner, you are given special treatment. At 1am I entered Apocoloypes, the notorious club for expats! There was sign that read: 150,000d (10 bucks) to get in. And the German girls said to me, "JUST speak a foreign language and pretend you can't read the sign!" So they spoke to me in German and I laughed like they were telling a joke and we walked right passed!
Hillarious! Oh you should hear these girls try to speak Vietnamese, good lord.

Apocolypes played great music and there were a lot of hookers, but I was concentrated on dancing.
I wanted to take a group picture but something got in the way.
I took a motortaxi home and the girls were concerned, "sometimes the drivers are more drunk than you at this time!" I was lucky enough to get a sober one.. but he could have been drunk.
Yes, I had a hang over the next morning.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Because of a Boy Named Romeo

Psychology tells me that when I travel to another country, I hit three no-shit stages

1. Excitement
2. Homesickness
3. Wanting to Stay Forever

My excitement lasted for two weeks, by my third, I had become numb to the new lifestyle that I had created for myself. I began to miss my family and friends and realizing what "home" was... and reconsidering if I really did have "feet that love to walk." I really wanted to be home and take a warm shower and hang out with the boys... Vietnam's charm was dying out and I was glad that it was going to be over in three weeks. But now I'm at stage three: wanting to stay forever because of a boy named Romeo.

My other Aunt invited me to go swimming with her this morning at 6am to teach her family how to swim. I figured that I was already up by then because of the early morning traffic outside my house and voices of strangers drinking coffee beneath me.

I spent an hour casually teaching my family how to swim, but they were all hydrophobic and blind... so yes, it was a challange. "Go swim in the big pool Pho!"
"No, it's okay.. I like being around you guys." At that point I noticed a group of boys enter the pool. Of course, the one white guy stood out like a sore thumb. "Actually, Yeah, I'm going to swim some laps in the big pool."

I ditched my family and did some laps to show off. I waited for the white boy to stop next to me. "Where are you from?" I was tactless.

"Noi Tieng Viet Duoc" (I can speak Vietnamese) Sexy.
"haha... I can't!"
"Oh.. I'm from Phap"
"Yeah" I was hoping my American charm would help me... but his trilingual ability had me trippin' boo.

God he was hot. His English had a bit of French in it. His dirty blonde hair shimmered against the early morning sun. His body had no fat and he swam laps non stop until I stopped next to him. He was 25. Moved to Vietnam to study the language for a year and has been there for 3 years working in outsourcing.

"Not returning anytime huh?"
"Nope!" He was very vehement about staying in Vietnam. I eased dropped as he talked to his coworkers (the group of boys), he was definitely fluent in Vietnamese. *drool

Every Tuesday and Thursday him and his coworkers come out to swim before work. He mainly speaks Vietnamese in his office.

"Whats your name?"
"Romeo and yours?" *faints a little*
"Christopher... we'll, I'll let you swim." And I left. I guess, I was trying to play hard to get, but I probably came off as bored. But no worries... I will be back on Thursday morning.


At that point, I hit stage 3. Not because he was hot, though that did help, but rather because he was inspiring. He's been in Vietnam for 3 years! And he was only 25. He had no plans to return to France... because essentially Vietnam had more to offer him.

So what about me?
This trip has hit the midway mark... and it's an appropriate time to start planning for the future. I defintely realize all the good in my life... but I'm also seeing the potential of being somewhere else.

There is absolutely NO doubt that I'm coming home Nov.9 (unless I can get an extension on my ticket and come back December... but very unlikely.) The question is: how soon will I come back to Vietnam? and will I stay for longer? If so, then I should start applying for jobs.

Oh Romeo... how you got me trippin'

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Everyone Has Function...if not, they make one up.

Labor is so cheap in Vietnam... everyone has a function.

I bought a SIM card from a random cell phone stand and I was told to wait to 10 minutes. In 10 minutes this guy rides up in a motorbike to hand me my SIM. His primary function was to drive around the city delivering SIM cards to random mobile shops.

Near my Aunt's place is a street that specializes in motorbike decor. While waiting to get some stuff tailored, my cousin had his phone laminated.


So these kids take a lighter and warm the metal on the Cellphone (like $500 cell phones) and melt plastic on it. After, they smoothen it out with their finger and use a razor blade to cut out the sliding parts.

I was in awe. People laminate their motorbikes too. It's like an art. Pictures to come.


I was in the market looking for some guy clothes. While walking down an aisle these three ladies turned their head and said in unison, "what are you looking for?" At that point I turned the opposite direction and ran.

While I was trying on shirts 5 people who worked there? were staring at me. Good God, how am i supposed to shop like this. And while buying fabric to tailor a shirt this woman kept telling me how "MO Durn" it was and how handsome I would look. Thank you, but I can't think with your incessant yammering.

Buying at the market is like buying from a car dealer.

Labor is so cheap, I've gone to restaurants with people just standing around because there's nothing for them to do. And when they hand you a menu they stand there... staring. GO away!! I need time to decide!


I'm officially a FOB. I was trying to figure out how to spell the word 'unison.' But I was convinced that it was pronounced Unicent... so of course I needed to describe the word to a friend to get the correct spelling. Oh god help me.

Friday, October 17, 2008


When my grandma passed away in 2006, it didn't affect me as much as I thought it would. I never dreamt about her and I only cried for her at the funeral.

But being here, spending time with her sister's family and her brother's family made me realize how much I missed her.

"Your grandma was the BEST cook." She was, every dish she made was beyond delicious.

She had a tough life, she sent her 17 year old daughter to the states to find a better life, not knowing what would happen to her. 10 Years later, she was reunited and left Vietnam to be with her daughter and help raise her grandchildren: me and my brother.

How alienated she must have felt in California. She never asked to return to Vietnam because even though her silblings were in Asia, her daughter was in the US.

She took care of me. A lot and I never really showed enough appreciation. When do we?

Last night, my aunt, my grandma's neice cooked curry for the death aniversary of my great grandma, my grandma's mom. The curry was an amazing copy of what my grandma used to cook for me when I was growing up.

It's impossible to forget your roots when you're surrounded by your family's history. My parents told me my grandma's spirit followed me to Vietnam. I believe it. I believe it more every minute I spend time with her family that left to be with me.

God, this curry is delicious.

Skin Update in Vietnam

I was gChatting with someone I thought was really cute.

They told me that they should be in bed because they're breaking out. I respond with offbeat humor, " don't worry, ive come to realize that bad skin is just another trait that people judge you with like.. bad teeth, bad fashion or bad hair."

And they became really self conscious, "YOU DONT UNDERSTAND!!!! I HAVE TERRIBLE SKIN!!!"
"do you think you have worse skin than me?"
"you don't have bad skin... trust me, no one has skin as bad as me."

I was taken back because I never noticed his skin. Mony always said to me, "no one notices Chris... stop caring so much.." Which I have.. I have been caring less, but in Vietnam my aunt always tell me RIGHT before i eat something if it will make me break out or not.

"You want to eat Top Ramen? That'll make you break out."
"Here, eat this fruit, it'll help your skin"
"Don't eat too much of that meat, you'll break out for sure!"

RIGHT before I eat it... !!

Thanks to my aunt I can classify foods into two food groups: makes me break out, clears my skin.

Thanks to her and my other blunt family members who say, "if you didn't have ugly skin you'd be very handsome!" or "did this happen when you got here or back in the states?" As she rubs my face.

I'm wondering if my bad skin is the reason that no local Vietnamese boys try to make conversation with me at Lush, the Vietnam Dragon, sort of. Though one boy did smile at me... but I didn't know what to say. I'm considering flirting with boys I see at the pool wearing sexy tight trunk suits... wow, lots of muscles. Especially when they know how to swim the butterfly... yummy.

I was considering skin treatment in Vietnam because it's so cheap, but I began to day dream about all the things that can go wrong.... like with shady equipment with Melamine in it.

So I'll just hold off, but I must say that my skin is doing great. I dont know if it's because I'm in Vietnam, because I'm on a normal sleeping schedule or because it's Oct-Nov (the period when I usually have really good skin.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Embarassing Dance Videos!

Funkanometry Posted the South Bay Class Videos!!

HAHAHA! How embarassing!

Can you find me Mony and Joe?

Okay.. Im the one that's about two seconds behind. And not featured in the small group cuz.. i was terrible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

White People in Rice Hats!

Sorry for blogging so irregularly, but...


Prop 8

So I'm interested in the arguments that YES on Prop 8 people have.
I found a facebook group that express their concerns.

I'm trying REALLY hard to see their point of view, but homophobia is the only thing that I see. That and money concerns.

No on prop 8 will cost the church a lot of money... law suits left and right... blah blah blah... I don't know. Read it for yourself. It's a bit strange to me... how people can have this point of view. And how much they LOVE their church.

I also wonder how many people of the 6,200 in the group engage in homosexual activity. How kinky.


From the Ground Up

I really enjoy talking to locals and learning everything I possibly can.

I learned today that Vietnamese people buy land and then hire someone to build their house to their liking. Often, they build the houses themselves. This explains the poor craftsmanship and lack of regulations on some of the homes that I've visited. Eg: poor/dangerous wiring, bathrooms with no ceilings, uneven tiles, walls held together by twine... all of that.

I showed my coworker my house and she was amazed that all my neighbors have the same house.

"You mean, you don't build the house yourself?"
"No, we buy houses premade"
"That's so strange and boring, I like the freedom to design and create my own home. Why would you want your house to look like someone else's"
She continued, "if you buy someone else's house, you knock it down and build your own. Usually, those houses are old anyway. You can pick how many stories.. build it how high as you want! It's your property!"

If I were to design my house... there would be a giraffe room, a cheese room and a swimming pool. That's all. Yes, I'm predictable.

I did some research on construction in Saigon and stumbled upon a great blog!
A blog that discusses the "various construction projects happening in this vibrant city, it will include some huge infrastructure projects as well as the many offices, shopping centres and apartments that are on the go or have been given the green light. "

This particular project is of interest: The VISTAS!
Very ambitious, don't you think?

The Vista project made headlines on the 7 June 2007 when over 400 people queued for hours to secure a contract for an apartment on the first phase, all 237 units on phase 1 were booked by 2 pm the same day.

The price range on original contracts was between $1200 and $1600 per square metre. The project sits on 23000 sq m of land and there is to be extensive landscaping with gardens and water features. There will be a total of 750 residential apartments and some retail facilities plus a commercial block.
Very ambitious!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Missed out on the Moonwalk for Pig Kidney

My grandpa's younger brother invited me to eat.

He looks pretty cool in his helmet!
So I passed up my popping class. It was getting a bit redundant anyway.

My grandpa's brother invited his family- about 8 people came along for the ride.

I was getting really excited because it was like hot pot... except DANGEROUS! You are literally 1 foot away from the flame, sitting on a rickety table!

I was challenged with grilled goat breast. I was being open minded and trying to be polite so I consumed every piece of meat that was placed in my bowl by my grandpa's younger brother.

The meat was so chewy... I was getting really queezy.

You wrap the meat like a spring roll, except the Vietnamese tortilla is hard so it tasted raw.

"Good huh!?"
"Oh yeah! It's so interesting" I'm such a liar.

After devouring about 10... and drinking 2 bottles of orange juice, I thought it was over, but another HOT POT was brought out. What is that? "Pig Kidney!"

Oh.. Joy.

So you "cook" the kidneys in the boiling soup.... which was ... a strange flavor.

Okay.. I didn't want to come home without TRYING what was offered. But one bite did it for me. It was chalky, a strange texture... I used my chopsticks and put in my cousin's bowl, "please help me!!" I sat back in my chair rocking back and forth praying that I would not hurl.

Sigh, but I was okay. I thanked them for the meal and headed home. I called my popping friends and discovered that today they learned the Moon walk and the Usher slide!


-Scorpion is my next treat... wish me luck.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Highway Patrol Found Me

Yesterday the boy invited me for some coffee on the street in district 1.

In the middle of our conversation the owner goes, "MOVE YOUR BIKE!! THEY ARE TICKETING PEOPLE!" In an effort to clean up district 1 (downtown Saigon, sort of) they have banned motobike parking on the sidewalk. The boy quickly moved his bike into the coffee shop's house.

He opened his laptop. The desktop back ground was a picture of himself. He made aww noises as if it were a baby. "I'm handsome." He said.
"I don't understand why you love yourself so much."

"Why not?"
He asked me to take pictures of him... so I did, he photographs well. We people watched and he told me who was gay and who was not. It was fun. I told him that I would love to cuddle with him again (even though he's so conceited) and he said, "only cuddle!?" He told me that we'll probably need to rent a hotel room... and at this point I thought to myself how WRONG this all sounded... and dropped the idea from my crazy, desperate head.
I asked him to drive me to the mall. We stopped at a light and when it cleared he proceeded. That when the men in grey stopped him for running the red light. Looks like even in Vietnam, when I'm NOT driving... I send some sort of scent to street patrol.

They are really cracking down in district 1. I didn't know what to do, am I supposed to bribe these people? He told me to take a mototaxi to the mall and I texted him.

A mototaxi driver saw it happen and told me that if i want to save his bike I needed to go to the office and ask the other mototaxi drivers. Around $60 is what I'd have to carry: 1 MILLION dong!! He explained that the drivers and cops know each other. (You mean are corrupted together?) And if I don't do this, they will take his bike a part!!!
I called up the boy. He said not to worry. The cop that took him in was gay and asked for his number.... he can't get his bike back until a month later.

Are you serious?


So I'm probably not going to see him for a while...probably for the better.

Photos With Commentary

Before I start my photo commentary, I had another no shit epiphany.

Things are cheap because nothing is maintained.

I realized this today at the pool. I went to the person in charge of lockers and asked for the toilet.
"They're broken." She said robotically. Of course they are. The "lockeroom" was basically a tiled room with a giant hose. I can't describe it correctly, because it's so disgusting and under developed. I'm thankful the ground wasn't dirt and there's some distinctiong between the women's and the men's section.

I examined the flags above the pool: tattered. I looked at the rails: rusted. As I was swimming I saw what I hoped was algae floating next to me. From a far the facility looked nice, but nothing was updated since.. never. Everything was it's original.

I find this to be common in Vietnam. You pay so little because everything is so old. And people have a mindset- if it still works, why spend money to fix it?

We invest a lot in "developed countries" to keep things nice and new. When it's old, we throw it out. But as every dime counts, you can't really do that here. You begin to realize how much different things have different value in different places.

A contrast from the swimming pool:

Vietnam has a Costco, except it's a German company called a Metro.
Same idea. In fact, it was exactly the same. The subtle difference is in it's customers. I began to observe the Modern trade retailer for my work research and there are interesting things to note.

The type of people who go have money. Either they go once a month OR they are a business owner- for resale or functionality. The HOT item is toilet paper. I spoted at least 25 white people during my 1.5 hour stay. I think because it's comforting to them? Many of them are long term Vietnam inhabitants.

Interesting things:
You fill your cart. When you pay for your money, there is no rolling table. They put your items in another cart. Then when you leave, they check your receipt (YES! Like costco!) but instead of a haphazard glance and a highlighter mark, they take out all of your items one by one and put them in a NEW cart! That's right!

I was bitching and money about the insanity and the girl checking the goods got annoyed. "Well you're in Vietnam, and this is how it's done." Maybe I shouldn't act so pretentious around the locals who are thankful they even have a Metro.

You know the CRANES. When they back up they make ugly sounds. "ANNNK,, ANNNK!! ANNNK!!" To warn unsuspecting customers of their danger? In Vietnam, they play Midi file melodies like, the ABC song. To me, this would attract children to danger... oh.. there I go being pretentious again.

But this made me happy:

Yes... 10 dollars a bottle. I was very tempted. But I figured, I fucked around enough and I really haven't made good friends to really drink with. Just my cousins and they're not too big on the idea.

Outside of the metro was a street full of shacks next to a stagnant polluted creek.

The best food is on the street

This was the best broken rice (Com Tam) I've ever had. People stick little food places where ever they can. This is in front of a school after it's closed. It's so popular!

We feed 7 people for $10.

Because the owners don't have to pay for rent, or airconditioning or any of that EXCESS stuff that developed nations take so much pride in.

See that pink container thing? That holds toliet paper and tooth picks. There are NO Napkins in Vietnam. Only toilet paper and wet towellettes that you have pay for.

This is my cousin's half sister. We share no blood. She epitomizes everything I hate about loud spoiled Vietnamese children. I call her a Monster Child.

She grunts, rolls her eyes and is a little miss know it all. But somehow she swims an amazing freestyle, breastroke and butterfly.

I hate her so much.

I found a "Holliter," for lawsuit issues, they dropped the "s." I bought a nice $10 (I know! fancy) polo that everyone including my cousin thinks is ugly. Even in Vietnam, I have no sense of fashion.

They're so pushy in the stores. "You only bought one!" Ugh.. Thank you captin obvious.
But I've noticed that they follow you less and less.

For Joe.

Joe is convinced that ALL asians have small penises.
Well Joe, we also have tasty bite-sized bananas.

The Magic Bullet

I was watching the Magic Bullet infomercial dubbed in Vietnamese.

And... it was even MORE convincing than the English version! I love my Magic Bullet!


I'm coming to realize that my family loves to argue about money. So here's the story:

My grandma adopted a girl.
My grandpa didn't want the girl so they gave the girl to my grandma's sister who couldn't have children.
My grandma's sister raised the little girl.
My grandma's sister passed away and the girl, now woman got a fair amount of her property.
The girl asked my grandma for more money when she got married.
My grandma gave it to her.
Decades later, my grandma wrote a letter to the girl, now woman with a family to give the lent money to my grandma's youngest sister to help her with her sickness.
The girl claimed to not have money.
The girl is sending her two kids to Japan and Singapore to study, she also finished remodeling her house... obviously she has money.
The family hates her.

I ran into this woman at the store and she looked awkward. I was awkward too because I forgot how she was related to me at the time. My aunt told me that she's probably scared that I came to Vietnam to claim the money she owes my grandma.


This is Vietnamese Drama!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Xe Buyt

Yesterday I took the bus to popping class.

I wasn't expecting much, but I was warned that the buses often get crowded and people get pick pocketed.

They didn't warn me about the procedure on which you get on and off the bus.

Everything is normal, there's a bus stop on major streets. When you see your bus coming you wave your hand to indicate that you want to get on. This is where it gets different.


I was with my coworker, "hurry up Chris! It's coming." As the bus came toward the stop it slowed down, a little bit and the back door opens. This is your cue to start running and JUMP onto the moving vehicle.


My coworker got on smoothly. Me, on the other hand, had my shoulder slam into the side of the entry way of the bus. It was a trip. Luckily the bus was not crowded and I found a seat. Also, it was airconditioned! Sweet.

In side was a bus worker to collect your 3,000 dong (20cents) and give you appropriate change. Double sweet! Appropriate change! I hate the buses in the US where you need exact change.


Ok, it doesn't stop there. I was told that my stop was approaching and my coworker told me to go towards the back door. The bus stopped in traffic and I pushed against the door to get off, you know like in San Francisco. But the doors were controlled by the driver.

Oh.. I was supposed to "prepare myself."

With out warning the doors opened in front of me and once again, the bus did NOT stop. Before me was a moving ladding pad. I went with it and jumped out of the moving vehicle. If I had lost my balance, I would have fallen into a huge puddle.

I threw up my hands with Victory! Yeah! How exhilarating.

What about old ladies and crowds? I think the buses stop for them, but if you look healthy... you're expected to do the work of a stunt man. Sometimes the guy that collects your money also helps you get on the bus by extending his arm... but it's up to you to catch up to the speed of the bus.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I got an email from my dad:

SUBJ: WARNING! Do not eat or drink

Hi Pho,

Be careful over there. Do not use any of the products listed on these images because they contain Melamine which is hazardous to your body. Make sure you tell our relatives too.


Seriously?! Doesn't Unilever make everything? You forgot P&G.
I have no witty comment to add to this.

Thinking Outloud

Looking Good Looking Good

Everyday I use the elevator to get to the 16th floor of my building in downtown Saigon. And everyday I feel sexy. Why?

Because I am tall compared to the 5'2 girls and 5'5 boys.... I am a proud 5'6 American bitches! Because I'm wearing a flashy dress shirt and sexy dress shoes. I am 23 and I look like a foreign hotshot. And even though I have to wear a helmet, my hair maintains its shape thanks to American hair products... or European? Western products!!! (Made in China... WESTERN PRODUCTS!)


I noticed that Vietnamese people like to yell. A lot. It hurts my ears. They yell at waiters, they yell at children, they yell at each other. I think it's because the city is so noisy. They grew up in a noisy environment and yelling was the only way they can hear each other.


So loud. Vietnamese people are loud. And they are my alarm clock.

I am awaken every morning by noise at 5am. The streets already begin to fill up outside my family's house. And it doesn't help that we sell coffee in the morning. But I manage to zone everything out before I wake up officially at 7am.

Hot Shower

My Aunt said to me, "Oh, if you want to shower with warm water let me know!" I was thrilled. These pass weeks I have been taking cold showers because I thought there was no water heating system. I mean, cold showers are great during the day, but at night and in the morning, no thanks.

Yesterday she offered again. I thought she just had to go downstairs to turn a knob. But this is what she said, "yeah! take that thermos with you, it should have hot water in it... it'll feel good." You're shitting me.

So.. a hot shower means I have to carry a bucket of boiled water from the stove into the shower upstairs making a huge mess and then use a cup to pour it on my body. "Umm... nooo it's okay Auntie, it's too much trouble!"

"What do you mean trouble! It's easy!" I insisted.... seriously, it's not worth it and it became a luxury that I'm realizing.

After my shower I saw her fiddling with the water heater thing. "Aww... it's broken." That's like the theme of this ... shit, my priviledge side was emerging. I nodded, "don't worry about it!"

Learning about Myself

Today, I said hi to the receptionist.
"Did you go swimming this morning?" I found out that she swims yesterday at lunch.
"I go swimming after work!"
"So you have to bring your suit."
"That's right, do you want to come with?"
"YES! Oh god yes!"
"Okay, tomorrow!"

This pass year I have closed myself off from a lot of people. I stood proud when I list out my close friends and have no intention of making more, but I am learning that I am approaching it all wrong.

This pass year, I said to myself, "I have 600 something facebook friends... why? would I invite them all to my birthday? No. There are only a hand full of people that I care about so why should I go out of my way to make new friends that I probably won't be close to.. it's better to just concentrate on close friends..."

I'm a fool.

I am realizing that that's a horrible way to approach life. And it's affected me greatly. I can tell that I come off as unapproachable... because I am, but you know what... we can always use new friends to do different things with. It makes life more varied. It makes life more fulfilled when you can say you're going out with different people and experiencing different things.

It's good to be friendly, to extend a hello... to make something from nothing. So suck it up and just approach someone and offer some of you while they offer something back.

Give and take... yadda yadda. That's what I used to be like... In key club, in NSU. "HI my name is Christopher... I don't know you, but I could... I act like I care because.. I do. And even though we're not close you still deserve a hello." Take a flyer... community service. Take a flyer... watch a culture show... Take a flyer... save a life... these are the things I care about and you will be inspired by me because I want to share a part of me... with YOU.

That's who I used to be. Outgoing...caring... uninhibited... and bubbly.

And in Vietnam, I have to be like that otherwise I would accomplish nothing. I have to make something from nothing. I have to meet strangers and hope they don't rob me and discover new places and ideas.

That's who I was... that's what I lost.... wow.

Piece of Home

I had my first "American" meal.

It was a pizza of course at this hotel restaurant . A salami pizza. Gosh, it was mediocre.
I'm getting a little homesick and it's only been 2 and a half weeks.


I've also been a little... you know... cough cough... this lack of privacy is killing me. I need a little Dragon right now.... some downe friends. Hmmm... what to do.


Work is very interesting. Yesterday, the design and account managers brainstormed some activation ideas for a paint company. But seriously, if you're rich enough to paint your house, you would higher someone to do it. But it was interesting... the meeting was conducted in English. There was an Swedish guy and a Pilippino guy and an Indian guy... all of them with stereotypical accents.

I DON'T understand how they understood each other! But everyone had good laughs.

The Pilippino guy was hilarious! The selling point of the paint was that it made the room look more spacious and relaxing. The guy came up with that idea of having an exhibit where people would walk into a room painted by the paint...with midgets handing them brochures... with the midgets there, of course the room would look bigger!

Everyone started to laugh... it was a riot!


Today I reviewed some pictures taken from an activation of a very affordable stove targetted in rural Vietnam! Wow! A $12 stove!


Someone took a candid shot of me... this is what I look like when I'm checking someone out.

Now... i understand.


Popping Class was great! I'm tuning up my overused body roll! After, I hung out with this post grad law student who was in Vietnam fucking around until his bar results came in. He managed the district website for Key Club in the late 90s.

"The best thing about Key Club was it taught me how to dance!" He expressed such fond memories... even at 27, he remembered every detail. I wonder why I didn't maintain any of my key club friends. I wonder why I just remember having a great time, but never kept in touch.

I wonder what happened.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Fack You Later

This is what I hear in the office.

"He need to fack me"
"I didn't fack you yet"
"I can't fack you until he fack me first"

Apparently fax and fuck sound similiar.


These passed few days I have cramming marketing basics. I didn't realize how drastically lacking my knowledge was. I realized that I was never a business student. But my boss was very patient and laid the foundation that I needed... in one hour. Fack!

And as an intern, not much is expected of me. Nevertheless, my project is still challenging.


I am doing below the line consumer research at "modern trades" or supermarkets. I am doing a general observation that should have been done when the company started 10 years ago. But I guess that gives me flexibility.


According someone, upperclass Vietnamese people make at least $500 US Dollars a month. Wow. A lot of people who work here get local pay. My office is full of yuppies. Young fashionable Vietnamese professionals who spend immediately what they make. There is no concept of saving in Vietnam and the family structure and culture has demonstrated to make these kids depedent for dear life on their parents.


You don't come to Vietnam to become rich, that's for sure. You come because everything is cheap and for opportunties that have escaped countries who are already developed. I know that what I'm learning in the office, I would never get in the US. I am a nobody in the business sector and they would shout "next!!" before I could even say anything.


I want to do a good job, so I'm going to push hard. Wish me luck

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cam Vat

I remember going to those pho places and getting orange juice.

And I would always get upset when they bring out a glass full of ice and an inch worth of juice... wtf is this?!?!? I would always throw a tantrum. "Vietnamese people are so freaking cheap!"

Now I understand.

You're supposed to let it melt!
In Vietnam, people put concentrate in a glass full of ice. Because of the heat, the ice melts quickly and after a couple of stirs you have a fresh drink!

In the US, by the time the ice has melted, you're already done with your pho.

WOW! What an epiphany!

Tomorrow I Start Work

"You're brave for meeting up with strangers," my local cousin thinks I'm crazy.

"Well... friends start off as strangers," I'm not going to limit who I meet and it's kind of exciting to know that I'm putting my life in danger. I have nothing to lose.

Last night I met a fellow Berkeley grad that I found off thefacebook. Graduated in winter 2007, he got an interview through and bought a one way ticket.
"You impress me."

He talked a lot about his experience. He's already hit the 6 month mark. "I'm making a 5th of what I should be making, but the experience is worth more." Unlike me, he didn't have family.

He emphasized, "there are opportunties here, no doubt, but you can also get side tracked. You have to be careful." It's true, this city is a lot of fun. Everyday I discover something new and none of that touristy shit.

As he talked more, it became clear. People who work abroad are in search of something. People who leave home are unsatisfied... escaping. Often, they need to be reminded of everything that's going RIGHT in their lives.
It makes me wonder how severely desperate someone wants to change to go abroad. It makes me wonder... what happened to them to for them to voluntarily flee from what's familiar to a place so alien.

I know what happened to me. And by taking a break from home, I managing to solidify a more satisfying definition of myself. Appreciation

I have four more weeks before I fly back to the US. These four weeks are important because they will determine if I will stay for a longer period of time. The US is doing terribly. I probably won't be able to secure a job, but I'm coming to realize how much I love my friends and family I have in the US. I've also become aware that my soul is not that LOST for me to leave them until my mid to late twenties.

If I come back, it'll be different. My license will be returned to me. I will have a clearer idea what I want to do with my career. Essentially, if I return or if I stay... I will have grown more than I ever could imagine.

But it's only been two weeks and I've got a long way to go. Tomorrow I start work. My unpaid internship in consumer research seems like a perfect fit... but I can only hope that it will help me realize what I want to do with my life.... at least with my career.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Crash the Party

As I was heading home from having some "Cock with Sauce" with my uncle, I got a text from my expat cousin about a fashion party. "Wear white!"

My local cousin and I crashed that mother fucker! They served free Grey Goose and Vietnamese influenced hor'dervs. People smoozed. I took pictures. My expat cousin made friends... he impresses me. A nothing-to-lose philosophy. I quivver at initiating a conversation with these young professionals in their late 20s early 30s. And when I'm introduced, I fail to maintain one. More Grey Goose Please.

There were window displays where underwear models stood and changed poses every 10 minutes.

I met one of the promoters, a young Canadian who's been in Vietnam for 3 years. "You don't miss cold huh?"
"I miss my family." Then he turned to talk to some models. We stayed until the bar made of ice collasped.

I managed to get some free parting gifts.
"Do you have your invitation?"
"OOo uh, I don't have it on me, I may have left it in the car.. is that okay?" I spoke quick English, the Vietnamese girls stumbled.
"Just take his name and give it him." One of the girls said to another. They were probably scared that I was important.

Yes! Free Jockey Towels!

That's free Grey Goose tonic I'm holding.