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33 YEARS IN THE MAKING (PART 2)

When I started writing this blog post sharing a glimpse of my life story, I didn't think many people would care to read. To my surprise, the responses I received from you guys were so overwhelming. Many of you asked when part 2 would be released. It is now. Are you ready?

April 2005, I boarded a 9am flight with Thai Airways to Malaysia. I still remember it was early in the morning as I had to get up at 6am to make my way to the airport. My parents were with me.  While my mom kept reminding me to take supplements in the morning and to take care of myself, my dad didn't say much. He was probably still thinking if he made the right decision to let me go. Why did I fly with Thai Airways to Malaysia instead of Malaysia Airlines? Well, it wasn't my choice to make. The ticket was booked by the education agency who helped me complete all the administrative requirements for the scholarship. I didn't have a credit card and online booking wasn't available in Vietnam back then. Besides, the agency was responsible for my flight so I just relied on them. Perhaps, it was a cheaper ticket or there weren't many flight options available at last minute. They chose a Thai Airways flight for me. Arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport two hours later, I had to run back and forth in between counters to exchange my new boarding pass, tried to entertain myself for 8 hours at the airport, and found my way to the gate to catch the next flight. I could barely understand what Thai people were saying due to their unique accent. One lady pointed me to the gate A and the other told me to gate B instead. For a girl who had never flown anywhere before, it was terrifying and frustrating. 

8pm Bangkok Time, I boarded the next flight to Kuala Lumpur. It was pouring rain outside. My childhood dream of seeing a fluffy cloud in the sky was completely scattered. All I was wishing for was a good night sleep in a comfortable bed. I told myself "Only 2 more hours to go" and tried to close my eyes imagining a bright and beautiful tomorrow. But tomorrow seemed still far from it. 

I was so excited when I arrived at Kuala Lumpur immigration checkpoint. Little did I know that my university acceptance letter wasn't good enough to enter the country as a student. I needed a student visa which could only be issued when I was already in the country. The agency didn't tell me that I should enter as a tourist FIRST. Well, I couldn't blame them. I was ignorant to learn about this stuff. So instead of ticking the "Tourist" box on the entry card, I chose "Study" and because I didn't have a student visa, the immigration kept me in the interview room with a bunch of other Vietnamese ladies for 2 HOURS. At this point, I was about to cry.  Thankfully, there were 2 people from my University were waiting to pick me up. They spoke Bahasa Melayu (Malaysian language) to the officer and he released me in the end. I felt like a criminal. When I first saw the lady from my University, I didn't know her, I just needed a shoulder to cry on so badly. By the time they drove me back to the house, it was already 2am. 

My first flying experience was so long and crazy just like that. Thankfully, I had a comfortable bed to crash at the end of the journey. 


I had a huge cultural shock when I first came to Malaysia. I couldn't get used to the local food, had never been exposed to multi-ethnicity before. I didn't speak English so well and it was the only language I could use to communicate. The first two years were so tough that I often felt regret and felt like giving up. I was so lonely at times that I had no one to talk to but myself. That's when I started this blog in 2006. The photo above was taken by my laptop camera on a midnight in 2006. I wish I could have a camera back then to capture all those moments.    

One and a half year after I settled down in Malaysia, I was looking to teach in a dance studio to earn some income so I didn't have to ask money from my parents. The only way I could do so was to look for a dance partner and join some local dance competitions to get people notice.  I was lucky to find this angel, Anderson Gary who was funny, kind, and friendly to be my partner. We competed in Latin Beginner C (the easiest category) so we won the Championship. Anderson then introduced me to Ivy, one of the judges who owns a dance studio somewhere near my house. 


Ivy and I quickly became friends and a few months later, I taught my first private dance class at her studio. From a private class of 2 students, Ivy let me take on teaching group classes. My number of students started growing. They became my friends and my family. Finally, I had a surprise birthday party in overseas. It was so memorable. 


My five years living in Malaysia would have been so long and sad without the four years I spent teaching at Ivy's studio. We were able to move to a bigger and nicer dance studio with the numbers of classes that we had. I taught 3 to 4 classes per weeknight, and 2 to 3 classes every Saturday or Sunday. We organized workshops, dance parties, and dance performances every quarter. I had the best students I could ask for. They were not only my students but also my brothers and sisters. They helped me to go through a terrible situation like this one.



With Kim (Ivy's big sister) and Ivy Por (right). Can't say enough how thankful I am for these two. They treated me like a little sister in the family (I would have been their little sister for real if I didn't break up with their younger brother though :D). I felt horrible to break a news to Ivy that I was going to move to Singapore and left her stranded with so many dance classes to take over on a short notice.  One week before my visa expired, the company that I worked for almost a year told me that they couldn't get me a new visa. Ivy couldn't help me to get a visa as a dance instructor either. I didn't know why getting a work visa in Malaysia was so difficult and expensive, but I knew my time for Malaysia was over. 

On April 14th, 2009 I packed my bags again and left Malaysia for Singapore. I wasn't sure if I would live in Singapore or go back to Vietnam and start all over again after this. But at that point in time, there was a job interview waiting for me in Singapore and that's the ONE chance I was going to take.

 You already knew what happened after that, but wait until I share with you part 3. I'll promise I won't keep you waiting for too long. 

33 YEARS IN THE MAKING (PART 1)



A study by Friends Reunited, a British social-networking site, said that 70% of people over 40 years old claimed that they were happiest when they were at 33. It's my 33rd birthday today, and I thought there is no better time to share with you these images capturing my most contented moments, on my birthday. Thank you my girl, Zoey Bui for these beautiful photographs!



I looked at these photos over and over again and I still couldn't believe that I could look like this. These photos got me feeling emotional. 33 years are not long in a human's life, but it's certainly a long journey for me to be where I am today. 

Since I started this blog in 2006, I didn't share much about my personal life. But now, I'm at the point where I have nothing to hide, and I believe, the more we give, the more we receive. If you've been following my blog from the beginning, you'll get to know a lot more about me. But if you are new to this blog, this article would be a wonderful self-introduction indeed. 

So here we go!

I was born on November 5th, 1984 in Hai Phong, a small city in the North of Vietnam, near Hanoi. I was quite a chubby baby despite the fact that we were very poor. "We didn't have much food to eat"- said my mom. You can tell how skinny my mom, dad, and my brother looked. 



My older brother tried to hold me as I didn't know how to walk just yet.  


Since young, I already loved to perform either singing or dancing. Attention-craving since childhood, if you'd like to call it that way. Except for the weird hairstyle, I looked quite cute, didn't I? I was always invited to perform singing or dancing in my school, from kindergarten to primary,  This is a photo of me singing a Love song at someone's wedding at the age of 7 probably. How appropriate! 


and this is a photo of me, singing on High school graduation day in 2002.    


Here is another photo of me winning Miss Ngo Quyen high school 2002. It was the first time I've ever won in a beauty contest. To tell you the truth, years before this, I was so embarrassed about my body. I was the shortest one in the class, but my body developed faster than other girls. My fitness instructor and girlfriends often asked me "Why your breasts are so big?", "Why you are so tanned?", or "Why your lips are so thick?" etc. I didn't know how to answer and the only thing I did to avoid those questions was wearing boy's clothes most of the time. I was acting like a tomboy during my high school. If I didn't have to wear Ao Dai (Vietnam traditional dress) for the contest, I'd rather be in shirt and denim jeans. 




I wish I could have more photos taken during my secondary school years, but having my own camera was a dream back then. Most of the old photos here were taken by someone else and I just asked if I could keep some of them. When I was 9 years old, my parents went through a major downfall in their finance and career. They had to sell our house to pay for their debts and we started renting out a smaller house to live. I forgot how many times we moved. I was too small to understand what happened, but I knew we weren't in a good shape so I never asked anything from my parents. I tried to win a scholarship so they didn't have to pay for my tuition. I still remember there was a day my mother had no money to buy food for me and my brother. Luckily, I just won a writing contest with a $50 cash prize. I gave it all to her and we had a lovely dinner that night. 

After 10 years of living in rented houses, my dad managed to build his dream home on his own. This photo was taken on our housewarming day in 2003 and I could never forget how happy I was to finally have a small room on my own. 



Unfortunately, I didn't get to live with the family and enjoy my beautiful room as much as I wished. I passed an exam to enter a college of Ministry of Foreign Affair so I moved to Hanoi in 2002. That year, I started learning Ballroom dancing. My life changed. I was no longer a girl who felt embarrassed of her body and only wore boy's clothes. Dancing made me become more comfortable with how I looked. Who knew big boobs, tanned-skin, and thick lips could be advantages in Latin dance. I joined the first dance competition in Hanoi with my dance partner and we won the Championship. It opened up a new world for both of us. Suddenly, everyone in Hanoi knew us. We were invited to teach, to perform in every Christmas and New Year's Eve party from one city to another. I opened my own dance studio with my dance partner- turned boyfriend, taught 5 to 6 classes a day, and made a decent income at the age of 19. Life was good! 

Well, people thought my life was good. I smiled on the stage or in front of the audiences, but deep down, I was so depressed. I was struggling to deal with the relationship drama (like any other couples),  trying to finish my last year at school, running the dance studio, and acting like a talent management agent for both of us. It was too much to handle. I wanted to escape from everyone. Perhaps, my prayer was loud and desperate enough, it was heard. 

I applied for hundreds of scholarships online, submitted tons of documents, went for a few rounds interview with the Embassy and the school. A few months later, an acceptance letter arrived in my mailbox. I had a long conversation with my family. They didn't want to let me go at first, but they knew that they couldn't stop me. 

April 2005, I headed to the airport and off I flew to Malaysia with Bangkok Airways, feeling so excited about sitting on an airplane for the first time and being surrounded by fluffy clouds and beautiful sunshine (my childhood's dream). Why Malaysia and why Bangkok Airways, you ask? 

Well, that's another long story for another time! For now, thank you so much for staying with me this far!


Stay tuned for part 2! 

BEST MEMORIES OF DA NANG

I know it has been a long time since my last blog post and it's even a longer time since our last trip to Da Nang (one year, in case you are wondering). If you follow me on Instagram, you might notice that I've been traveling nonstop at the beginning of this year.  Something happened turned my life into a new chapter unexpectedly 4 months ago. I took the time off, traveled around, focused on improving myself, and tried to be positive as much as I could. I'd love to share with you what happened to me. But I have to save that long story for another day. 

For now, here is a major throwback some great memories of Da Nang. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what to do when you plan your trip to this beautiful city. 

Where to stay?

We booked a 3 bedroom-villa at Premier Danang Resort, a property by Accor hotel group. It was a stunning resort right by the ocean and of course, a beautiful place always comes with a beautiful price. We had a private swimming pool, a garden, a balcony, and a private chef who came to cook dinner for us on our last day. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang,

Our tastefully decorated master bedroom with a private balcony


A private swimming pool. When asked "What was your favorite thing from this trip?", my nephew didn't need to think twice to answer "The swimming pool". He clearly knows how to enjoy life at 5 years old, doesn't he?

Depending on your budget, finding a good hotel in Da Nang is not a challenging task. Working in hospitality industry gives me advantages and experiences when it comes to hotel booking. I'll always go to TripAdvisor and sort the hotels by the Traveller Ranking, and then filter them out based on my budget, preferences, and class. By far, I haven't had any bad experience at any hotel I stayed.

What to do in Da Nang?

Honestly, we didn't do many things this trip. Traveling with my family means doing some light activities like walking a long the beach, going for lunch or dinner, or chilling by the ocean. That sounds like what we normally do at home (we live near by the ocean anyway). Nonetheless, I managed to make everyone walk on our second day in Da Nang.

We took a taxi to Ba Na Hills, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Da Nang. Ba Na Hill is a hill station and resort located in the Truong Son mountain, west of Da Nang city in the central Vietnam. You'll get to enjoy the ride in the world's longest single-wire cable car while admiring the stunning scenery all the way to the top. Once you get there, it's like a different world that you'll see. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills

Blending in with the background in flower garden Le Jardin D'amour

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills

Looking for my Prince Charming on the Love Bridge. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills

This view from Linh Ung Pagoda is truly one of a kind. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills

Every corner in Ba Na Hills is so Instagram worthy.

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills

It was a bright and beautiful day in Da Nang when we visited. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Crystal Phuong

Our very first family photo of 2016. Missing my brother though. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills


A potential hopeless romantic in the making. Hope my nephew won't break many girls' heart in the future!

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills

We spent our morning and afternoon in Ba Na Hills and visited Hoi An in the evening, a city known for its well-preserved Ancient Town in the evening. It is only 46 minutes car ride from Da Nang. If you love seeing centuries-old Buddhist temples, trying out many types of food, enjoying vintage shopping, you definitely love Hoi An. Even I'm not crazy about the mentioned three activities above, I found myself immensely enjoyed my time in this beautiful place. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Hoi An

Hoi An is the land of lanterns and I can understand why. You'll see lanterns everywhere. If you are visiting Hoi An in during Chinese New Year, you'll get to experience the Full Moon festival, when the street lights are dimmed allowing only colorful lanterns illuminate the whole town. Its beauty will stay in your mind and heart forever. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Hoi An

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Hoi An

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang, Hoi An


On the last day in Da Nang, we spent our morning walking along the My Khe beach. It's always my favorite thing to do. This time, it was even better as I had my dad, mom, sister in law, nephew, and boyfriend with me. My brother would have been with us if not for his work commitment at last minute.

Singapore Travel Blog: Watching sunrise on My Khe beach, Da Nang

Watching the sunrise on the beach with my loved ones.

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang

Sipping on the juicy drinks.

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang

Miu was so happy whenever he gets to play in the ocean. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang

Watching this two building up a sand castle made my heart sink. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang

The loves of my life. Nothing beats watching them enjoying beautiful moments together. 

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang

Singapore Travel Blog: Best memories of Da Nang

Da Nang is more than just a tourist destination for me. It's the place where I had the first holiday with the family after 20 years. It has a special meaning in my heart. If you haven't visited this city, I suggest you make a trip. You won't regret after that even if you are traveling alone. 

Thank you so much for reading!  

WITH LOVE FROM MY KHE

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

As I am writing this blog post, I'm actually craving for some vitamin-sea at the moment. I miss the crystal-clear beach with mild waves and a stunning mountain view of My Khe Beach Da Nang. No wonder it was named as "one of the most attractive beaches on the planet" by Forbes magazine. 

I knew about Da Nang before, but I never made an effort to visit. Perhaps, it's the thought "It's in Vietnam. It's at home. I can go there anytime" that stopped me from going. But when I was standing on that fine sand beach, I started questioning myself: "What have I been doing? I traveled to many countries to see their beautiful beaches, not knowing that I have a breathtaking one in my motherland."

We get so busy with our everyday life that we often neglect things around us. Once in a while, a trip to the beach helps to clear my mind and reminds me of what I have been missing. 

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Crystal Phuong- Travel Blog- My Khe Beach, Da Nang

Thank you so much for reading! 

::Outfit::
Privacy Please maxi dress- (Thanks to REVOLVE)
Tom Ford sunglasses- Other choices here