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About Me

About Me
CrystalPhuong.net is a Personal Style & Travel Blog based in Singapore, written by Crystal Phuong. The blog was nominated FOUR times in Top 10 Best Fashion Blogs in the annual Singapore Blog Award from 2012- 2015, voted as one of the Best Lifestyle Blogs in Singapore in 2013 by Hotelclub.com, and Best Travel Blogs in 2016 by Foodpanda.com. Crystal hopes to connect and inspire young women to lead a healthy and happy life. Be confident, be positive, and be kind.
SUM UP A DECADE WITH THE BEST MEMORIES OF 2019

SUM UP A DECADE WITH THE BEST MEMORIES OF 2019


 


I apologize in advance for a lengthy post, but 2019 was a very long, exciting, and eventful ride. So, get yourself comfortable and slowly take a walk down the memory lane with me.

At the beginning of 2019, my brother told me that I would have a very eventful and successful year that is beyond my expectation (he is our fortune teller Master in the house). I took his prediction with a pinch of salt. Now that I'm writing this blog post on my hotel bed in Rome, Italy, I have to say, "Boy, I did have a fantastic year indeed!" 

The first thing I did in January of 2019 was to sign up for a Kickboxing class. I'm always interested in learning Muay Thai, kickboxing, or any self-defense, but I never had the motivation to do it. Finally, I had one when I felt like kicking and punching something nonstop to help me release frustration and strengthen my emotions. I wasn't angry anymore, but occasionally still go back to the class for fitness purposes.


One week after signing up for Muay Thai class, I had to fly to Jakarta just one day for a business trip, and Da Nanang right after that for one week. It was my second time in Da Nang and the first time for work. After a 6 hour-meeting with the customer on the second day in Da Nang, I caught a cold and felt really sick. 


There were eight more meetings I needed to attend the following four days. I was coughing my lungs out at night, feeling hot and cold during the day, and not being able to sleep at night. The worst sickness that I've ever experienced in years, especially when you were alone in a hotel room, eating the same room-service food every night, and trying to respond to everybody's urgent email requests. Luckily, my mom flew to Da Nang on the last two days I was there to take care of me and to take me home. I wasn't feeling my best but had enough of the hotel's food, so we decided to have dinner by the beach and watch the sunset before flying home the next day.  


Always love spending a Mother-Daughter time with her whenever I can. 


Two weeks spent at home in Hai Phong during Lunar New Year in February helped me heal. I had a wonderful time with the family and was ready to head back to Singapore to kick start the lunar New Year with a bright and positive mode. I flew to Bangkok in March to train my new colleague for three days, came back to Singapore, and back to Bangkok again in early April for another work trip. 

After Bangkok, I flew to Ho Chi Minh to attend a business conference. Vietnam Fashion Week happened in the same week, so I was able to spend all evenings and weekends to attend the shows and to catch up with old friends.


Then, India was calling. I might have to travel to 11 cities in India in 7 days. As much as I love traveling and visiting new places, the idea of taking my luggage from one meeting, getting in a car, taking another flight to another appointment for five days straight scared me. I delayed all my bookings until the last minute when I knew a colleague in India would fly to all those places on my behalf. It was such a relief. April was the most stressful time that I've ever experienced in my career life. I used to think, "What's stress? I don't have any." While I was very grateful for many big opportunities landing on my lap, I had to do an enormous amount of work. So much that I always stayed up until 3 am or even 5am some days to finish it.  As a result, my body just gave up on me. Then I knew how stressed I was. I couldn't sleep at night; I felt light-headed during the day, I almost fainted in the office while standing up from my seat and my heart was beating so fast. That was the first time I experienced an anxiety attack.  It was scary. When the doctor and your boss give you an order to stay at home and rest for two days without touching the laptop at all, you know it's serious. It hit me, and I quickly spent all the effort I could to take better care of my health. I spent more time outdoor, doing yoga or gyms at home when I can, turned off email notifications on my mobile phone, and tried to sleep early at night. It helped. 



I also signed up for a Scuba Diving course in May and went to Malaysia for my scuba diving test. Thanks to Serene from Cuddle Fish Diver, who kept pushing me to join her diving trip. Otherwise, I don't know when I could cross this off my bucket list. Serene is also a certified and very experienced scuba diving instructor. If you want to learn, sign up for her course here.



After Malaysia, I went back to Ho Chi Minh at the end of May to join my friend at a charity event organized by his media company. We gave out toys, food, and clothes to the unfortunate children who are fighting their battle with all kinds of cancer at the hospital on the occasion of Children's' Day.  My heart ached to look at these innocent faces who suffer from pain and don't know when will be their last day to live. I wish I could give more to them than just toys and food.


June came around so quickly, I brought my family to Nha Trang for an annual family trip to celebrate my biggest deal won. I took my brother, mom, and nephew go snorkeling for the first time. It was their first time doing this water sport, and I'm glad they loved it as much as I did.



After Nha Trang, I flew back to Da Na Nang in June for another business trip and transited in Ho Chi Minh for 18 hours to attend this I'm Diva fashion event organized by Harper's Bazaar. It was by far the most stylish transit I've done.



In July, I took another trip back to Da Nang sooner than I expected, followed by a business trip to Ho Chi Minh city. The half-year flew by, and I finally had my first holiday. August, I brought my parents to Hua Hin for our annual holiday trip, just three of us. It's always been my dream to bring my parents to see the world with me. I'm so grateful that I'm able to make that dream come true now.


After Hua Hin, I flew to Bangkok in September for a work trip.  Three days after I returned to Singapore, my grandmother passed away. I booked the earliest flight the next morning after I received the news to fly home. I'm happy that she could finally reunite with grandpa, but I was heartbroken that I couldn't see her one last time and held her hands. She taught me to be strong, independent, and fearless (that's how she survived through war, she said). I will continue to be brave and be kind, just like her.


I was supposed to go to Manila on the day that my grandmother passed away, for a strange reason, the trip was postponed until a few days later. So after Hanoi, I went to Manila for the first time for work. Nine days later, I found myself on an airplane heading, heading off to Jeju Island, South Korea, for another business trip. Two new destinations in October added on my travel bucket list. But the best trip was yet to come.



I came back to Ho Chi Minh for a star-studded event, Star Award, organized by Harper's Bazaar. It was the first time I dressed up like Venus, the Goddess of Love. Ho Chi Minh always makes me feel like I've never had enough time to enjoy all the great things this city offers, no matter how many times I visit.


November, my most favorite month of the year came. I spent a couple of days in Hanoi for work, for a family matter, and a special event- Vietnam International Fashion Week. My schedule was so full from 8 am to 12 am. I was running around town for customer meetings, lunch appointments, fitting with the designer, street style photoshoot, visiting Uncle in the hospital, and getting ready for an event. By the time I got back to my room each night, I couldn't feel my body. I was so tired, but I was still excited to do what I was doing. The adrenaline rush was real. On November 1st, while I was attending Vietnam Fashion Week, the hosts called my name to come up on stage to receive the "Best Fashionista Award.", my Uncle passed away. I didn't know how to process two extreme sides of emotions at one time. I walked up the stage, said "thank you" to the organizer, and tried not to cry. I was grateful for the award and glad that I came back to see him in the hospital the night before he was gone, but sad that I couldn't stay longer to attend his wake. Bali was calling, so I packed my luggage and left home at 5 am the next morning.



You already knew what happened in Bali through my 35th birthday blog post. In short, when I was having the best night celebrating my 35th birthday with the girlfriends, someone broke into our villa and stole our valuable things. Another day, another extreme roller coaster ride of emotion.


After all, I still came out strong and did what I needed to do. Life goes on. I didn't even have time to sit down and feel sorry for myself for so long. By the time I came back to Singapore, I was so busy working with my boss to hold the first Asia Pacific sales conference for our team. It was the first time I co-organized such a big event. From designing event invitation, planning the agenda, selecting the music to hosting the event, managing the 3-day conference, and having a 20-minute presentation to share my 2019 career success story with the team, I felt like I've outdone myself. I could do it.



December, the most magical time of the year is here. I'm writing this blog post on my comfortable hotel bed in Rome, Italy (I never imagined myself saying this). My girlfriend, Stefanie and I had the most beautiful 3 days in Florence. We went to Leaning tower of Pisa (photo below), Siena and discovered the beauty of Tuscany region. I woke up to the second biggest business deal of 2019 closed on the second last day of the year. My heart was bursting with happiness. I was so happy that I could cry. 


Remember this girl in 2009? She first arrived in Singapore, trying to make her living with multiple jobs at one time and only dreamed one day she could afford to buy a $60 dress. Traveling to Europe or the US was just her dream. She struggled to find her voice and purpose.


A decade later, the same girl is now enjoying her best time in Rome, celebrating life with big gratitude. Ten years went by, just like that. I'm so glad I didn't give up when I was at the lowest point in my life. I'm so grateful for many amazing friends, bosses, mentors, who have been guiding and supporting me throughout this journey.


2020, I have many big realistic plans and goals to achieve. But I'll slowly share with you when the time comes. I don't know what the next decade will bring, but I know for sure, as long as I stay grounded, humble, grateful, positive, and kind to myself and people around me, I can overcome anything life throws at me. The last decade was a steady preparation. Now, it's time to accelerate.


If you are reading this, I wish you and your family nothing but good health and abundance happiness. Spread the kindness and love around.

Happy 2020! 

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35 YEARS YOUNG

35 YEARS YOUNG



It's scary to think how fast time flies. The first time I wore this green dress was on my 30th birthday, and the second time was on November 5th, 2019. Five years have gone by so quickly that I felt like I didn't achieve much. 

How did I feel when I turned 35? I honestly loved it, and one month after my birthday, I still love the Crystal at 35. Besides, I had a fabulous celebration. 

It was the first time I celebrated my birthday overseas with my girlfriends. We flew to Bali, Indonesia, on November 1st, to attend our close friend, Jessica's wedding. 








It was my first time attending a wedding in Bali, and boy, it was truly magical. The location was fantastic, the decoration was beautiful, the couple looked lovely, and the food was delicious. We danced until midnight when the couple tossed their bouquet. Guess who caught it? 


This girl. 

Does that mean I'll be getting married next year? I don't know. That story will leave for another time. For now, I just wanted to share with you my roller-coaster ride to the 35th birthday. So buckle up! 

We booked a two-bedroom villa in the heart of Seminyak. It was my first time celebrating a birthday overseas with my girlfriends. We spoke about this trip a few months in advance, so I was excited. We had our breakfast at a cute Australian cafe in Bali, then went shopping along Legian street. We spent our late afternoon drinking at a beach bar in the Marriott hotel, laughing at each other's jokes, taking way too many #wefie photos, and enjoying the sunset view of Bali. 





In the evening, we found our way to Alila hotels for a lovely dinner by the beach. The day couldn't be better.   



On the second day, I booked a private tour for three of us to check out some famous places in Nusa Penida. We first went for snorkeling at Crystal Bay with the hope to swim with the majestic manta rays of Nusa Penida, but we weren't lucky enough to see any. I was just happy to be underwater, regardless. 



Then we drove up to the mountain to catch a magnificent view of Kelingking beach that popped up on my Instagram feed almost every day. The photo doesn't do this place justice. You have to make a trip here to witness its beauty yourself. 



After Kelingking, off we went to Broken Beach. This beach is not like any other beach that I saw before. Probably from thousands of years ago, when the waves hit the rock consistently, it created a giant hole in the middle of the cliff. Now, the imperfect cliff makes Broken Beach become one of the most popular destinations in Nusa Penida.


By the time we came back to our hotel, this was what I saw. A bedroom was full of roses on the bed, in the bathtub, and on the floor. That was the loveliest birthday surprise I've ever received from my girlfriends. 



The next morning, we had breakfast and went for a photoshoot around the villa, specially arranged and paid for by my girl, Jessica. 




At night, we went to Motel Mexicola, one of the sexiest, most colorful and quirky Mexican bar and restaurant in Seminyak. I had a surprise birthday cake, we drank a few rounds of alcohol and danced until our feet hurt. My heart was bursting with joy and love.



Love these girls to bit Rebecca on my left and Stefanie on my right.

It would have been my perfect birthday celebration if only a burglary didn't happen at our villa that night. We were so careful to keep all our valuable items away in a locked suitcase and a safety box. Somehow, someone managed to open our villa gate, room doors, and knew where to find all our money and high sentimental value items. It was unfortunate that this happened on my birthday. From feeling extremely happy and grateful, to extremely angry, upset, anxious, and scared, we experienced all levels of human emotion on one night. Like the craziest roller coaster, we rode on. I was glad that we were safe, but still I was enraged. Some closest friends also reached out to offer to send me money in case we needed cash to go home. For that, I'm thankful! 

I've known Rebecca for almost four years now, but this was the first time I saw how calm and yet strong she was to deal with the situation. She never shed a tear when speaking with the hotel staff and the police, but broke down the next morning when telling Stefani and I how much the rings meant to her. I love and admire this girl so much.

This is life! Nothing is perfect. There will be many unexpected circumstances happen that are out of our control and imagination. It will make you wiser, stronger, and braver. On a brighter note, I had the most unique and memorable 35th birthday celebration. I can't wait to see what this new chapter in life has for me. 

Thank you so much for all these lovely wishes, presents, and cakes! 
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WHAT TO DO IN YOGYAKARTA?

WHAT TO DO IN YOGYAKARTA?


Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Sunrise in Borobudur temple

I visited Yogyakarta in April 2017. Because I posted so many photos about this trip on my Instagram (if you haven't followed me, you don't know what you miss), I thought I could skip writing blogs. But when I realized Instagram posts aren't going to give you much information about my experiences as a dedicated blog post, so here we go. After 2 years of collecting memories around the world (Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, USA, Indonesia, Dubai, London, Philippines), I'm back to the blogging business, trying to finish the blog entry about Indonesia while I'm sitting in my bed in South Korea. I certainly have a lot to catch up just from the country list above. For now, let's start with this trip so I can share with you what to do in Yogyakarta aka Jogja. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta

We stayed at Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta. Hyatt hotels always know how to treat their guests. The front desk invited us to the VIP lounge, served us fruit juice and while helping us to check in. The entire process was very quick and enjoyable. That's the way to welcome your guests!

It was still early when we arrived, so we decided to start the first activity of the trip. It wasn't the typical "hanging out by the pool and drinking pina colada" activity that I usually did. Instead, we went on a jeep tour (my first time) to explore Mt. Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta. I know what you are thinking. I'm asking myself the same question too, "What was I thinking?" 😅  "What if the volcano suddenly erupts?" "What if its pyroclastic flows killed us on the way down?" I still love my life- the list of fear went on. But then, the adventurous and curious Crystal in me said: "Shut up and go." So after almost 2 hours driving up under the hot sun (if I can still remember well), here I was posing in my jeep car, looking like a badass on Mt. Merapi. Poor the jeep driver, though, he had to take many photos to get one good one. I hope his photography skill has improved since, so he can have many happy customers.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Mt. Merapi

The most active volcano was sleeping while I was there. If you consider doing this tour, ask your guide to drive along the slope of Mt. Merapi that is totally destroyed after the last great eruption of Merapi in November 2010. It was fun. While doing so, let's pray that the volcano didn't erupt as I did.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Mt. Merapi 2

Along the way to the mountain, you'll see many Instagram-worthy spots like this heart-shaped deck where I was standing. Instagram truly changes our lives, including the people at Mt. Merapi. I bet 10 years ago, no one in Mt. Merapi thought this woody spot could generate income for them. Do you want to have an Instagram photo? $2 and the heart-shaped deck is yours for 3 minutes. Easy money!

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Mt. Merapi volcano

After Mount. Merapi, we drove down to visit Prambanan temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site also known as the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and the second-largest in Southeast Asia (according to Wikipedia). Prambanan temple is built in 10th century and is a complex of 240 temples. You heard it right. 240 temples. It's impossible to visit all of them, so I could only walk to the main temple and decided to admire this magnificent beauty through my photos and memories I had of this place. I didn't know what to do and where to go in Yogyakarta because I had someone else planned the entire trip, so when I got here, I was overwhelmed. I couldn't stop looking up.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Prambanan temple

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Prambanan temple 2

From Prambanan temple, we moved to Candi Ijo (Ijo temple) as our tour guide said this is the best place to catch the sunset in Jogja. He clearly knew what he was doing. Look at this sunset view.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta-  Sunset in Yogyakarta 2

I'd do anything for the sunset photo including climbing up to this unstable deck so I could look like a Wonder Woman looking over Yogyakarta

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta-  Sunset in Yogyakarta

or standing at the edge of the rooftop while looking like my knees wasn't feeling weak at all. Crazy things we do when we are young, you know.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta-  Sunset in Yogyakarta 3

We went back to the hotel after watching the sunset and the first thing came to my mind: pool time. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta-  Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta

That's not the hotel pool in case you are wondering. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta-  Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta 2

The next morning, we woke up at 4 am so that we could catch sunrise Borobudur temple. It's a must-do activity in Yogyakarta. I'm not a morning person, but I won't mind giving up my sleep for a beautiful view like this. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Borobudur temple

I had no idea what to expect and I was trying to wake myself up while walking in the dark, all the way to the top of this temple. By the time we arrived at the top, I was wide awake and blown away by the stunning view. This temple is beyond your imagination.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Sunrise in Borobudur temple

This sunrise made the steep climb at 4 am so worth it. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Sunrise in Borobudur temple 2

After leaving Borobudur, we went to Mendut temple another ancient monument in Jogja. What caught my attention was this giant tree just right outside the temple. I just had to take a moment to appreciate this beauty.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Candi Pawon temple

Then, we ended up at King Palace before heading back to the hotel. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Kraton royal palace

Day 3, we woke up early for the breakfast and left hotel quite early for another day full of exciting adventures. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Breakfast at Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta

An hour drive from the hotel later, we arrived at Jomblang Cave, a collapsed sinkhole that's part of a cave system that runs through Gunung Kidul, outside Yogyakarta.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Jomblang cave

Behind us, that's the cave entrance. There is any road for you to climb up or walk down, hence, this place is definitely not for the faint heart. You need to wear proper footwear (rubber boots given by the local tour), helmet, and master the single robe technique. Then, they'll lower you down 30 meters to the ground.

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Jomblang Cave 2

It was scary at first, but as soon as I placed my feet on the ground, the excitement kicked in. In front of me was the gigantic, dark, mysterious cave that is full of hidden surprise. The tunnel is 250 meters long approximately. The further you go, the darker it gets, and you'll need a torchlight to be able to see things inside. It's dark, muddy and slippery. I wasn't too sure about what I was doing and why I let myself get into this situation. But as the saying goes "The cave you fear holds the treasure you seek," I indeed found my treasure upon reaching to this spot called "Light of Heaven."

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Jomblang Cave 3


Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Jomblang Cave 5

As if Jomblang Cave wasn't impressive enough, the tour guide recommended us to try river tubing at Goa Pindul.  Goa Pindul is a cave formed by karst with an underground river located about 7 kilometres south of the city centre Wonosari, Gunung Kidul. All we had to do was to sit back, relax, and let the crystal clear river take us to discover the hidden beauty of Pindul Cave. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Goa Pindul

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Goa Pindul 2

To me, river tubbing at Pindul Cave was a wind down moment after the adventure at Jomblang. Then, I came back to this rose petal spa after a long day out in nature. It was a perfect trip. 

Crystal Phuong- What to do in Yogyakarta- Spa at Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta


That pretty much sums up my Yogyakarta trip. Now, if you have never heard of Yogyakarta or still consider visiting this city, I highly recommend you make a trip. This city won't disappoint you, I guarantee!

Thank you so much for reading!
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