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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.


When I started writing PART 1 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.
Crystal Phuong
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