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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.


I started writing this blog post while sitting alone at my boyfriend's apartment in London on New Year's Eve. My boyfriend had to work that night, so I took the quiet time to pen down my thoughts, reflecting on many memorable events that I got to experience in 2022 and feeling extremely grateful for them. 

Nearly 1 month later, I was sitting in my home in Vietnam, still trying to compose this long post. It's the first day of the Lunar New Year, 2023- the most auspicious day to write your resolutions and wishes. But more importantly, it's the perfect day to look back at all the ups and downs I went through in 2022.

At the beginning of 2022, as soon as Vietnam & Singapore resumed their international flights, I booked a flight ticket to be home with the family for Lunar New Year. There were still many strict Covid travel restrictions then. Despite being prepared and having a Covid test done, and vaccine certificates, I wasn't allowed to board due to the timing of my Covid test. I took the test 75hrs before departure time, and the airline required 72 hours only. So, unfortunately, I had to cancel my flight and book a new one to be home after Lunar New Year. I couldn't be home for the family reunion dinner; the earliest flight home was on the 2nd of the New Year. But on a positive thought, I got to experience both Lunar New Year in Singapore and Vietnam. 

This was also the first time in the last 12 years I celebrated Lunar New Year in Singapore. I had my close friend- Dhilip coming over on New Year. We prayed, mediated, and had a few drinks together. It was just lovely. 

On 2nd day of the Lunar New Year, I flew home. Seeing my parents again after 2 years since the lockdown made me feel emotional. Even though I'd love to give mom and dad tight hugs and kisses, I had to keep a distance from them and walked straight to my room to serve 3-day quarantine right after I arrived home. At the end of my quarantine, mom drove me to the hospital nearby for the Covid test. I was only able to join everyone at lunch when the test result came back negative, which was mid-day on the 5th. It was tough not being able to be close to my loved ones, but my home quarantine experience was the easiest one compared to many other cases. Thus, I wasn't complaining. On the contrary, I felt thankful that nobody in my family got sick. 

Except for my grandfather. 

He fell sick for over a year and a half and was hospitalized for a few months during the pandemic. I was so worried that I couldn't come home to see him at all, and I was praying that he'd still be there when I went home. As soon as I got out of the home quarantine, the next day, we drove back home to see my grandfather. He wasn't able to walk or eat by himself. He could only lie in bed. Some days, he forgot his children's names. On other days, he remembered all the stories of his life during the French, Japanese, and American wars. My grandfather held many high leadership positions during the Vietnam war, and he was well respected by thousands of people. When I arrived at his bed, he remembered me. The first thing he asked was, "You've finally come to see me. When will you be getting married?". He asked me this question in the last 16 Lunar New Year. Every time, he received the same answer from me "I don't know, grandpa. I haven't found the right one yet." "When do you think you'll find the right one? When you are 50 years old? Quickly find someone to get married and have kids"- he continued despite having difficulty in breathing and speaking. I left his room to let him have his afternoon rest. I was happy to see my grandpa and talk to him, but I felt so sad and disappointed in myself. All his wish was to attend his granddaughter's wedding, but I couldn't fulfill that. I tried, but I failed. 

Grandfather passed away peacefully in his sleep at 9.05am on 12th Feb 2022, aged 97 years old. Although our family expected that this date would come, nothing could prepare you for the death of your loved one. Everyone said that he was waiting for me to come home. 

During my time in Vietnam, I joined my God sister in purchasing a small piece of land for good luck. It's my first investment in property as a landowner. How cool does that sound? Though the upfront money was paid and the land ownership contract was issued, I never got to see my land in person. Someone was so interested in our property they paid us such a good price that we couldn't say No to the offer. We sold that land to them. Just like that. Buy and sell land within 15 days. I didn't know if I made a breaking record, but It was surely one of my proud achievements of 2022. 

Coming back to Singapore after 3 weeks in Vietnam, I was out of balance emotionally. I had to keep myself focused on the busy work schedule while dealing with many overwhelming emotions: losing my beloved grandfather, being separated from my family again, and getting back into the "lone ranger" lifestyle I have in Singapore. I cried in front of my closest friends and my boss. It was too much! 

I decided to create an account on a Dating app again. I had not been on a dating site for a long time, but the conversation with my grandfather made me feel like I should put myself out again to find true love. The negative Crystal in me thought, "You'd end up in disappointment and heartbreak again," but the positive one kept pushing, "Don't give up on Love." The positive Crystal won. I swiped right and was matched with a few people. I decided to meet one. I never believed in a long-distance relationship, but thanks to this person, I started accepting the idea of dating from thousands of miles away. The world is small, and I never stay in one place for so long anyway. Unfortunately, the relationship didn't last, so I moved on with my life. I'm at the stage where I no longer have the time and energy to fight for someone to be in my life. I have other important things to prioritize, like my health, finances, and career. 

Last year, thanks to my boss, I was promoted to a Senior role in my career. As a result, I took more responsibilities at work, got to work with new colleagues from different regions, and picked up new skills and knowledge every day. More importantly, I had a wonderful opportunity to work from our Europe office. Before the Europe trip, I received all my certificates from Harvard Business School online for all the courses I took in 2021. It was quite a proud moment holding these certificates in my hands. 

Back to the Europe trip, it was the most last-minute business travel I've ever had, but thankfully, everything just worked out. I received my visa on April 18th, booked the flight on April 19th, confirmed the hotel on April 20th, packed my suitcases on April 21st, and by April 24th,  I arrived in Barcelona. If this isn't called "unexpected last-minute travel", I don't know what is. The first week working in Barcelona was busy and productive. It was also my first time meeting my new team members, and I enjoyed chatting with everyone. 

After the work week in Barcelona, I spent another week seeing more of Spain as a tourist. My long-time friend, Gregory, who is based in London, helped me book a train ticket to Madrid and a hotel room when I returned to Barcelona. I hadn't seen Greg since my trip to London in 2018, so it'd be lovely to meet him in Barcelona if he could make it. And to my surprise, he booked his flight ticket to Barcelona on the day I told him I received a visa without a doubt. 

Gregory and I have been friends for 13 years. Although we were in different parts of the world, we still tried to stay in contact and chatted about work and our life from time to them. There was no spark between us as we were dating someone else. The trip to Barcelona brought us back together and allowed us to look at each other from a different lens. Most importantly, I felt that it was the right time that we had a talk. After checking into the hotel that Greg booked, we had a long and honest conversation. That heart-to-heart conversation ended with a kiss, and the rest was history. I'll keep this long story for another blog post, I promise. 

We spent 4 beautiful days in Barcelone and explored the city like any other tourist couple. It felt so easy to be with him. I wondered whether it was because of our 13 years of friendship or if we truly got along. It was similar to the London road trip we took 4 years ago as friends. The only difference this time, we held hands and kissed. The time went by so quickly when we had fun. After four days, I had to fly back to Singapore, and Greg had to head home to Belgium. We gave each other goodbye kisses at the boarding gate. Even though we didn't know when we'd meet again and how this relationship would go, we weren't being hopeless or feeling negative about our relationship.

After Spain, I went to the UAE for one week for a work trip. It's the first time I co-organized a trade show in the Middle East. The last time I visited Dubai was in 2009. I never thought I'd come back to the Middle East so soon. So it felt surreal to be back here for a business trip. 

Leaving Dubai at the end of May, I went back to Singapore and flew to Ho Chi Minh over the weekend for the annual Vietnam International Fashion Week. I had a great time catching up with many old friends whom I hadn't seen for two years due to Covid. I also took some me-time to recharge and rejuvenate in Ho Chi Minh, then flew to Hai Phong to spend time with my family. 

July came in a blink of an eye. Greg and I decided to meet halfway, and Dubai was the destination. I took a few days off work. We had a spontaneous and fun couple's trip in the Middle East in the summer when everyone else left the region to avoid the heat. Thankfully, the temperature in the desert dropped at night; we could enjoy the buffet dinner and watch the belly dance performances in the camp after the whole day under the sun for Quad bike riding, sandboarding, and camel riding.

We traveled together as friends before, but this was the first official trip as a couple. What would a normal couple do? They go on a date, of course. So, on the second last day in Dubai, we dressed up and went to the famous Burj Al-arab luxury hotel for our date night. It was such a romantic and lovely evening to wrap up our trip. 

We said "Goodbye" to each other again. Then, Greg flew back to London, and I returned to Singapore to prepare for my big work event in October. At the beginning of September, I returned to the Middle East again for work. This time, I went to Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Arabia was never on my travel bucket list. Like most people, my impression of Saudi Arabia was "It's not a safe place. Especially for a woman who travels alone". It's a male-dominant country. There are so many restrictions for women. I can't eat in the same restaurant as other men. I need to have a male guardian to travel around Saudi. I need to wear a headscarf all the time. The list goes on. I was nervous the entire flight and even put the headscarf on and changed into a black abaya (a black outer cloak that Saudi women wear to cover their cloth). 

 As soon as I hit the ground running, things were completely different. I booked an Uber from the airport and chatted with the male driver during the entire journey to the hotel. I went to a trade show and talked to hundreds of people over 3 days. Many of them were Saudi men. I was told that Saudi men wouldn't talk to women because they could not approach the woman first. Well, that was an easy problem to fix. I'd approach them. That's what a Marketing person does at a business tradeshow, anyway. 

After 3 days at the tradeshow, our partner invited my team and me to have the most sumptuous lunch I could ever imagine. All the best cuisine from different countries in the UAE was served. So here I was, a small girl at a big dining table with Saudi men talking business over a delicious meal. It felt like a big deal. 

After work, I needed some time to recharge and took the opportunity to see more of this beautiful country. I booked a private tour to visit one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city - The Edge of the World. The Edge of the World is about an hour's drive from Riyadh city, and the journey itself was a sight to behold. The vast expanse of the desert landscape was both breathtaking and humbling, and I couldn't help but marvel at the raw beauty of the surroundings. As we reached the Edge of the World, I was blown away by the stunning vista that greeted me. The rocky outcrop dropped sharply, revealing an incredible view of the desert below. Over 150 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, this was an ocean bed with 300-meter-high cliffs. I never thought one day I would place my footsteps in this corner of the earth. I was feeling so insignificant and overwhelmed by the magnificent beauty of Mother Nature. One thing I reminded myself of when I first saw the Edge of the world. If we can find fossils of coral reefs, shells, and snails in the middle of the desert, then nothing in life is impossible. 

I left Saudi Arabia with a mind opened like a parachute and a heart filled with excitement and hope to explore other cities of this mysterious land in the future. I know I'd be back. I landed in Singapore and stayed home for a night to unpack and pack my luggage again. The following morning, I was up in the air again, heading to Bangkok for another work trip. The adrenaline rush was real, and so was the exhaustion. 

Bangkok was short and sweet. I went to Bangkok many times for work but never once had a chance to see the city as a tourist. This time, I had a day off after the conference. I wanted to see some famous tourist attractions in the city. A colleague of mine was kind to accompany me for a day and volunteered to be my tour guide and photographer. 

After Bangkok, I had one last tradeshow to organize in Singapore in October before my long-awaited and well-deserved vacation with the family in November. Greg came to Singapore from London to celebrate my birthday and meet my friends and family. American Express gave us a luxurious complimentary stay at the Ritz Carlon Millennia Singapore on my birthday. Greg even surprised me with the balloon decoration and rose petals on the bed arranged as a heart shape. How romantic! 

We had a lovely brunch with my friend, a candle night birthday dinner just the two of us, and a BBQ party at my house with some close friends whom I have known for many years. 

As if the multiple birthday celebrations weren't enough, we flew to Ho Chi Minh for more birthday lunches and dinners before heading to Phu Quoc Island for a family celebration. It was the first time Greg met my family. There was no pressure for him as everyone had already talked to him over the video calls before the trip. It had been a long time since I last brought a boyfriend home, so everyone knew this must be serious. We had the best time together. We visited places, ate yummy food, watched fantastic water and light show- the best I've ever seen, and had quality family time. It was the best birthday celebration I had. 

But then, time flies when you have fun. We had to say goodbye to the family and each other again. He flew home to London and patiently waited for me to arrive in 2 weeks. It was my turn to cross the continent to celebrate my boyfriend's birthday and finally meet his family. 

Five years ago, I first visited London and saw him as a friend. Now, I have him as my boyfriend. It felt the same, yet so different. We both had to work during the week and only spent time together whenever possible. The one-month living together felt like a mini-test of our relationship. We had some serious conversations about love, life, and relationships. The more we talked, the more we felt in sync with each other. 

This trip to London was more memorable as I got to experience snow for the first time. I remember I literally jumped when I first touched the snow in my hands, and Greg was holding me tightly so I wouldn't slip and fall. They said the first snow was like the first love, and luckily, I got to experience it with my love. It felt magical. 

After London, we took a train to Bruges- a picturesque city in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, where Greg was born. He wanted to officially introduce me to his family and his best friends on his 40th birthday. I had never met anyone from his family despite knowing him for 13 years. I only knew 2 of his best friends, whom I first met in Barcelona in April. Though I didn't know what to expect, I had no pressure at all. As usual, "I'll just be my fabulous self,"- I thought. Very coincidentally, my best friend Marissa needed to go out of the US during that time, and Amsterdam was where she decided to land. Since she had a free and easy itinerary, I invited her to join us in Bruges. She met us at the Brussels train station and joined us on the next train to Bruges. Perfect timing! 

We all had wonderful 4 days at Knokke Heist. Greg's mom cooked delicious meals every day. She prepared everything so perfectly, from breakfast and lunch to dinner. One day, we went shopping at the Market Square, walked along the Bruges canal, took the horse-drawn carriage tour, and ate delicious lunch at a local restaurant. 

After Greg's 40th birthday celebration, we went back to London for work and returned to Bruges again the week after to celebrate Christmas with Greg's family. It was my first Christmas celebration in Europe, and it was the best. Greg took me to the Christmas market, introduced me to local wine, and took me to Bruges's most famous chocolate shop. 

When we came home, his mom was already done preparing food and drink for dinner. We exchanged gifts, hugged, and laughed. I felt completely at home and enjoyed every minute of it. Everyone was so warm, caring, and loving, just like my family. 

Time went by so quickly! I wish I could stay longer, but we had to leave for London for work. I started writing this post on New Year's Eve, sitting alone in Greg's apartment while he went to work. Outside, the firework brightened up the dark sky. I remembered clearly how happy I felt watching the firework, holding a glass of wine while giving my boyfriend a midnight kiss through video call. It's an overwhelming feeling of happiness, contentment, and gratefulness. How did I get here?

2022 felt like a high-speed train ride that took me from one place to another in a split second. Saturday morning, I had breakfast in Qatar. On Sunday night, I had dinner in Singapore, and Monday evening, I had a networking drink with customers in Thailand. I was exhausted, but the adrenaline kept me going. I went to Barcelona for work and returned to Singapore with a long-distance relationship. Then, the meeting with the families, the plans, and talks about the future. Everything happened so fast, and yet it felt right. 
At the time of writing this post, I thought 2022 was the best year that I had. 

Now, it's 2023. Here I am, back in London again after my trips to Tokyo, Bali, Bruges, and Paris in the last 3 months, wrapping this blog post on the last day of the first quarter of 2023 while Greg is making me some hot tea. So many things happened in the last 3 months, and I cannot wait to reveal what I'm working on. 

Stay tuned! The best is yet to come... 
Crystal Phuong
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