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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.
Showing posts with label LIFE WITH CRYSTAL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LIFE WITH CRYSTAL. Show all posts


For many years, Gregory and I have wondered when and how we’d meet our life partner, where they would be, and if we ended up meeting someone, we started questioning, “Is this the right one?”

Before and after meeting Gregory, I have had a few relationships. Funny enough, they all ended once the relationships hit the 1-year mark. In all those relationships, even at their peak, I kept hearing a little voice in my head saying, "This is not the right one.” It happened repeatedly that it felt like a curse and that this mountain was too high for me to climb. 

When I told my mom, she was worried. Being the superstitious mom she is, she went to look for a Master and asked for some insightful, spiritual guidance. Coincidentally, at least 3 of them said "Your daughter had a past-life lover. That's why all of her relationships would end within 1 year". I didn't believe obviously, but when 3 random people said the same thing, you ought to listen. So, I went to the temple to pray and had some sort of ceremony to break up with the past-life lover whom I didn't even know existed. Anyway, whatever made my Mom happy, I'd do it. If any of these rituals worked, I would have been married a long time ago.

Being a young Vietnamese woman living overseas alone, I had gone through many emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences, both negative and positive. Not to mention having to deal with the society's pressure of being an "old maid,” "leftover woman,” and "expired woman.” 

After so many failures in relationships, I lost hope and didn't believe in True Love. I even accepted the fact that maybe I was dreaming of a fairy tale. True Love didn't exist. It was only in movies and fairytale stories. Even if I could blow all the seeds off a dandelion with a single breath, my Prince Charming wouldn’t suddenly appear the next day.  

But LIFE ALWAYS HAS A PLAN. Sometimes, we must go one big round to find what we are looking for.


One beautiful day in 2009, an ex-colleague whom I was quite close to at that time brought her long-distance boyfriend to the vibrant cityscape of Singapore and introduced him to me. His name was Gregory. My friend seemed to be in love, and I was happy she found someone. On the other hand, I was already in a committed relationship with someone else. I was a third wheel that night, but it didn’t bother me. We had dinner at Clarke Quay, a drink at the rooftop bar at Esplanade, took some fun photos together, and laughed it off. It was a fun evening. 

Shortly after their first meeting, Gregory and his then-girlfriend had gone their separate ways. The distance proved challenging, and Gregory wasn’t ready to leave his career in Europe and move to Asia. I didn’t ask my ex-colleague much. We all three moved on with our lives.  Gregory connected with me on Facebook after the first meeting and occasionally sent me messages and well wishes on special occasions such as birthdays or New Year. We were just each other's friends on social media. 

8 years later, in 2018, Gregory found himself needing healing after a heart-wrenching breakup from a four-year relationship. He chose Singapore as his first stop on his journey of finding and healing himself. Several months before his arrival, Gregory contacted me to check if I would be around during his stay. I said I would. However, I completely forgot about his arrival until a month later when Gregory's message came, "I'm in Singapore.” Fortunately, I had no travel plans and could still manage to spend a day or two with Gregory. Ironically, during this time, I took on the role of a matchmaker and introduced him to two of my close friends, though it didn't lead to anything significant.

Later that year, when my friend Marisa and I planned a winter holiday in Europe, we decided to include a visit to London to see Gregory. By then, Gregory had moved from Barcelona to London to work in a luxury hotel. After bidding farewell to Marissa, I stayed in London to spend a few extra days with him. To my surprise, he arranged a countryside road trip in England, taking me to Windsor Castle. We were on a mission to find my Prince Charming, who might wander around the castle. 

Unfortunately, the castle was closed. He then drove me to visit another castle- Cinderella Palace, joining me on the merry-go-round and playing like little kids.  

The final night of our road trip brought us to a charming gin bar in the historic town of Bath. We enjoyed our evening, and after he walked me back to our hotel room, we exchanged sweet "Goodnight" wishes before he headed to his own room. It was a quiet moment until, within just a few minutes, a soft knock on my door interrupted my thoughts. As I opened the door, Gregory took me by surprise with a spontaneous kiss on my lips. Surprisingly, I didn't pull away. I didn't feel any spark either. "It must be the gin that played tricks on me"- I thought. 

The next morning, we continued our journey, exploring Stonehenge and cherishing our time together at one of the world's most famous historical sites. It was cold and windy that morning. Greg tried to keep me warm with his tight hugs and held me close the entire time we visited Stonehenge. I didn’t push him away because I was really cold. We had a delicious lunch at the French restaurant before he sent me back to the airport. Right there, he asked, “If you wanted me to be in Singapore, I’d leave London for you.” I quickly shot that crazy idea down before he even finished his sentences “No, if you wanted to relocate to Singapore, move only if you have a job offer. Don’t leave your life here for me. I can’t take that responsibility. What if it doesn’t work out?” - I saw the disappointment in his eyes, but I had to draw the line. I didn’t want to lose our friendship. What if it didn’t work out?

We bid each other goodbye, uncertain when I'd return to Europe. But, we managed to stay connected through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, always checking in on each other's lives.

We were both deeply engrossed in our busy lives, chasing our dreams, focusing on work, and making plans. I couldn't be sure when or where I'd meet the right guy, but I had this persistent feeling that he wouldn't be in Singapore. Where exactly he'd be, I had no clue. All I knew was that the right time and place would eventually bring us together. Interestingly, Gregory shared a similar sentiment. He believed his ideal partner was out there, hailing from a different culture, country, and religion. It was quite strange that we had never discussed our love lives when we were just friends.

The global pandemic in 2020 brought us closer, and our talks became more frequent. But, the real game-changer came early in 20023 when I got a promotion at work. It was around March that year when I got a sudden work opportunity to travel to Barcelona. Unsure if I could secure a visa in time, I decided to inform Gregory of my plans anyway. Without hesitation, he applied for leave to be in Barcelona and meet me. When the visa arrived on Monday, April 18th, I quickly booked a departure flight on April 23rd. Gregory wasted no time and booked his own flight to join me in Barcelona for three days from May 3rd to 7th. After my work week in Barcelona, I took a few days off to explore Madrid while waiting for Gregory to arrive. 

Here I was still wondering when would I meet my real-life Prince Charming while visiting the Royal Palace in Madrid. I didn't know my life was about to change. 

I vividly recall the moment when I went for a morning stroll through the streets of Madrid, my mind was swamped with countless questions racing through my head "We shared a kiss in London 5 years ago. What if he kisses me again? How should I react? Should I pretend the kiss never happened? What if he booked only one hotel room instead of two?" Eventually, I made a decision to go with the flow and see what would happen.

As I stepped out of the train station in Barcelona, my eyes met a tall, handsome man with a radiant smile, and suddenly, it felt like I was HOME. Reuniting with him was akin to meeting a long-lost family member. It was at that moment I wondered: "Could he be the one I've been searching for?"

We hugged. There was no kiss this time. Greg graciously took charge of my luggage, ensuring my comfort as he opened the car door for me and took his seat on the other side. I discreetly observed him behind my oversized sunglasses, curious to see if anything had changed over the years. Upon reaching the hotel, Gregory went to the reception desk to check us in. Returning to where I sat in the lounge, he handed me a room key and said, "I've booked two rooms—one facing the street and the other overlooking the pool. Let me know which one you prefer." At that moment, I realized it was time to open up and address the reasons behind my past reservations. We had a long, heartfelt conversation, reminiscing about old memories while discussing our hopes for the future. The more we spoke, the more we discovered our striking similarities in friendship, family, love, career, and life principles.

I knew right then and there "I've been looking for the right man in all the wrong places." I confessed to Gregory "I wasn't ready for a long-distance relationship and didn't believe it could work. I didn't want to jeopardize our friendship if a romantic relationship failed. But now, I understand that if I don't give us a chance, I might regret it. So, if you're not seeing anyone and you're interested in a relationship with me, perhaps we could take it slow and see where this journey leads"

Being the gentleman that he is, Gregory gave me a warm hug. We shared another kiss. This time, I was fully present. We spent the next 3 days in Barcelona together as a couple. Everything was so easy with him. A few years ago, we embarked on a road trip as friends. We didn't expect to see a change in our friendship. But, destiny seemed to have a hand in our reunion in Barcelona. 

After the trip, we were in a long-distance relationship for another year. Gregory called me every day. We talked about our day at work, our plans, and even our challenges. We made it a point to see each other every 3-4 months, wherever possible. In July 2022, we went for a first holiday in Dubai as a couple's holiday. 

On my birthday, November 5th, Gregory flew to Singapore and surprised me with the birthday decoration in the hotel room of The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore. He planned all of these surprises while still working in London. 

Subsequently, I invited Gregory to join her family on vacation in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, marking his first meeting with my loved ones. Gregory wanted to officially ask my parent's permission to date me. My family knew of our story only in May after I came back from Barcelona and they were so happy and supportive. In December 2022, Gregory turned 40. He celebrated his 40th birthday in Bruges, Belgium, and officially introduced me to his family and close friends. Everyone made me feel at home and treated me like a family member from the first day. Everything felt right. By the time 2023 arrived, we knew for sure that we wanted to spend our lives together and we couldn't wait to begin. In March, we spent another week at his home in Bruges. He proposed to me on one of the most scenic spots in Bruges, Bonifacius Bridge (Lover Bridge), built in 1910 that has a reputation for its romantic atmosphere. 

After 14 years of maintaining a long-distance friendship, we finally tied the knot in both Singapore, where we first met, and Vietnam, my birthplace. Our wedding ceremony and celebrations took place on 27.07.23 in Singapore and 23.09.23 in Vietnam, following the Vietnamese wedding tradition with our friends and families from all over the world joining us. 

Reflecting on it all, we feel incredibly fortunate to have found each other in this big world despite thousands of miles and years of time. Just like many other people, we were all out there searching for love, hoping one day we'd find what we were searching for. But sometimes, love surprises us when we least expect it. That's how our love story began. Sometimes, what we are searching for is right in front of us. We just don't see them. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about our real-life fairy tale story. I've tried to summarize our long story in a 5-minute short film, if you'd like to watch, share, and subscribe, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Crystal Phuong

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Let me start this post with a punch line: I'm engaged! 

Over the last 17 years since I left Vietnam, I have listened to the question "When will you get married?" countless times. My simple answer was, "One day, I'll talk about marriage when I'm ready." Today is the day. 

Every Lunar New Year, the same question came up again from multiple people. Whenever my parents introduced me to their friends, after the question, "How old is she?", "What's she doing?" was "Is she married?". First, I was ok as I was used to it. It's my culture. Then, I got irritated when people started telling me how to live my life and advising me, "You quickly find a husband, have kids, and take care of the family. Don't work too much and travel too much." It got worse when people made jokes about women who are 30 years old and above unmarried being left on the shelf pass the "expiry date." How did I deal with these jokes? I ignored. 

In Vietnam and other Asian countries, many women want to get married because they are under family and societal pressure; they want to have kids by a certain age, change their passports by getting married to a foreign man, and want to change their life. Growing up in a country where marriage is a must-be done by a certain age, I fell into the same belief that marriage is the ultimate life goal of a woman. I set an ideal timeline for myself when I'd like to get married. 23, 25, 27. 29 years old. Those are considered auspicious ages for a girl to get married. I tried to follow this advice, but I failed. Every time I failed, I questioned myself, "Why?". Dad told me that I was too stubborn, too strong. He was very worried about me. Mom said I should be more realistic, less picky, and stop daydreaming. Then, some of my married friends told me, "If you want to find a husband, he might be boring. As long as he takes care of you, it's good enough. If you want to have a fun, passionate, and adventurous type of man, they'll always have commitment issues. You need to lower your expectation."

For years, I've been wondering, "Am I too demanding?", "Should I be more accommodating in the relationship?" "Should I reduce the number of boxes on my "Ideal Husband" list?", "Do I have a commitment issue?" After running away from a few marriage proposals, at 30, I started questioning myself, "Why do I want to get married?". Then, I came up with several reasons. I wanted to get married because I was getting older, I wanted to get married because my parents wanted to get married. I wanted to get married so that I could have a better life. I wanted to get married because I wanted to have kids. I wanted to get married so I could get a new passport. Lastly, I wanted to get married because I wanted to wear a wedding dress (this is the silliest one). 

Nothing's wrong with the reasons above. Everyone's needs are different, and everyone has the right to decide what works best for them. But when I took a step back and looked at what marriage really meant to me, I realized these were the wrong reasons for me to get married. By the time I turned 35, my view on marriage had changed, and so did my ideal type of life partner. Family, relatives, and friends stopped asking me when I'd get married (they got tired eventually). My parents slowly understood my perspectives. I'm not the typical, traditional Asian woman whose life and happiness depend on her husband. I have my own life and decide who deserves the VIP ticket to join me on this ride. I stopped comparing my life with people my age who married early and now have 2-3 grown-up kids with a big house and car.

Everyone has their timing. I'm not ahead or behind. I'm where exactly I need to be. Instead of waiting for my future husband to show up, I chose to focus on my career, finance, mental and physical health, and happiness. Work became my best friend to distract me from the negative thoughts about the unforeseeable future. I was at the mental stage that I would be fine being single if I couldn't find anyone worth getting married to. I no longer want to get married so I can have financial stability. I make and manage my own money. If I want to have kids, many options are available nowadays for single moms-wanna-be. I don't need a man to make me happy because I'm already happy being alone. If someone comes along who adds more value, more fun, and more experiences to my life, that's great! If not, I'd rather fly solo. I'm not asking for millions of dollars in their bank account, a big house, a car, a business class ticket, or luxury vacations. Integrity, kindness, intelligence, love, open communication, and patience are some qualities I was hoping to see in a man. Why would I need to lower my expectations to meet somebody's low standards? I found it hard to understand that advice.

I stopped talking about my love life publicly 7 years ago. Not because I didn't want to or believe in love. I feared it would end quickly as soon as I made the relationship public. It happened a few times in the past, making me think that some evil spirits from another universe cursed me. Despite going through many heart-breaking experiences and ups and downs in the relationship, I still believe in true love. I believe there is someone out there who is my equal and made just for me, someone who loves wholeheartedly and cares deeply, who is compassionate, respectful, loyal, and truthful. I just hadn't met him yet, I thought. But I was wrong. 

I already met him 13 years ago. I'll share the story about how we met in another blog post. Despite the short first meeting, the unique situation of how we met, the timezone difference, and the thousands of miles apart, we remained friends. He was the one who always reached out to wish me Happy Birthday and Happy New Year and checked in to see if I was ok. I kept him in the friend zone for a long time until one fine day in 2022; we met again after five years at a train station. It felt like coming home. I felt safe, comfortable, and free. I didn't have to hold the weight of the world inside me. I didn't have to tiptoe around him and filter my words before communicating. He watched me grow from the young girl who struggled to find out what I wanted in life to the woman I am now, who knows what I want and goes for it. I was so busy looking for a Prince Charming, not realize he was walking side by side with me all these years. 

To my fiance, thank you for showering me with a ridiculous amount of love every day. You accept me for who I am and are forever my number 1 fan (this is your words). You laugh at my silly jokes, cheer me on my tough days, and show me how easy yet profound love can be. I can't help but think we were made for each other. God is good. He let us go through many "tests" and made us become a better version of ourselves before we met each other again. I'm excited about our next chapter together, and I can't wait to marry my best friend! 

This is the easiest Yes I've ever said in my life. 

To all the girls and women out there who are still hoping to find your Prince Charming, don't give up Hope. Everything will happen when the time is right. Greg & I first met in 2009, but we didn't end up being together until 2022. Don't change so people will like you. Change only to improve yourself. Be yourself, and the right people will find you. Good luck! 

Crystal Phuong

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And just like that, my favorite month of the year- November, came to an end. It's the period when I find myself going through the introspection process a lot. My birthday is at the beginning of the month, and Thanksgiving is towards the end. Plus, the rainy weather in Singapore happening in between makes a perfect time to stay in, have a coffee, and reflect.    

Last year, I was lucky that the government lifted the social distancing rule just before my birthday; hence, I could still celebrate with some friends. But, unfortunately, the restriction was extended this year, and only two pax dining and visitors were allowed. So, instead of having five people gathered for dinner or lunch, I had five meals with different friends the entire week. Most of the celebrations were in my new home. It was the first time in 12 years living in Singapore; I hosted birthday parties at home. It was a unique, special, and memorable birthday indeed. 

When I was ten years younger, my birthday didn't mean so much to me. I didn't find joy in celebrating getting older, becoming chubbier, having more wrinkles. I wish I were forever 25. Turning 30 was fun, remarkable, but scary. I have some female friends who are older than me; they responded, "I'm 40 years old already", "OMG, I'm 45 this year," when I wish them "Happy birthday." Some are at 39 years old but already feeling down thinking about turning 40 in 10 more months. I have not heard any male friends complaining about turning 40, 45, or even 50 yet. But women, we do this to ourselves, all the time. Why?

I was the victim of my negative thought and insecurity before, so I understand these feelings very well. But, what could we have done to stop our number from going up? Nothing, unless our time is up and our clock stops permanently. Saying it out loud helps change my perspective completely. I'd rather like my age to go up every year as long as possible. I'm sure you would too, wouldn't you?  
And that's why the older we get, the more we should celebrate our birthday well. Instead of feeling worried about getting old and ugly, we should focus on creating memories, living well, and making the most of every day with people and things that matter to us most.

Despite the Covid restriction, I still had a wonderful time celebrating with some old and new friends, which I appreciated so much. There are still many super close friends that live far away from me. I wish we could celebrate with them in person soon. For now, here are some throwback photos from the celebrations of my 37 trips around the sun. Many more ahead!

Pre-birthday dinner at home with my ex-colleagues.

Steamboat dinner at home prepared by yours truly. Thanks Roger & Benjamin for always supporting me at work. I'm gonna miss working with these 2. 

First birthday cake of the year, thanks to Benjamin!

Surprised breakfast delivered to the home by a mysterious man. :D  

Surprised birthday flower delivery! Love it so much! Thank you Faith! How could I not see this coming when you asked for my home address. So cheeky! 

Birthday staycation at Fairmont Singapore, special thanks to Accor!  

another surprised birthday cake. 

and birthday dinner at Skai Restaurant. Thanks to Emmanuel, the General Manager for the champagne treat. 

Ready for another birthday brunch! 

With Anna, whom I'd like to call my guardian angel. Thank you for always listening and helping me grow over the last 4 years. I can't believe we finished all the food and still stay so skinny :D

Another day, another meal. Brunch with the man in the afternoon

Happy hour and chill with the girls in the early evening. It's so lovely to finally be able to invite my new friends, Sylvie and Chloe to my new place. Three of us went to view the same house at the same time without knowing each other. Then, five months later, we were here. How amazing life brings people to you sometimes.   

Another birthday cake, courtesy of American Express. They really know how to treat their customers. 

I went out to have a lovely dinner with one of my male best friends for the post-birthday celebration.

If only every Monday looked like this.

The last birthday cake this year. 

Dhilip- one of the most kind-hearted, sweet, funny, and silly men whom I've been lucky to know for 4.5 years now. Our relationship has many titles over the year: from colleague to a friend; from friend to a work competitor; from a competitor to brother and sister. Thank you for your unconditional support in work and life. Your loyalty and friendship mean so much to me, especially at a time like this. 

How many more trips around the sun can I take? I don't know. One thing I know for sure is as long as I can still breathe fresh air and see this gorgeous view from up here, it's a good enough reason to celebrate. I promise that I'll never whine about getting old ever again. I hope you'll also have a fresh perspective about your birthday celebration after this post. 

Thank you so much for reading!  
Crystal Phuong

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[name=Crystal Phuong] [img=https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEie2fJIeV0maiu1iSZBqXUcw3MA0I5aIOIFkNquz-3I9TubKru_nT6RtBidB9SShTMn6L8YRjDf8q3JtWSNcG2Z4aHEUT51k5X5eyzYXHwKUDM_Rglx1_kBrnE0wIbuRq2Gmr6Ngg/w345-c-h245/Crystal-Phuong] [description=Singapore Travel & Lifestyle Blogger, hoping to connect and inspire young women to lead a healthy and happy life] (facebook=https://facebook.com/crystalphuong) (twitter=https://twitter.com/ncrystalicious) (instagram=https://instagram.com/crystalphuong)