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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.


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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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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[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)