Thank you for TUI-ing this together!

How do you look at the one you love and tell yourself it’s time to walk away?

Tam Tien Beach 🏖

I was told to be one of those overachievers at work, I thought I was one of those who has been blessed to have met so many amazing mentors, partners and beautiful colleagues who have been a great motivation for me to keep striving.

I’ve been very busy doing the things I love and loving the things that I do, this is all thanks to the people who have got my back and myself for not giving up on pursuing my own dreams.

Discover your smile

It was me delivering one of my presentations to give an introduction of TUI during the first Partners’ Briefing Series – a nation-wide roadshow to promote TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An. TUI stands for Touristik Union International – the world’s largest travel company.

About one and a half year ago, I got the offer as the Pre-Opening Director of Sales and Marketing to open the first TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An, which happens to be the first TUI Blue hotel in Asia – a member of TUI Group. And while people have the absolute rights to feel what they feel, I did feel very special while accepting this new offer. TUI for us is giant, it was like I got an offer from Yahoo or Google of my own industry. The TUI Smiley logo has become an icon in the world tourism industry for many decades.

Explore the more…

“You are Miss 001, because you are the first employee of TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An”, I was explained by the employer. It took me 2 months to warm up, the probation period is what it is called to get acquainted to a completely new working style and environment. After 2 months, I started seeing rainbow and butterflies 🌈 🦋 . I was able to build my own team and do take on the challenge to build a hotel brand awareness from the scratch, with a new hotel brand, located in an complete unknown destination.

Partners’ Briefing Series at Press Club Hanoi – October 2019
Partners Briefing Series continued in Hanoi 2019
Partners Briefing Series continued at the Deutsches Haus Ho Chi Minh City.
Partners Briefing Series in Danang – November 2019
Partners Briefing Series in Hue – November 2019
Partners Briefing Series in Hoi – November 2019
Christmas High Tea in Hoi An – Destination Wedding Briefing – December 2019
Some people dance in the rain, other people just get wet ☔️

Soft Opening – COVID-19 then now what?

We never really stopped our activities. For many reasons, the show must go on. 2020 was tough although we have been the luckiest people on Earth who have been able to live in Vietnam during Covid-19. And despite of a global pandemic still ranging, and followed by a tropical storm and rainy season, TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An has still been able to operate throughout the year while most hotels and resorts in the regions had to temporarily shut down.

Culture event with partner Y Van Hien – Celebrating the 45 years of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Germany 🇩🇪
New Year’s Eve Gala and Auction Dinner at TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An to raise fund for Operation Smile Vietnam.
Arts for Smiles Gallery was founded in 2020 – the first Art Gallery in South of Quang Nam, located at TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An.
Cooperation with Tohe Social Enterprise in 2019-2020

Until we are TUI-gether again!

I don’t know what people do out of a global pandemic. We made face masks, we followed the government instructions, we tried to keep our activities alive whenever we had a chance.

Thank you to all the senior leaders for giving me the chance to do what I am capable of. Artur, I haven’t been to Hanover yet 😔
Dieter and Tania – without you I will not be Miss #001
Thank you anh Kien for all your support!
Marko, I hope to see you again after the pandemic 😷

Last but not least, I am thankful that I had a team that would never give up on me, although I was the first person who came and found the team and I decided that I would eventually need to depart, for one and many other reasons that make more sense for my future endeavors.

Thank you to my (extended) Sales & Marketing team!
Don’t stop dreaming!
Thank you for TUI-ing this together with me! Chị Hồng & anh Hoàng Anh – two of my most senior members of the Sales and Marketing team.
When life gives you lemon, make lemonade. When life gave us a major flu 🤧, which turned out to be a global pandemic 😷, we made face-masks with a smiley logo 😊
Andreas and Bridget – it was a pleasure knowing you and thank you for your great support and trust!
Thank you lovely Hoa for being part of my incredible journey! This lady really made me cry on the day of my departure.
Thank you Tuan – this talented and young little brother for being a great multiplayer of the team. We won’t be able to have our name today without your support 💙
Thank you Trang for your resilience and commitment. I know we don’t talk much but just so you know I am very proud to have you to be part of the team.
This little sister was the first person that I hired to the team, one of the members that I spent the most time with in both professional and in real life. Chau has lot of potentials and I hope she would always find joy and peace in what she does in life.
Phuc I was really tough on you while you were our intern but I hope the experience was worthwhile. You are the best 💙
Thank you Thao – the newest member of the team – Our meeting was very brief but I have confidence that you will be great at what you do ❤️
Once upon a pandemic team 😇

This is definitely not Goodbye as I am sure our paths will cross again soon, one way or another. Please take care, don’t stop dreaming and till we are TUI-gether again! 💙

Hoa Sen Spa at Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho 🧖‍♀️

As I did not have time for a holiday after a long time due to travel restrictions caused by Covid-19, I decided to give myself, body and mind a little love. So a meeting with Ms Ha – the Spa Manager was the first thing that I did right after my arrival at Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho on its first day of opening on 01 December 2020.

I won’t spend too much time into details as I am obviously not a professional Spa reviewer but I can honestly tell how I felt after all as well as to share some of the pictures that I took briefly while I was there.

The Sight

First of all, the design of the Spa would definitely give anyone a great first impression. It is more than just a Spa, it’s a real architectural masterpiece. Secondly, this is something that you would need to go and experience by yourself, the sense of smell at Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho is something rather unique.

Definitely one of the most unique Spa that I have visited by far.

The Smell

The scent is called Fugela, a special essential oil blend which has been used widely at all Zannier Hotels to give you a sensible smell experience. This unique scent lingers in most areas of the resort from the hand towel which is given to you at arrival to the air diffuser at the guest room as well as in Spa area.

The Taste

Needless for me to say, the welcome drink would define the level of service of each and every Spa, as it is a way to show your guests your appreciation but also to elevate their experience by giving them a beautiful treat that inspires their taste buds and slowly guide them to a journey of soothing their mind, body and soul. The welcome treatment would includes a hand towel infused with Fugela essential old, a selection of Vietnamese specialities including assorted herbal teas and mini dried fruits.

I was promised by Ms Ha that I would be invited to try many different types of herbal teas such as hibiscus or the fresh Himalayan ginseng are used to strengthen your immune system.
My welcome treatment at Hoa Sen Spa

The Touch

I chose the 120 minute Signature Hoa Sen Ritual. What makes it unique would be to have two therapists to conduct this Spa session at the same time. I never really had this experience before and it does create a balanced experience while having two therapists to work on both sides of your body at the same time.

To be fair, it could have been better as the therapists were more skillful, but considering they were very new and considering I was the first real guest that they had ever had, I would give these two ladies 8/10 for the service that I have received.

The Spa is open daily from 09:00-20:00
The Sauna
One of the most beautiful steam rooms which I have ever seen.
A standard double treatment room

The Sound

The music selection at Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho and this Spa would work well for me. Not only it is gentle but it’s a selection of local instrumental songs that would create a sense of belonging or nostalgia for us Vietnamese especially – And I would like to know what our foreign friends would think about them too.

There’s an option for treatment room with natural daylight too.
Everything looks pretty simple here just like the resort concept to bring you to the Vietnamese homeland.

Again, this is my first experience at Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho as well as for the resort operations team to provide first time services, but I am sure it will turn out to be a new gem in luxury travel in Vietnam sooner than we realize.

Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho

I always wanted to share my first thoughts and experiences about Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho as I was one of the very first guests who had the pleasure to stay at the resort on its opening date on the 01st of December 2020 but I never really did. I only said yes I would like to recommend you to go and see the resort by yourself and I am confident that you will not be disappointed because the experience will be unparalleled for each and everyone of us.

Regardless of how much I wanted to write, I also had the feeling that sometimes, words cannot really describe how we feel about something or someone, and words can be cheesy and totally unnecessary at times. But for a year of battling with a global pandemic and for someone like me who happens to stay in the hospitality and tourism industry, I have convinced myself that I would need to start with all the little things that could potentially help saving the industry whenever I have a chance. Some of the things that I do would include the acts of giving more public compliments such as a positive review on TripAdvisor or a five star rating on Facebook to all service providers who are able to maintain high quality of services regardless of the challenging business situation that we are all facing.

Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho is one of those resort projects which has been brave enough to open their resort during the unprecedented months of Covid-19. When I first heard of this project and had the chance to see the first sneak-peeks of the projects, I was convinced that Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho will be a project that makes Vietnam so proud to have.

Where is the resort and how to get there? Well I get confused most of the times as I have a pretty horrible sense of geography and directions. So Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho is located in Phu Yen Province, closer to the South Central Coast of Vietnam. Although it’s in Phu Yen but I heard that the resort is closer to Quy Nhon City of Binh Dinh Province, this will give you two flight options. You could either fly to Tuy Hoa (Phu Yen) Airport, which takes you 1.5 hour drive to the resort or to Quy Nhon (Binh Dinh) airport as the travel distance is about 1 hour drive away only. I chose to fly to Tuy Hoa, a bit more time for the transition but it did not matter so much. Tuy Hoa airport is tiny but neat, and driveway is quite nice and refreshing as you would easily catch a view to the sea as soon as you leave the airport. Most importantly, Tuy Hoa city has still been able to keep its natural beauty with beautiful landscapes, mountains and green fields. I hope they will be able to keep it like this for a longer while before the new developments will turn the city into a touristic place.

Tuy Hoa Airport in Phu Yen

Who wants to be there? I guess old people want to be there ☺️ No, I actually I would like to refer to people who appreciate privacy, nature, culture, history and a sense of discreet elegance. I heard there are about 5 or 6 Zannier Hotels in the world only so Vietnam must be very lucky to have one. The brand was founded by Arnaud Zannier in 2011 and wherever they are, Arnaud would like bring out the authenticity and uniqueness of what the host country can offer. This does make me think quite a bit and I do raise quite a few questions for myself too.

I feel pretty humble to stay in this 98-hecta resort, in the middle of a beautiful national park, the coast and not far away is the coral reef. Some of the rooms are located up on the hills and would take quite a long walk for you to get to the reception, and of course you can always call the buggy service to save time too.
Every room is designed in different style, reflecting the lives of several Vietnamese minority groups such as Ede or Cham ethnic people.
One of the Hill Villas in Ede ethnic style with a
private swimming pool.
A great place to escape from reality ☺️

The resort has been built and developed to serve several targeted groups but mostly to international travelers. Sadly those people won’t be able to get here anytime soon unless Covid-19 would be under control but then there’s a great chance for affluent Vietnamese and a small portion of expatriates to explore and learn to appreciate what they have. Since when all those simple things have become a luxury in our modern life?

I didn’t try these bicycles but that would be an option for you to travel around the resort too. You can also contact the travel desk if you would like to have a bicycle tour to explore the surroundings too.

I have the feeling that Vietnamese started to have to pay much to gain back what we have lost from the past, for things which are both tangible and intangible.

The only picture that has my face in it while I was at Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho – Myself (on the left) and Michael Wirz – Resort Manager who was always attentive and helpful.

I was welcomed by the team led by Michael Wirz, the Resort Manager at arrival. We spent a bit of time to talk and I could feel how much passion that they have put on this project and to be able to put things together. You don’t get to see a collection resort like this that often, and I was very lucky again to get upgrade to a Beach Villa with a Private Pool. I was told it is designed in the housing style of Cham ethnic group.

Beach Villa Living Room

The French style bed 🛌 ☺️
I found this knife in the living room area, not sure if this would be safe to display it like this but I was quite happy the moment I saw the knife because I thought I could only find those things at my grandmother’s 👵.
The Library at the resort lobby
My beautiful private pool on the day of departure 😞
A corner of Ba Hai’s Restaurant (Mrs Hai Restaurant). I am pretty sure that I had seen this very often whist I was a child whenever I get a chance to visit my grandparents or relatives in the Northern provinces.
My favorite corner from Nha O restaurant.
Hoa Sen Spa is a gem. I will have a separate review for the spa later.

I think I will need to go back for a second visit because I did not get a chance to see everything during this 3 days and 2 nights trip. I thought I would need at least a week for my slow-motion brain to process but hope that I have been able to give a little bit of here and there so that you can have the first glance look.

The food service was alright for a pre-opening stage. I might not be the right person to give comment on food services as I am no expert here but I thought it could be improved as the resort will receive more guests but over all the team has done an excellent job to make me feel very happy and welcome 🙏
I will remember this feeling of having a princess-like bedroom while it is made after the turn-down service 👸

Thank you again to Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho for this short but lovely stay! See you soon!

Arts for Smiles

I often find myself living in contradictions. Yes I want to make a different in life and I keep surprising myself every day now and then, for all the new things that I am able to come up with, knowing that the only way that I should live myself is to move forward. Another part of me keeps saying to myself that I should really live a quiet life because all the noise won’t bring us happiness.

Some people would like to help other people in silent, at their own capabilities. I wish I could do that someday, too, but it will take more time I guess. For now, I am pretty happy with the fact that I would at least still able to come up with new ideas regardless of having to bear with all the current burdens caused by the economic situations and plenty of social issues.

So I have come up with this idea to finally do something meaningful in my birth month, with hopes that I would be able to do something good to help ourselves and those who are in need.

Happy November – Here’s to celebrate the Arts for Smiles!

Ain’t No Sunshine

“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away…”

This song has stuck inside my head over the past few days. For one, it is now rainy season in Central and South of Vietnam, we even have major storms in some parts of the country. By the way, thanks to this new job assignment, this is the first time that I’ve got a chance to witness the rainy season in Central Vietnam which I only knew via the songs I used to listen whilst I was a kid.

I am truly blessed to live in Lam Villa Riverside, a home away from home which is full of natural daylight. It’s small but cozy and I have everything, literally everything that I need for a young female professional. It’s got to do with security, comfort and privacy. Because of this, I would trade my time traveling to work so that I could go home everyday to enjoy my own space. For me, it’s always like a bit of a contradiction, I work in travel industry and I am ready to move all the times. But I don’t even think that I am an experienced traveler. I don’t even have interests to go to many different spaces but more into having a space where I can have my time and space, or else, I would rather be home, even if it means that I will spend most of the time by myself.

I also learned that whenever I am by myself, I tend to be a more responsible adult when it comes to having to set my own rules to keep the house clean and to be a super organized person when I can. I can’t do that when I am with my parents because whenever I am with them, I feel like I am Olaf and I have no skull or no bones.

Meet my friend – Detective Pikachu sitting on the couch.

My goal is to enjoy every moment, except for times that I overthink about many things ☺️

It’s really almost 2:30am now and I am still writing this, perhaps it will be the last blog post for this month, knowing that I will be super busy from now until end of the year. By the way, today is my official but fake birthday as it is written on my passport. The day is known as the Business Day Vietnam (13 October), I thought it was just a coincidence but it’s kind of fun to think as well. I never thought that I would see myself as a businesswoman. If I keep saying this then many people would get worried with the fact that I am in a position that I am today, as a so-called…businesswoman. But who knows…

October is the month that I often get a little crazier than usual because all my ideas would come all together at once. I often gain lots of energy to do everything everything but I am sure by middle of next year I will get tired again. So I will try to see this time how I manage myself more effectively.

P/S: I am so in need for a holiday after all this happening with all of this busy-ness!

2020

Here comes the last quarter of 2020, the year that you might think that perhaps nothing else can surprise you anymore. I think it wasn’t so bad after all considering how much I have learned from this pandemic, to grow myself a little more mature and to get to know people a little deeper.

I feel blessed that I am living in one of the safest countries in the world right now and somehow, I still have a career and a peaceful life that I am deeply thankful for. Let us pray that this pandemic will leave us soon so it wouldn’t be too hard on those vulnerable people who are trying to make a living throughout these difficult days.

Image Credit: 2BroStudio – The garden workers at TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An
Image Credit: 2BroStudio – A garden worker at TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An
Image Credit: 2BroStudio – A watersports team member at TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An

2BroStudio has made itself to my preferred list of media partners that I have the opportunity to work with. Harris Hoan Vo and the team have done a terrific job to help us discover more smiles at TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An.

Những chuyến đi đầu tiên

“Kỳ thực trên mặt đất làm gì có đường, người ta đi mãi rồi cũng thành đường mà thôi…”

Lỗ Tấn – Cố Hương

Chủ đề ngày hôm nay là những chuyến đi đầu tiên ✈️ ⛴ 🌴

Chuyến bay lần đầu tiên của mình là một chuyến bay quốc tế, Aeroflot bay từ Hà Nội-Moscow. Hồi đấy học lớp 8, chẳng biết tiếng Nga và cũng chẳng biết sợ nên cũng không thấy sao. Vẫn đi và về và giờ đang ngồi ở nhà gõ cái status này.

Hồi 17 tuổi, lần đầu tiên chính thức xa nhà, cũng một mình sang Úc, lần này biết tiếng Úc nhưng cũng chẳng biết gì hết, nên không biết sợ. Giờ đang ngồi ở đây ngẫm nghĩ về quá khứ ngu si 😛

Đi làm công việc lần đầu tiên, cũng là đi một mình bay hàng loạt các chuyến bay nội địa từ Canberra – Sydney – Brisbane – đảo Hamilton sau đó đi tàu biển Fantasea từ đảo Hamilton đến được chỗ làm việc trên đảo Lindeman. Vẫn không hiểu sao đến được đấy và bây giờ đang ở đây. Hồi đó cũng chẳng biết gì nên cũng không biết sợ.

Lần đầu tiên đi trực thăng trên đảo WhitSundays, chóng mặt đến mức chẳng nhìn thấy gì hết. Đến lúc đi qua một hòn đảo hình trái tim, có người nhắc mình là, nhìn kìa, đảo hình trái tim. Vì chóng mặt quá nên mình chẳng nhìn thấy gì nhưng cũng lấy điện thoại để cố ghi lại hình ảnh để nếu may mắn thì về nhà sẽ nhìn thấy.

Giờ biết biết chút xíu, biết thêm chút kinh nghiệm chỗ này chỗ kia và nghĩ lại thấy sợ – chẳng biết hồi đấy mình xoay sở kiểu gì. Giờ rút ra một kinh nghiệm là:

Những người tự tin là những người không biết sợ – nguyên nhân chính là do không biết gì, vì nếu biết thì sẽ bắt đầu biết sợ và có xu hướng né tránh! Mình thấy cái này đúng trong hầu hết các trường hợp 😛

Nói chung là cũng chẳng có gì phải sợ, cuộc sống mà! Cứ có mặt đất là sẽ có con đường. Ngày xưa học lớp 9 lúc nào cũng nhớ câu nói của Lỗ Tấn trong truyện Cố Hương: “Kỳ thực trên mặt đất làm gì có đường, người ta đi mãi rồi cũng thành đường mà thôi…” 🦶

Tháng 02/2019

Sapa 2016

Well trust me, I know, I know, I was supposed to be sitting and writing 2 motivation letters which would need to be urgently sent to Finland by tomorrow for my MBA applications. But since I not yet have any motivation to write that sort of thing (Well I don’t even think that I actually want that MBA but let’s see…) so I am writing a quick post about of of my recent trips to Sapa.

So finally I could sneak out of the office after months and months of not heading to anywhere new. The trip was pretty quick and simple, just like how I wanted it to be.

The only advice that I can tell you all write now is that you don’t have to do what I do because the way I travel pretty much defines who I am so you do what works well for you.

I knew Sapa was not a huge town – even though it is part of Lao Cao province, which is in fact, one of the largest provinces in Vietnam and famous for having hundreds and hundreds of mountains including the Fansipan – the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia – also known as the Roof of Indochina. I know thousands and thousands of young and old people want to get to the top of the mountain for at least once but for me it might not be the case… I have climbed a few high mountains so not that I am weak, lazy nor having Batophobia (A new word that I have just picked up for those who are afraid of height), I just don’t want to do it here…

For those who travel from Hanoi (like me), you could either travel by coach or by train to Sapa. I wanted to do the train but my nephew and many other friends said it is better if we travel by bus because it is faster and will go direct to Sapa. The train would take longer and only get you to Lao Cai City and you will need to take a one-hour bus to Sapa. I heard there have been a few ‘luxury’ tours by train now which have been operated by Victoria Sapa so that the luxury travellers will have the best of everything… which would be pretty nice to try… I have only travelled by train twice in Vietnam but I must say that I was very happy with the train facilities on my last trip, which was almost a year ago compared to how it was back in 2008.

We had purchased the tickets in advance and got onto the coach at 10PM. Think the name of the transport provider was Camel. This reminds me a lot of the time I travelled by Greyhound or Murray from Sydney to Canberra and vice versa. I consider myself as a super easy-to-be-pleased traveller because I slept almost all the way from Hanoi to Sapa. When I woke up, I heard some people talked about how they got panicked that night when the coach was driving up to the mountain. We got their at around 4:30AM and the bus driver was nice enough (I’m sure this is how they operate the tour) to let us sleep for another 1.5 hours after we reached Sapa. We all know this is good because we can rest a little more (there is absolutely nothing to do at 4:30 in a 5 degrees foggy whether) and so that the driver can rest too after a long hours of driving.

So we made it there – my cousin for the second time but me for the first time. I asked if my cousin was so sure that she wanted to go for the second time and she said it was always different when she travels with me – I am not entirely sure about that…

I like to do it my way, I know. Many friends told me that I do not have to worry about accommodation because I can easily find it anywhere. I will never listen to that advice because firstly, I am a hotelier, I need to experience the service so I would choose carefully where I would like to stay and secondly, I am a female travel, I want to make sure I am safe – so that I can sleep well at night. (I had this experience once when I was so new to Sydney and I was ‘brave’ enough to book a budget hotel at King Cross – Oh tell me about it… For me it was absolutely a terrifying experience right in the first moment I got there. Everything in that place reminds me of the video “We found love” by Rihanna… so with no hesitation I immediately book an #AccorHotels right on the next day… Maybe I am just not the right person for that travel style – I would never be ready for be coming a pack pack-backer…

I know I made the right choice to ensure I have everything on the book. I knew that I would stay at the Hill Station when I am in Sapa so I immediately checked with Soeren, the owner of the Hill Station if the rooms were available on my travel date. He told me the only date he had room available was on January 31. I was like… perfect, so I will take my annual leave on January 31 – I would travel on January 30, as soon as I finish work and I can catch the night coach and get there in the morning of January 31, 2015 and celebrate NYE there and leave Sapa on January 01, 2016 in the afternoon. That should be more than enough for a small town like Sapa anyway.

It was more or less, a little different from what I imagined of The Hill Station and its collections but it is overall a very pleasant experience. I got one of the nicest rooms (All rooms are nice and there are only 3 rooms available) so I consider myself lucky.

Although the whether wasn’t that nice but it was definitely not a big deal for me. I know I can always have fun in all whether conditions. Here are a few things that I would like to list for my trips in Sapa:

  1. Hotels – yes plenty – so don’t worry but don’t be so reckless anyway because if you travel in high season and you don’t want to sleep in the mountain then better get yourself a room before you head to Sapa. It is COLD there 🙂
  2. Food – Yes – I never knew Sapa is famous for FISH (especially Salmon) and wild animals (of course – there are trees and forests everywhere) but please don’t eat them. The funny part that I found was that I did not have food on the streets. There is something about me that I did not noticed so much until I have my dinner booked at U-Sapa. I was having dinner with my cousin and suddenly noticed that we were the only 02 Vietnamese in the dining room. The rest are foreign tourists and yes there is a Vietnamese lady too but she was with her foreign boyfriend. Anyway,  whether they are foreign or not has never been my issue… Could it be the reason that I entered a dining room with full of foreigners? Have I become one of them? Hmmm Still I am just not into street foods especially on rainy days…
  3. Foot massage: It is quite obvious that you can get a local “Dao Do” foot or body massage for no more than $US 3 per half an hour. I wanted to try but we spent too much time for eating and shopping so we completely run out of time for the massage…
  4. Shopping: This is one of the most fascinating experience. I never worried so much of being ripped of here. Who would and who could RIP ME OFF by the way?  Perhaps they can do that on foreigner but please I am Vietnamese. Those Mong kids who try to sell you a 0.5 cent key ring or those ladies (young & old) who try to sell a beautiful necklace for $US 2? And one of the sales lady was just so funny and at the highest level of honesty. She thought that we were students and had no money so just try to lower the prices as much as possible… For that only reason we have come back to her 2 times in a row whenever we need to buy some things and did not bother going to other stores… I must say that I really had good laugh while making a deal with them. I had bought so so many products before I left Sapa but let me guess, it did not cost me more than $US 60 for all the souvenirs, which include 02 of my favourite scarfs; 4 beautiful necklaces; 01 bracelets and over 50 hand embroidery products of all kinds. I don’t know if I should be happy because I’ve got so many products for a good price or I should get upset because what we pay for such beautiful things are so cheap and the human workforce and women are extremely under appreciated and the kids are sent to the market to sell stuff instead of going to school…. IMG_1935.JPGOverall, the experience of Sapa was good. I had a great stay thanks to the hospitality of The Hill Station staff and many other people. Hope to go back there again on a sunny day…

Ma Maison Saigon

After almost a year of following all the tweets, I finally made it to the Ma Maison Boutique Hotel Saigon last year on a business – leisure trip (November 2014). By previously knowing that the hotel address will not be easy to find, I did not get freaked out when the taxi driver didn’t even know about Ma Maison when I asked for the direction.

My first impression was with Tam, a 16-18 !? little boy – hotel staff with a friendly innocent smile which definitely made me feel most welcome. He and another hotel staff greeted me at the entrance. They offered me a glass of cold and super sweet – I must say the sweetest glass of passionfruit juice (not because of the sugar but natural passionfruit) that I have drank in my life (So make sure that you will try when you’re there).

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The check-in counter

I have heard of the big black and white cat living at the hotel (the hotel owner is a cat person) but I can’t even remember whether I have seen her… It doesn’t matter so much anyway because I am not very much fond of pets or animals and sometimes – oh no most of the times I even get scared of them – black and white (or black or white) cats especially.

The room is super cute – all I can say and I did feel like I was a princess in a Proven style building (I’m talking like I know what I’m talking about… Provence… France… French… :). And the princess was super easy on that day. She stayed in a small little room and in a tiny little bed but since she’s full of vanity so she enjoyed every single moment of that as well as every single piece of furniture and artwork hanging on walls…

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Waking up at Ma Maison was another pleasant part. Of course, there are neither American breakfast nor club benefits. In here I was offered in a super simple way with a very simple breakfast menu of 2-3 items. Well at least they asked me how I would like the egg to be cooked and the egg was much better than many other places that I have been too. I’m sure my Aussie dad Graeme would love it to – He hardly ever complains about anything except for his infamous laptop which takes half an hour to get started. Perhaps the princess was super easy on that day – I do feel there’s more than plenty. If there’s a word to describe my feeling I would say “deja vu” is the one. This is the exact same feeling that I got when I was at Zen Valley Dalat which I don’t often get…

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By the time having breakfast, I spent some time chatting with Tam, the little boy that I met the day before. I asked if he could tell me the reason that he worked here whilst he is still so young. He said his family is from the South-Western Vietnam or “Mien Tay” is where it is called. His family could not afford to send him to college. Tam said he was lucky because he was the nephew of this hotel owner who brought him here and gave him this job opportunity so that he could work and save money to go to college in the future. His eyes got sparked when I said I was from Hanoi. He said he wanted to work for a hotel in Hanoi one day then greeted me politely before getting back to work. I was looking at his honest face and did not say much.  At the end I could only wish him all the best for his future endeavours…

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Namaste

I know this is just the beginning of 2015 but I’ve just had one of my best moments of the year catching up with some amazing friends and people, this includes the Sajus…

I met Saju in back in 2010 when we were at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra. He was ‘the Chef’ and I worked in Food and Beverage as well as Sales and Marketing department. Except for the fact that he is Indian and he cannot swim – he admitted in front of everybody when we were playing the ‘Who’s Who game’ at the hotel – we knew nothing about each other until we both came back to Vietnam…

In 2012, he got a job promotion at a five star hotel in Saigon and by that time I also left Australia for home in Hanoi. I took the occasion to meet my old colleguage again in one of my trips to Saigon and got to know his family, his beautiful Croatian wife Mirjana and his gorgeous daughter plus personal assistant Kylie.

We met again in Hanoi yesterday and the day before as they went for a trip in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. Oh my god, Kylie surprised me as she is a lot taller than she was before… Kylie loves winter so she seemed to enjoy it very much. However, the Hanoi weather has not been very pleasant as we’ve been experiencing to the extreme of the unpleasant days with cold wind air and too much of winter rain.

I enjoyed my time spending with them as well to get to know the ‘insights’ of how it’s like to get married with a Chef and got to know a bit of here and there… Europe, India, Australia and Vietnam… We literally include almost everything in our conversions and sometimes they even went up into becoming some ‘big’ husband & wife arguments but I guess this is just how life’s supposed to be. Mirjana was like: “Camellia, don’t get married and don’t have kids”. I just can’t help smiling looking at how happy they are and I could not see anything which is more lively and more beautiful than that…

I had one of the best Indian meals in my life at Namaste Restaurant in Hanoi… I just tried everything that I was advised by ‘the Chef’ and they were all so good.

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It must have been not so difficult for Indians to become vegetarians they have such a wide variety of choices when it comes to vegetarian or vegan food. I told the family that I wanted to become a vegetarian. Just got this feeling recently… And perhaps 80% vegetarian is a better target as it is not easy to be a vegetarian when you are part of the food and service industry and especially when you live in the society where people show absolutely no respect for animals as many of them still think dog meat is a type of food to eat…

Despite of the cold and rain, the Hanoi trip was good for us, I still feel like I am a ‘tourist’ sometimes – it happens when you travel with people coming from different cultures who look at your culture in a different perspective…

Life is full of coincidences. And I think I must have made Mirjana super happy as well. She might probably thought that she was the only Croatian in Vietnam. We were walking along Nha Tho street where the St Joeseph’s is and I suddenly realised that I knew someone also from Croatia who lives in Hanoi. Coincidentally, they were all at the same place at a perfect timing and just good enough for me to get everyone from the small little Croatian ‘community’ to get introduced to each other in a short period of time. Mirjana was so happy that she couldn’t speak a word after the encounter with not only one Croatian guy but also another one and another guy who is Croatian’ son-in-law. She asked me as if I knew everyone in this city which just made me smile… I took a step back to think of another coincidence, it was about an Austrian man who I’ve got to know for quite some time and once we went for dinner together at Da Paolo Westlake, he was so surprised that he could hear the ‘Austrian’ sound from another man who was dining in the table right next to us…

I said to the Chef: “Hey Saju, I think just maybe, if someone thinks he/she is the only person who has ‘unique’ nationality in this city, they should come and see me as I will be able to help them find a friend who comes from their own state of origin…”