#From Work: Young & Innocent

#TinyStoryFromWork:

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To me, the worst thing about wearing a uniform and following the same dress code is the fact that you will not be able to tell who is who and you will not be able to tell if he/she’s got a style… Well, I am not going to have a uniform debate by the way, I am just making excuses for not knowing some of our junior colleagues’ names because they all look similar in their uniforms on a regular basis. But there’s one person that I am going to remember his name forever from today.

Where to start? I merely went for a general check up a V.I.P function at the hotel today to ensure the event was under control. Unfortunately, I got to know that it was actually not-so-under-control from the very first few seconds…

“Why?” – I asked the supervisor.

“One of our staff went unconscious for a few minutes in the V.I.P room and when the majority of guests had been seated”.

“Who? and Why?” – I asked while getting a little bit shocked.  I could not think of any suitable reason, did we make he/she work too hard? It was 12:00 and perhaps he/she skipped breakfast? “Was that a he or a she? Do I know him/her?”

“It’s a he”. She replied and continued: “I think you do know him. He had been with us for a long time but he worked as a casual staff. And today was actually the day that he has his officially contract signed with the hotel that makes him so nervous and then it happened… A bit unfortunate that there were so many V.I.Ps in the room but I hope they understood if we tell them the reason”.

“Where is he now? Is he okay?” – I continued.

“He’s right there, working like nothing has happened”. She answered.

“Oh”! I stopped for a second and looked to the right where the boy was standing to welcome the guests.

Yes, I do notice him, this tall and young male Sofitel ambassador who wears glasses, about 20 years old. He’s got a friendly smile with both politeness and shyness. At that very moment, I could not think of anything else – Who could be so mad at him now? And for taking his job too seriously? Hmmm I do not think so… Instead I thought it was cute and innocent of him – and I would say this frankly if and only if this did not make me any less of being a hospitality professional. I have not felt this way for a long time about someone I know. Perhaps it was just for a simple reason that I have met too many people, and yes including myself who often appear in the most ‘damn’ mysterious, confident and …fearless!

This ‘junior’ moment actually made me smile. I hope the boy is all okay now. But since he has taken this career so seriously and to the extent that he got so emotional like that, I hope he will end up being a good person and a good career advancement ahead.

And for me, it would be interesting to know what happened to Miss No-Longer-Afraid…!?

#IWorkInAHotel

W T F

Some of my favourite quotes at all times: After Monday and Tuesday, the rest of the week says W-T-F.

I firmly believe that your attitude decides how your day should be. But it does happens that some days are simply worse than the rest of other days, and we shall call it the terrible, horrible, no good and very bad day. I know someone has turned this into movie.

I have a terrible, horrible, no good and very bad week that I called a “W-T-F” week. Obviously, it stands for Wednesday – Thursday and Friday, in case you wondered.

Well I am a hotelier where getting feedback is a fundamental part. I am no longer surprised getting complaints from people so I am not here to talk behind my clients’ back. But I did meet some ugly clients over the past week: not so much about the ugly look (although there are some visually not-so-pretty ones) but mainly about the ugly manners and how they abused us as service providers and abused my colleagues.

Having said that, I don’t know how should I feel, I got angry for a second then I decided that I should not get angry anymore if we all know deep inside, everything happens for a reason: Many people lack of education no matter what age or what degrees that they have at hands; some people are treated the way they are normally treated and that they are too ordinary to know… And that is a terrible, horrible, no good and very very bad consequence…

 

 

Brighter

Following one of my recent conversations with a close friend that I have not seen for quite a while…

Me: You know what, I do not have to wear uniform but as a hotelier, we often choose black as a safe colour for clothing. But recently I have decided to go for some brighter colours…

My friend: Like what?

Me: Grey. Don’t you think it have lifted up my dress-code in a whole new level of brightness?

My friend: Right. Can’t agree more…

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Photo Credit: Internet

Me [thinking]: And do not forget within one single colour like grey, there are even at least 50 Shades…

#business #relativity #greyisnotthedarkest #betweenblackandwhite #fiftyshadesofgrey

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…

Life is Magnifique in Hanoi

life isNot too long ago I was in my 20-something crisis. I knew I was. I saw negative sides of things that I encountered on a daily basis with the highest level of disappointment I can get… I found nothing interesting in anything or anybody. That sounded so bad wasn’t that?

I walked along the rainy streets and I knew I had to make a phone call to a friend. 15 minutes later we got settled in one of the coffee shops near by. I asked if he could tell me the truth of how miserable I looked at that time… He was like ‘yeah yeah’ like it doesn’t even matter…and of course the fact that he did not show any sympathies to me at all made me a little angry… Then I decided to stop talking about myself. I saw the sparkles in his eyes and could not help wonder how he had been. I asked why he could be so happy. The answer was quite simple. He said he was happy because he loved all the things that he had been doing… Wasn’t that good?

But still, facing the fact that only him feeling good so it did not make me feel any better. I looked out the window and sighed: “Can you please tell me when this rain’s going to stop? I am so sick of this weather…” I said, with knowing that my friend might have been fed up with me already for ‘un-intentionally’ trying to turning him down… “I am so tired of this city. It’s always either too hot or too cold. And did you notice? The foggy and rainy weather has been like this for 1/4 of the year…” I continued.

Then he began – I think I only waited for this moment to hear his feedback. Because I know this guy will he super direct and straight to my problems.

“What’s happening with you?” He asked. “Are you trying to tell me that I am not acting like who I am? Like a normal me right?” I answered.

“Can’t be truer than that”. He laughed sneakily. I questioned him back: “Hey, I knew you also have a hundred things going on at the same time and you also changed your job last year… Don’t tell me it’s been a smooth process….!?”.

“Of course not… You had no idea how bored and disappointed I was when I had to quit the job. During my last few days at the office, apart from the day-to-day activities that we all have to accomplish, I had done something that I thought it was abnormal. I read through a 500 pages long book about Vietnamese history and now I feel like I have a new profession…”.

We laughed until his face looked a bit more serious again… “I think you should stop looking at the dark sides of everything. Of course you can leave if you don’t like this city anymore but you know more than anyone that there are goods and bads everywhere. Why don’t you look at this city to see our advantage of having seasonality? Other cities in Southeast Asia do not have that and they missed the opportunities to sell seasonal products and services…”.

“Okay!” I smiled and that’s when he knew that he made a clear point to me…

We kept the talking for another 15 minutes later before we greeted goodbye. 3 months later, I called him back and asked how he was doing… I know this is the man that I should be thankful for having him as a friend. And now, talking about seasonality, if you think Hanoi is the only capital city in Southeast Asia that has 4 seasons then it’s time to think again. We don’t just have 4 seasons, we have 12 flower seasons. I brought this idea for an internal presentation at work and received a number of good feedback… Let’s just forget about brand standards for now… I am just in love with the thought of me re-starting to have more of original ideas and finally get back to be my-authentic-self…

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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Black in Black

So I am back in black now. This is how I would describe my current employment status – I am back into the hotel industry with mixed feelings. The good news is that I am now in a position that I definitely wanted to have but a few years back. So I may say that my teenage dream has come true 🙂

For some reasons, working for hotels now sounds more like a Plan B for me. So with the rest I will have to figure out how this Plan B works for me… And if it doesn’t then I’ll follow what others often say, there are still too many letters in the alphabet to go for…

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After All

after allIt’s 11:38 PM now I know I have to go to bed. But it doesn’t stop me anyway from typing a quick post since I have not posted anything on my blog for ages. It’s really been a roller coaster which doesn’t always go up. But I am feeling good right now and I don’t think I should expect for more. I think I’ve done a great job so far. No matter it was a great act or it simply because of who I really was. More than several times I confessed some of my weak moments to some friends of mine. Whenever I say I feel lack of confidence, and I always get the same answer: “If you are not confident of yourself then I don’t think I can find anybody who is”. Well I guess this is a compliment or whatever it is – it’s lifted me up a little bit.

So I’ve been at my third job now after 3 years almost. It’s kind of hard to believe but there’s a tendency that people actually hire me for my personality. Well I don’t know yet how great I am – I am new to many new things – but I guess I will be fine. This is not the first time I have heard of this: All I need to do is to be confident. Sometimes I tend to forget the fact that I am still very young and I will have a lot to to learn and experience… Fingers crossed! Tomorrow’s a brand new Monday! 11:53 PM

Dalat – Part 3: The Crazy Day!

Good morning pillow! I love the feeling of waking up in a brand new place and knowing that I am going to learn something I never knew before. On my third day of the trip, I decided the ‘Crazy House’ to be the first place to visit. Axel told me something like if I didn’t go to the Crazy House then I had not been to Dalat. Good morning pillow! As soon as I finished my brief greetings with my white pillows and the comfy bed, I made my way up to Zen Cafe for breakfast. Sun was out beautifully and I found myself so lucky as I got dad on the phone telling me that back home, it was thunderstorming and lighting all night the night before. I must have done something good I thought. In order to make it sound a bit crazier, I decided to walk to the Crazy House instead of taking a taxi or a shuttle bus from Zen Cafe. I seriously don’t mind walking and never had any problem with it. And since I am not a sporty person, at least I am not lazy sitting or lying in bed all day. Well, I just thought, I had the map with me, and except the fact I am not really a good map reader, the city of Dalat is not a huge one so I should be fine. And I proved it, I made it to the Crazy House and it was totally worth a visit. Seriously, I had had no clue what the Crazy House was until I got there and learned that it was, in fact one of World’s most unusual hotels. The idea of the Crazy House is absolutely mind-blowing.

In what could be seen as an homage to either Antonio Gaudí or mental illness, this trippy hotel by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga has become a popular attraction. Mushrooms, spiderwebs, portholes, and tree roots are sculpted into the organic concrete form, and each of the 10 guest rooms at “The Crazy House” is named for an animal. Choose wisely; those burning-bright eyes in the tiger suite will surely keep you awake. —Adam McCulloch

The Crazy House - 3 Huynh Thuc Khang Str Dalat - Looking from the entrance. The Crazy House – 3 Huynh Thuc Khang Str Dalat – Looking from the entrance.
The Crazy House was formally called “Hang Nga Villa”; the change of name was made because some people copied its original name for their buildings. The Crazy House was formally called “Hang Nga Villa”; the change of name was made because some people copied its original name for their buildings.
The The “Bear Room”
Interestingly the room rate is only from $35 US per night. However, you should avoid staying there during week days if you don't want to be bothered by public visitors. The room rate is only from $35 US per night. However, you should avoid staying there during week days if you don’t want to be bothered by public visitors.
Climbing these stairs to top of the building can be a very interesting part if you are not the“acrophobia Climbing these stairs to top of the building can be a very interesting part if you are not the“acrophobia” type (fear of heights). Be cafeful too if you travel with children as these staircases might be a little scary and dangerous at most times.
Hang Nga guesthouse was originally built as a personal project by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga, opening to the public in 1990. Nga, daughter of Trường Chinh, who received a PhD in architecture from the University of Moscow, has stated that her overall design was inspired by the natural environment surrounding of the city of Da Lat, along with the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Hang Nga guesthouse was originally built as a personal project by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga, opening to the public in 1990. Nga, daughter of Trường Chinh, who received a PhD in architecture from the University of Moscow, has stated that her overall design was inspired by the natural environment surrounding of the city of Da Lat, along with the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.

For me, one of the most fascitinating parts about this project is the fact that this famous building was designed by one of World’s most talented female architects – Dr Dang Viet Nga, which made me – a young Vietnamese lady feel simply proud. There was a history lesson too as I did not know Ms Viet Nga was the daughter of Mr Truong Trinh, who was Vietnam’s second-ranked communist leader (after Ho Chi Minh) for a period of time. I left the building with some strange and mixed feelings that I did not know how to explain. There are so much what I need to learn from my country…

I visited Bao Dai’s Palace afterwards as it was very close to the Crazy House. It was also interesting to know a bit deeper about the last Royal family of Vietnam. Nevertheless, this place did not impress me so much, not to mention it was a bit noisy and I was disturbed by a tour guide whom I think he was just in the wrong job because there was too much nonsense from his speech to the tourists.

My next destination was Truc Lam meditation centre – the largest meditation centre in Vietnam. It was on my top list of my must-see destinations in Dalat from the very beginning. I started my walking journey again from Bao Dai’s Palace to where I believed was not so far away. It was…one straight line on the map to get there and about 3km from the city centre, I thought I could always catch a taxi if I don’t know how to get there. All what I needed was to find Tuyen Lam lake then I can find the meditation centre. But it was not as easy as I thought. So I kept walking…More than 45 minutes and still did not see the Lake. I got a bit scared really as I could not find a taxi and there were fewer and fewer people passing by on that road. Besides, I was sure that I definitely looked like a tourist, yes, a crazy tourist. And it was when it started to rain. What to do? Seriously? I could not believe I was about to get wet…like that? No… 😦 I put on my hood and hoped it would keep me dry for a little while and hope the rain would stop soon. But it didn’t. There was no taxi available too. I was imagining myself as an character in the Story of Tam and Cam, an ancient Vietnamese tale, which is also known as the Vietnamese version of Cinderella. It was about Tam, the ‘Vietnamese’ Cinderella after realising she was tricked by the step-mother, she did not know what to do but to cry. Then the Buddha appeared to her and comforted her…

Well, I knew I was not Cinderella in that case as nobody tricked me, I was only suffering from my stupidity. But guess what? The Buddha appeared like for real. There was a bike stopped next to me within seconds and a man in his 60s stopped right there and he started to talk. The old man: Hello! I saw you from start walking from up there far away. Where are you going? Me: I’m going to Tuyen Lam Lake. I wanted to get to the Meditation centre. The old man: Is that so? I am going to Tuyen Lam too. I will give you a ride there and wear this raincoat on. I guessed, well, the rain just got heavier, he looked harmless and I did not want to get wet. I didn’t even know where Tuyen Lam Lake was. We stopped by a village shop to wait for the rain to stop. From the moment I talked to the guy who just saved me, I could see he was a bit abnormal from the way he spoke. Telling me he was a lawyer, I asked if being a lawyer was a tough job. He told me yes as you had to know all the tricks and gimmicks. I shared a bit information of what I do and where I work too.

He then drove me to Tuyen Lam Lake and invited me for lunch after learning I hadn’t got lunch in a restaurant near by. Well, okay then. I thanked him for having given me the ride. I told him this could be some sort of destiny as I could not imagine what was going to happen if he did not show up right at that moment. He asked to exchange our mobile numbers so we could keep in touch. He started talking about his purpose of visiting Dalat this time. It means he has been to Dalat many times before. He even knew the people from the restaurant and some of the very big ‘key’ people in town and without hesitating he introduced me as I was his niece. Talking about his purpose of visiting Dalat this time, “I’m here to do some good” he said. Then in order to make me understand, he showed me a Buddhist magazine and started telling me the story of a monk. “This monk is about 70 something now who had spent his whole life learning about Buddhism. Now he is old and he wants to lay back here in Dalat. He also wishes to build a pagoda here for himself. But it is not easy to I am here to help…” Right from this moment, I started to talk more, but to myself instead… Wait a minute, did you just talk about building a pagoda? There are more than 15 pagodas here in this small city. If he really wanted to rest in peace, he can just stay in one of those. Building a pagoda is not a joking matter. And a pagoda appears to me as a long term political and economical interest to a number of people including the guy sitting in front of me, I realised. And the respected monk is no better than any of ordinary people, he simply fell into the trap of fame. Pity! At the restaurant I heard there is a famous type of ginseng wine so I decided to get two bottles for dad. He paid for lunch and offered to pay for the wine. I let him pay as he wanted to act like he was my uncle and gave him money back later, trying to show a nice manner. I don’t like to owe anybody anything, especially this to this man.

Any words that came after from my life “savior’ suddenly became meaningless. He took me to Truc Lam meditation centre and showed me around. I wanted to visit the library but it was closed. There was a bookstore next to the library. The bookseller was a nice lady, and she also knows the old man who was standing right next to me. She told me that the library was closed because the Head Monk doesn’t like to keep the door open while he works (I sighed, deep deep inside). He old man was nice enough to give me a Buddhist book named “Quiet Mind” as a gift. I thanked him again and already started to have a gut feeling – I am not going to have a quiet mind today. We left Truc Lam Meditation Centre, despite how beautiful the flowers and the view could get, I would never return to this place again. This meditation has lost its peace and spririt and no longer appears to me as a solemn place. Earlier on before I went to the trip, I had tried to find if they offered any meditation courses but the travel agent told me that the courses are only offered for foreigners? I asked a friend of mine with hope that she would know better. She told me only some certain types of ‘insiders’ will be able to attend the course. I wanted to know what it takes to be an ‘insider’ and why do people even bother trusting this religion if they insist on the thought of distinguishing an insider versus an outsider.

I just wanted to go back to Zen Cafe at that stage to meet with Axel and Mai Dung and tell them how my day was. Unfortunately, I was kind of stuck with the old guy for a while. At least I did not show him any of my disinterest in him, I remained calm and I think it wouldn’t take me long until I got back to the resort. He dropped me at ‘my home’ the Zen Valley and again, I was not so sure if this was another stupid moment of mine to invite him to have some tea with me. Just for a reason that he was old and he gave me a long ride. He looked around the bungalow where I was staying and kept telling me what exactly-I-did-not-want-to-hear: “Oh this resort is good but too far, you should blah blah blah…” Thanks, would you like to have a look at the room? I asked. “Why not?” he replied and went upstairs to check out my room and all of sudden he lied on my bed! I was not happy obviously but I asked if he was tired after riding the bike for long. He said yes and I let him rest for 10 minutes while I could not stop counting down the time for him to leave. At least, he should have asked for my permission and if he was a decent guy he should stay in my living room. He got up afterwards, greeted me goodbye and asked me if I wanted to join him for dinner. At that time I think I was sure that I would get in some serious trouble as he got my phone number. He texted me in about half an hour after he left and the second text he said he would come back to pick me up and obviously without waiting me to say yes. Unfortunately he knew where I was so he just came and pick me up. Thanks to this interesting encounter, I was invited to one of the most disgusting ‘fine dining’ restaurants, owned by one of the richest families in town. After giving a brief introduction of who they were, I found out that all of these people are also…like me, Northern Vietnamese, except for the fact that I don’t want to be one of them. Obviously they don’t just own a restaurant business but a number of forrests and other businesses. The lady – the owner of the restaurant’s wife showed me a cosmetic and perfume brand under her name that she, with all proudness called it “Queen PT” – PT is the abbreviation of her name. The queen’s golden son appeared as a poor kid to me. He is about 10 years old. Meanwhile the mother was trying to force him to answer her question about what he would do if he became a Prime Minister one day? Godness me. I have no idea why I was there talking to these people. There were some rich, some poor dining on the same table but they were just as the same to me. To conclude, I thanked him anyway for his perfect timing ‘rescue’ and the entertaining dinner. The guy gave me a ride back to the resort and did not forget to show me a very big land that he said to me “That’s our land!” I was not so sure what he meant by using the word “our” but it was definitely not mine, nor his, nor the government, it belongs to my country.

Earlier on, I said it was a destiny that I had a chance to meet him, I would not take it back, but I would like to add something in. It was a destiny, but it was too short as it only lasted for one day and I have just ended it. I came back to the room, safe and sound and quite unsure how tomorrow going to be…