(English caption below)

“Cũng đã hơn 4 năm rồi từ ngày đó. Thời gian đầu thì cảm giác nhà trống trải ghê gớm, nhiều lúc yên ắng đến ngột ngạt. Nhưng mà mấy bố con tự hiểu với nhau, cũng chẳng nói gì nhiều. Rồi mọi thứ lại dần ổn định, nhà mình dần quen với khoảng trống đó. Anh mình đi du học, rồi mình đi du học. Mỗi đứa đi một nơi. Thế mà nhiều lúc đã lo lắng lắm về tương lai của mình. Phải rồi, mọi thứ sẽ ổn thôi. Điều duy nhất còn lại phải lo là cho đứa em 7 tuổi của mình biết lúc nào và như thế nào. Đến giờ nó vẫn tin là mẹ đang chữa bệnh ở nước ngoài và một ngày sẽ hoàn toàn hồi phục.”

“It’s four years since that day. At first, the house was empty; sometimes it was utterly silent. But we all understood and just went on with it. Things got back on track, we started to get used to that emptiness. My brother went to study abroad, then me. We each went to a different place. But earlier, I used to be worried about my future. Everything will be okay in the end, right? The only thing that bothers me now is telling my seven-year-old brother when and how it happened. Up until now, he still thinks that our mom is going through treatment overseas and will get over completely some day.”

Settled in Saigon

So I have been here in Vietnam, settling into the pace of this mysterious city for almost a week now. I knew after moving out of Seoul, South Korea, I would one day venture back this way and 4 years later after living in the Caribbean, Europe and Canadian West coast mountains here I am. Life wouldn’t be complete if I stayed still.

Check it

Iggy x

Cupcake Girl Goes Solo: #KathNielHanoi

Hello again! I have been thinking about doing a vlog after The Cupcake Girl Goes Solo in Vietnam+Cambodia series is over. Maybe you guys can send me some ideas or questions you want me to answer. Send me a message and put #CupcakeGirlVlog on the first line so I can keep it in my inbox. I’d like to not plan my answers before doing the video. :)

I was walking along Hung Vuong and this girl chatted me up and I thought she was being friendly. I responded in kind, but apparently she wanted to sell me stuff. $1 for 5 pcs of postcards. Yes, that IS cheap but seriously? I refused and she followed me until I got to Quan Thanh Temple (VND 10,000).

This is one of the four sacred temples built in each of the cardinal directions to protect Hanoi’s citadel from evil spritis.

Koi fishes in this fountain, uhh, pond?

Huyen Thien Tran Vu.

I had Cong Caphe in my list of cafes to try in Hanoi because I was told they have really good coffee and knew that they had a branch in Dien Bien Phu street. I thought it was nearer, hence, I walked. And walked. And walked.

I didn’t see any tourists but I saw a lot of interesting stuff though. Such as more yellow buildings and a lot of luxury cars driving by.

I was so happy when I finally saw this sign because it meant I was in the right direction. I have been walking in 39 degree weather and my brain have started to get sun-fried, so I honestly swore to myself that if the coffee was bad, I’d leave a scathing review on the travel blog that recommended it. Hahaha!

I am a huge fan of quirky cafes and this was a hit. I don’t understand some of the items in the menu (it was in Vietnamese) so I just pointed out photos of drinks that looked interesting. This was Coffee with Coconut Smoothie which I never knew would be such an interesting and flavorful combination!

Lime Smoothie - please note that this is not the name that was on the menu. Haha!

The printout on the bottom left side of this photo is a list of all the food and the places I must eat in while traveling. Haha! I didn’t get to complete this list.. so I need to come back! :)

After spending VND 90,000 at Cong Caphe, I went to Cot Co Tower. Photo below is NOT of the tower (just an FYI you guys haha).

Cot Co Tower is right across Lenin Park. The park was captivating to say the least. It was delightful to watch how a normal weekend in Hanoi is to its’ residents. Teenagers of different races were skateboarding, playing football, and hanging out with their friends. Our looks and culture may vary on the outside, but we all are similar in more ways than we know.

By the time I finished taking photos in Lenin Park, I only had 30 minutes to climb the Cot Co tower. I decided not to proceed since I really do not enjoy having to rush when touring. Hence, I decided to go to the Ancient Citadel. I walked the length of Nguyen Tri Phuong as illustrated in the map from City Pass Hanoi City Guide. However, when I tried going to Cua Dong street, a guard who unsurprisingly did not know how to speak English and had mistaken me for a Korean (I’ve stopped counting at this point), was gesturing for me to cross the road. I was pointing to the map, but he kept shaking his head and had started ushering me to the opposite side. I ended walking to Phan Dinh Phung street which was quite far.. Ugh! Out of frustration and hunger, I made a decision to head to Thien Phat Vegetarian Restaurant in Hang Hanh street.

Only to find out that it was already closed for business! T_T I ended up on the adjacent restaurant, Buon Dua Le Cafe. My first order was of Coconut Yogurt with ice.

I had chicken curry with rice. Sorry to say, it was a bit bland but everything is delicious when you’re famished.

I was paying for my meal (VND 160,000) when Thuy asked me where I came from. She literally squealed wen I told her I’m from the Philippines because she’s a Kath Niel fan! She’s now a Facebook friend and we keep in touch - I update her when they have new projects so she could watch it online. Hah!

It’s not even a quarter of my trip to Vietnam but I have already met a lot of interesting and genuinely nice Vietnamese people in Hanoi. The atmosphere is pretty similar to the environment I grew up in at home. You have to be very careful to avoid petty theft and there are a lot of people who is looking out to take away your hard earned money. But just like any other city, not everyone is like that at all. You just have to take the good and the bad and enjoy the authentic experience. :)

Cupcake Girl Goes Solo in Vietnam+Cambodia:

Travel Video

Ice cream for lunch because prison visits are exhausting

Museums for women will PHO-rever make me happy

Drenched in revolution, history, and a little bit of rain

Be water, my friend

Chocolate for breakfast

Fundamental change via ultimate orgasm

It’s a dog eat human world
A River That Runs Past Palaces and Pavilions
Way back in the 1990s, a man on the Phu Xuan Bridge in Hue casually informed us that the Huong River was the 7th most beautiful river in the world. Where he got his information, we’ll never know. But we like this idea, and so we’ll repeat it here: The Huong River, more commonly known in English as the Perfume River, is the 7th most beautiful river in the world.

Extinction Countdown:

100-Year-Old Turtle, the Last of Her Kind, Could Soon Be a Mom

by John R. Platt

I have written about a lot of causes of extinction over the years. Climate change. Disease. Overhunting. Pollution. The list goes on and on. Well here’s a new one that could end up on the list: a mangled penis.

Now, normally a single set of damaged sexual organs wouldn’t make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But nothing about the Yangtze giant softshell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) is normal. Only a single mated couple of this species remains anywhere in the world.

The two massive turtles, each estimated at more than a century old, have lived together in captivity at China’s Suzhou Zoo since 2008. (Two other Yangtze turtles, both male, live in Vietnam.) Although they have engaged in mating behavior several times over the years, the female has never laid fertile eggs.

No one knows how long these two turtles will live, but time is obviously of the essence. And so, with the clock ticking, scientists set out to see why fertilization has not yet occurred. That meant finding out if the male turtle still had viable sperm…

(read more: Scientific American)

photograph by Gerald Kuchling, Wildlife Conservation Society

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