Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Today I was invited to a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (200JPY entry fee) with Naoko and friends. It was nice to explore parts of Tokyo that I have not seen before; I’m currently located in the calmer, more residential Koenji area. The garden itself is so peaceful and clean, and there is a large greenhouse inside of its boundaries that contains many beautiful flowers and other plants that I’ve never seen before. I took a few snaps of some of my favorite ones and definitely plan on visiting the garden again before I leave Japan.

Donna’s Wedding Day

My best friend’s wedding finally happened today and I took some photos to remember it forever. Words can’t describe how happy I am for her and her husband, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to fly all the way from Vietnam to spend time with her and the family for a few days. My favorite photo of the following set is of course that of Donna and I. We’ve been best friends for the last 15 years and it’s incredible how far we both have come since then. I love her so much and her husband is a great, great guy. All in all just spectacular.

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner at Kim Son Restaurant

My best friend will marry tomorrow; tonight was the rehearsal dinner at Kim Son Restaurant in Houston, Texas, and I am so happy that I was able to make it, despite living so far away.

The food was amazing and all of the family and friends who I hadn’t seen in many years looked wonderful. This was also the first truly bilingual—Vietnamese and English—wedding rehearsal dinner that I’d ever attended. I’ll likely write about the actual rehearsal a bit later but it was so lovely that, for right now at least, I’m at a loss for words.

Lễ ông Công ông Táo

Shortly before Tết and my work trip to the United States this year I spent time celebrating the kitchen gods with my close friends at Khách sạn Quang Hiệp, my old home in Hanoi.

It’s amazing to think that instead of moving into an apartment or house when I first arrived I decided to instead spend 18 months living in a guesthouse. It was an interesting—to say the least—experiment in patience, privacy, and the mixture of business and friendship.

When I made the decision to leave the guesthouse and move into my apartment in a district that’s 30 minutes away by taxi from Hoan Kiem lake, I knew that it was the end of the QH chapter of my life. I’ll certainly stop by every few weeks to say Hi and check in on the guesthouse, but things and people change, and a year from now I’ll likely hardly stop by.

That’s the way things go sometimes, I guess. For now, though, I’ll gladly take pleasure in knowing that without the gang at Quang Hiep Hotel my life would have been half as happy during the last year and a half. I’m fortunate to have met everyone there, and it gives me joy to know they feel the same way.

Here’s to the kitchen gods…

Wat Traimit

I visited one of my friend’s, who at the time had been living in Bangkok for 6-7 years, for the first time ever in Thailand this year. Usually we would meet in Vietnam, so it was a treat to finally see his “home” and visit a few of the temples in Bangkok. The large gold Buddha here is stunning, but Wat Traimit is awfully overrun with tourists. I imagine going early in the morning would make for a much better time than going later during the day.