Am I Being A Martha?

 

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In the story of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, most of us admire the faith of Mary. She would always choose to be with Jesus and listen to Him rather than do other things. There was one story in the Bible when Martha was upset because while she was busy preparing food for Jesus, Mary was just sitting by Jesus’ side and listening to Him.

I could imagine Martha by the kitchen, busy cutting the ingredients and maybe checking if the rice is already cooked and then go back to what she’s cooking again and pour in the ingredients she just cut. And then in the midst of these kitchen chaos, she suddenly heard Mary laughing joyously at Jesus’ jokes and then Martha looked at the living room and saw her sister just chilling there while she doesn’t know if she’s going to pick up the ladle or the kitchen knife. Get the picture?

Who wouldn’t feel upset, right?

Martha felt it was unfair so she went to Jesus and somehow ranted about Mary not helping her prepare stuff. And what was Jesus’ answer?

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk. 10:41-42)

In as much as I would want to be like Mary, I often find myself being a Martha. I tend to focus on my worries than on Jesus and His power to get me through my situations. Even in the ministry, I tend to worry about how I can echo in the preachings about Jesus to my lifegroup members in such a way that it can make an impact in their lives. I’m so pressed on making them feel and enjoy the love of Jesus that I tend to focus on that goal than letting Jesus work His way into their hearts. I wanted to please Jesus but I found myself losing Him in the feast because I’m too busy thinking about other things rather than keeping my eyes focused on Him.

I’m such a worrier and that’s something that I’m sooo not happy about. Sometimes when I’m too preoccupied with all these worries, this story would pop in my head and I would think of Martha and how I’m being like her.

That’s just one story.

And here’s the other.

When Lazarus died and after the scene in the house, Jesus and the sisters went to the tomb where Lazarus was laid. He asked that the stone be removed. But Martha immediately said:

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

You can see here the BUT attitude of Martha. She trusts Jesus. She has faith in Him. But still, she couldn’t stop herself from wondering why would Jesus ask that the stone be removed if He knows that Lazarus is already dead. Even if she knows and trusts Jesus can do miracles, still she can’t get rid of her “BUT.”

Admittedly, I could see myself in this situation. I have faith in Jesus. I know He will get me through whatever situations I am in. But still, there are times when I doubt if Jesus would really grant me with what I’m praying for.

There was an instance when I applied for this school that I really really like. I’ve been praying for that school because I really want to work there. The interview went well and the demo teaching was awesome, according to the principal. After the demo teaching, I could say that I could almost feel the victory. I’ve prayed hard about it. I claimed the position will be mine.

But it didn’t. I got an email from the department head who interviewed me that I didn’t get the job and they chose another one.

Right that moment, I had a feeling of what went wrong. It was not because I didn’t deserve the job or I was not good enough.

It was because I doubted. No matter how much I’ve prayed about it, I have to admit that there was a pinch of doubt in my heart that Jesus would actually grant me that prayer request. It was not because He doesn’t love me or He doesn’t care about what would make me happy. It was because I didn’t give my full trust in Him. I know He can give me that job but I had that tinge of fear He wouldn’t.

There was that ‘BUT’ moment. But what if God wouldn’t give it to me? I know Jesus can bless me that but what if He doesn’t like to?

In my quiet time today, I was reminded of my Martha-like attitudes. I was reminded of how I’m somehow doubting God just because I’m magnifying the things that should not be magnified. I’m failing to magnify God because of those fears and doubts and worries.

Jesus doesn’t ask too much from me. He doesn’t ask me to die for Him or be stoned to death for Him. He only wants my faith and trust in Him. That’s all He’s asking of me. And a lot of times, I fail Him because I tend to focus on my worries and fears.

I admire Martha’s domesticated, responsible and straightforward traits, but I also want to be like Mary who just enjoyed Jesus’ presence in the midst of the chaos. That even if there’s a lot going on in the kitchen or the house was messy, Mary still found the time to just fellowship with Jesus.

Just like Mary, I hope I can also really just focus on Jesus. That even if there are a lot of things going on in my life, I will not lose my focus on Him. That as much as I’m preparing myself for Him, I will all the more enjoy being with Him because that’s what matters the most.

Martha isn’t a bad girl. She’s not a nemesis in the Bible. She was just too focused and driven. She loved to perform acts of service toward others and was a hospitable hostess. She loved Jesus with all of her heart. But most of the time, she tends to forget that more than what she can offer to Jesus, He just wants to be with her and fellowship with her more.

Now that’s really a good reminder for me and for most of us. I hope that despite the worries of this life, we won’t lose Jesus in the feast. Jesus doesn’t need our works. Most of the time, He just wants us to really enjoy His presence. He just wants us to enjoy our date with Him and listen to Him or pour out ourselves to Him. He wants us and not what we can offer Him.

Weekend in Mui Ne

Weekend in Mui Ne

I’ve been living in Vietnam for two years now and I could say it’s not enough time to travel to all the major and picturesque cities and towns in this country. Vietnam, indeed has too much to offer.

I have work on weekdays and weekends are just too short for a travel stint so I just usually take advantage of holidays or a one-day leave just to get away from the bustling Saigon.

And that rare chance I took advantage of last weekend to visit Mui Ne. My friend, Joey, flew in from the Philippines for a quick vacation so I have another reason to pack my bag and go to another place to explore.

Getting to Mui Ne:  

Mui Ne is originally a fishing village located in Binh Thuan province of Vietnam. It is approximately 4-5 hours bus ride away from Ho Chi Minh city. It’s easy to get to this hushed village since there are a lot of bus tours available that you can find along Bui Vien and De Tham street in Saigon particularly. I always book my tours with Sinh Tourist so I did just that with this Mui Ne Trip. The fare is just 109,000 VND per person for a sleeper bus. We left Saigon around 7am and we arrived in Mui Ne proper around 11:30 am. There are other bus schedules available but we just chose the earlier one so we can arrive in Mui Ne before noon.

The bus fare from Mui Ne to Saigon was 150,000 VND since we booked it in our hotel and we rode the Hanh Cafe bus, which is not really recommendable. I’d say Sinh Tourist is still pretty much the most reliable one.

Where to stay: 

I was actually expecting a Nha Trang-like scene in Mui Ne. But it was different. While Nha Trang is more festive and maybe more Miami-like (though I haven’t been to Miami, but just the feels!), Mui Ne I could say is more reserved and peaceful. I think the central beach area is the Nguyen Dinh Chieu street since it’s where most resorts are situated. It’s a long road where you could see resorts, hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and even residential houses on both sides. You couldn’t really see the beach since the resorts are covering the view. Nevertheless, I’d say it gave Mui Ne a different feel.

We checked in at Thao Ha Hotel and even if it’s not beach front, I’d say it’s a good choice. The place is clean and well-maintained and the staff are nice and very helpful. We only paid for roughly 45usd for a 3 days/2 nights stay with breakfast. I like it that they clean the room everyday and they replenish the toiletries daily as well.

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There are a lot of options for accommodations along Nguyen Dinh Chieu street. You can opt to walk-in or book ahead, but I think it’s better to book ahead since the price is slightly different when you just walk-in. Room rates also vary depends on the type of the hotel or resort you will book, but I think it’s still pretty cheap and won’t eat much in your budget.

What to do: 

If there’s one thing I didn’t like much about Mui Ne, it’s the beach. Sadly, it’s the beach. It’s not as nice as I thought it to be. We weren’t even able to swim on the beach because there were a lot of huge jellyfishes and the waves were too big. The shoreline is not as wide as compared to Nha Trang as well. So, I’d say I prefer the beach in Nha Trang better. Or maybe, it was the season of the jellyfishes going out of the sea? If there’s such a thing as that.

But anyway, even if the beach was not too nice to us, we were still able to enjoy Mui Ne through some sightseeing trip we did. We availed of the group tour package offered by our hotel which was only 140,000 VND per person for a group of 5. It’s a jeep ride tour of the four famous tourist spots in Mui Ne such as the White Sand Dunes, Red Sand Dunes, Fairy Stream and the Fishing Village.

 

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Fairy Stream

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Red Sand Dunes

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This spot is just perfect for photo shoot sesh:-)

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Fishing Village

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White Sand Dunes

 

This is actually a pretty good deal! Imagine being able to go around the main spots of this village for just less than 10usd!? And I like that we did the tour early morning (we started around 4:30am), so it’s not too hot and we were able to catch the sunrise at the White Sand Dunes:-)

The tour finished at around 9am so we still had enough time to stroll around the area. Another fun way to do in Mui Ne is to learn Kite Surfing, which I didn’t dare try because I’m not much of a water sports fan. But hey! It looks pretty exciting!

No frills, spontaneous getaway. 

That weekend in Mui Ne was pretty remarkable since we were able to just relax and enjoy the feeling of not doing anything or not be pressured to do something. We just did what we thought of doing at the moment. We slept, we ate, we swam, we watched KDrama to our hearts’ content, and I even almost finished a book during this quick getaway. I’m not sure if it comes with age but these are just the things I’m looking forward to in a vacation. I don’t like the hurried, let-us-visit-all-the-tourist-spots-at-once kind of trips anymore. So yes, maybe I am really becoming a member of the #titasofmanila now. Or an ahjumma? Oh please!

Nonetheless, it was a trip worth remembering. I could say it was one of the most relaxing trips I’ve ever had. And I’m glad that my friend, Joey, also felt the same way:-)

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To A Friend I Lost Along The Way

 

When someone will ask me how you are now, I really don’t know what to say.

Because I don’t really know anything about you at all.

Well, I used to know everything about you.

I used to be the first one you tell every little things that happened to you to

Or the things you want to do

Sadly, that’s not the case anymore.

It was a three-hundred-sixty-degrees turn.

We used to walk the same road

Until we decided that road was already too narrow for us

And we went our separate ways.

The everyday conversations became once or twice a week

Until there was none anymore

I used to be part of the scenes in your life story

And now, I’m just on the outside.

I can’t enter those scenes anymore

Other people already took my once special role in your life

You chose to take a bow and have your final exit in my life’s scenes, as well

And I can’t force you to stay.

Maybe I’m still mad and sad at what happened between us

And it hurts that while I’m still in pain,

You seemed ok about it

You seemed fine without me

I never stopped caring for you, you know

But without you noticing it, you stopped caring for me

You stopped knowing who I was

One day, maybe one day I can accept it also the way you do

I hope one day I can also learn to accept that there’s no more us

And that this friendship has already came to an end.

We’ve already said our goodbye

But I do hope that when you remember me (if ever you will have the time to do that)

You will still smile and remember all our good times and not our sad ending.

I will always pray for your good life.

I will always love you, my once special friend.

Until then…

 

 

That Morning I Heard From Him…

“And don’t pray to God, ’cause He won’t talk back”

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As much as I like the soundtrack of Begin Again (one of my favorite films, by the way), this part of one of the movie’s soundtracks, A Step You Can’t Take Back,  somehow bothers me and makes me uncomfortable whenever I listen to it. Maybe the writer of this song was referring to some other god or maybe it’s a metaphor or something. I only love music but I’m not a music and lyrics genius so I can’t really tell. Nevertheless, one thing’s certain here: this statement is in no way the truth.

I strongly disagree. Because God does talk to us. And I’m saying this not because I’m a Christian, but because God really talks to us. In many ways. In many forms.

And I personally experienced that. God talked to me. In one of those days when I felt I was not deserving of His presence.

It was the fifth and last day of the annual prayer and fasting time of our church. I was supposed to do my morning devotions but I woke up late so I decided to do it during lunch break instead. But that wasn’t what God wanted to happen.

It was 10 minutes before 7am and my work starts at 7am so I should be going already but that task was very important so I had to message my co-teacher that I will be late for work that day. I finished the task just before 8am so I actually could head on to the school so I won’t be super late. Then my eye caught the Prayer and Fasting booklet and my journal on the table. Then there was the prompting to do my quiet time that very moment.

Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant to do it since the P&F material this year is too extensive (at least for me) and requires more time than usual, with the spiritual exercises and all. And it meant I will have to call my school and tell them I had to go half-day.

I know I’m not a super Christian and oftentimes, I don’t walk the talk. But there were some moments in my walk with God that I could really feel when He wants to tell me something. And that day was one of those moments.

The topic that day was about how to hear from God. And that’s something that really interests me, although I have to admit that it’s not really often that I hear from Him. While reading the instructions on the spiritual exercise, crumbs of doubts started filling my mind and heart. I just felt that I’m way too insufficient to hear from God that time. Imagine, I couldn’t do my morning devotions because I would be late for work but I could call in late when there’s an urgent task from my online work? I’m definitely not a model Christian. I mean, why would God talk to me?  I felt undeserving and unqualified to hear from Him that time.

But He did. And the scene’s still very vivid in my memory. These were the very words He spoke to me with:

“I’m the one who created the situation that caused you to be late from school. Because I missed you. You are so busy with your life that we only talk for a bit most of the time. Like a mother waiting for a call from her daughter living far away, I long for you to call Me and talk to Me and spend some time with Me. Yes, you are late for work today but you don’t have to worry because I will take care of it. I am more important than your job. I tell you, you don’t need to worry about your 2017 because I have it all planned perfectly for you. I am in charge of your 2017. You don’t have to worry. All your fears, anxieties, stress, cast them all on Me. I will take care of them. Just believe that I am with you.

There are times when you think you are insignificant. There may be times that you feel you don’t matter, that you are just a small piece of a puzzle. But I tell you, you are significant to Me. You are highly favored. You might not realize it now but I’m storming heavens to pour out the abundance of blessings and love on you. You are so much loved. You are very important to me. Never doubt that even for a second. I have loved you then and I will continue to love you till the end.”

I was crying the whole time I was penning down those words as I hear it. I didn’t expect that actual moment to happen that very morning. It was just so surreal.

I had to pen those words down because I want to read it over and over again. It was one of the remarkable encounters with God that I will definitely go back to whenever I feel down and unqualified. I’m not the highly spiritual type and I failed Him a lot of times but He still loves me and gives me that much importance to actually talk to me and let me hear His voice.

And I’m not psychotic (hello Dr.Gregory House!).

God actually talks to us. He is never busy for us. It is actually us who usually veer away from His presence when we get too busy with work and other things. And I’m guilty of that. I felt undeserving of His love but He still gives it to me in so much abundance.

You may have not experienced hearing from God yet but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t talk to you. Oftentimes, you just have to lock yourself from the world and really spend enough time seeking Him. Take time to enjoy His presence. He can talk to you through a friend, a Bible verse, a situation and promptings. You just need to be sensitive of His voice and believe that He really can talk to you.

When He seems silent, don’t be discouraged. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. According to Oswald Chambers, when God is silent, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible — with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. Silence can also be a sign of intimacy. God wants you to seek Him more and He wants more of your time.

Faith. Never doubt. That’s the paramount point. You have to trust Him that He listens even if He seems silent.

 

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It’s been a long time since I last posted an item in this particular category in my blog. Not that I backslid with my faith or something. And no I didn’t fall away. Perhaps I became too busy with work, with other stuff in my life and even the ministry that I wasn’t able to pen down my thoughts about God and my journey with Him. Seems like I actually have time for myself because I can go out with my friends and do different stuff but I don’t really have time for myself. It’s confusing, I know, but I’m sure you can get the picture.

I became so busy with my life and “worrying” about life that I felt I got lost in sync with my writer self. I could still write for my clients and other writing requirements from work, but I just found myself taking a long while before I could write something from the heart of late. I felt like I don’t have ‘it’ anymore. I was afraid that I lost it because of the busyness and other things occupying my day to day life now.

When I had my staycation in a hotel during one of the holidays here in Vietnam, I even brought five different books to inspire me to write again. But I ended up going home without even a simple entry to my blog.

Before, I could write a blog in just one sitting. Nowadays, it will take me hours staring at a blank page of my blog. And usually, I just end up clicking the X button and hitting ‘shut down’ just because I couldn’t start it at all. I became insecure and incapable.

I prayed about it to God. I laid it down to Him and asked Him to give it to me again because writing is something I’m passionate to do. I want to write passionately again. I want to string words together again with so much passion that the people who read it could actually feel it and perhaps, relate to. I want to write again without thinking of what some people will say about it.

No, this is not a matter of life and death. But it’s something dear to me that’s why this post deserves a spot in my blog.

I think same goes for the songwriters and the singers or some actors. It will frustrate them at one point when they can’t do their craft passionately anymore like they used to. And writing is my craft. It’s something that God blessed me with so I want to use it to inspire people and to tell them stories about my journey with life and with God. That’s why I feel frustrated that I can’t do it comfortably as I did before.

But now that I’ve already reached over 500 words and I’m already near the end of this post, and it’s not a blank page anymore, I know God is already working in my brains. It’s a great start to welcome me back to the world of words. And it’s not because I’m a writer that I can do this, but it’s because God is my God even with my simple frustrations like this. He answered me like a father helping his daughter open the stuck zipper of her bag.

This is not a blank page anymore because God helped me fill this page with words. I know I have it again because of Him:-)

Dear you: I’m the one that got away.

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I did like you, but she loves you. And for that, she deserves you more.

I met you at such a time when I least expect that feeling to knock in my heart again. Yes, that’s cliche. And yes, that’s true. I traveled miles away from home not to feel that feeling again, but to find another piece of home in a foreign land and to pursue my passion  and calling. And then you happened.

Life has a series of firsts. And in some of the many firsts in my life, you were there. You were in that scene when I first experienced the felicity of singing a particular song just because it was about us. I’ve kept a good number of memories with you. How you made me feel on a high without you realizing it just because I’m very good at pretending they were just usual stuff for me. But believe me, they all made a mark in me.  I’d say those were lovely to keep in my memory box.

No, we were never together. There wasn’t any label at all. I’d say we were like those ‘almost’ stuff we usually see in movies.We just didn’t end the way they ended in movies. It was a sudden end. You know, those types where the other one will still keep on thinking why everything ended.

And it was me who WAS left wondering. While you went on creating new chapters in your life, I was left thinking why the sweet days had to end.

For a while I thought the pain will take a long time to heal. Surprisingly, it didn’t. Yes, I still think of you. I still remember you whenever I hear those songs or pass by those particular places. I did spend a couple of months trying to move on from where we left off. But seeing you again after almost a year, I just know that that was the closure that I needed. That’s what I needed to finally end this delusion that we still have it.

I like you. But that won’t be enough to make me compromise my standards and my beliefs. You were almost perfect for me. I almost darkened all my checked boxes when I met you. But that one thing that is very important to me and that would help me determine if you are ‘the one,’ that’s the only box that was left un-checked. And I wouldn’t dare give that one up for the thrill of having someone.

We don’t share the same love for Jesus.

You may say I’m too righteous and I’ve set my bar too high. Yes, I do. I’ve waited long enough for God’s best for me and I wouldn’t want to play along the curves just for that ‘in a relationship’ status.

We’ve lost that bond. But I’m happy to keep my principle. As you’ve told me before, you admire me for being able to keep my standards and keeping firm about it. And I will still keep that until that rightful person comes along.

If there’s one thing I feel sad about losing us, it’s the friendship. We weren’t able to save it. I knew we tried but it just can’t be the same again.

I’ve been seeing your photos with the girl. You seemed happy. And being happy for you was the decision I’ve made that night we met again and you talked to me about her. Yes, I did like you, but she loves you. And for that, she deserves you more.

I’d like to believe our episode already ended. You are happy creating new memories with her and I’m happy and contented waiting for God’s rightful one for me. I don’t know until when the waiting will be, but I trust God’s process and timing. As for you, I wish you well. I do hope you will not forget me wherever you will go. Well at least, I hope you will keep me in your memory box as well as I’ll be keeping you in mine. You made me happy for that particular episode of my life and you deserve that spot.

Until we meet again. Maybe in one of the streets of this city. Or maybe somewhere in this world.

Saigon Coffee Scene

Saigon Coffee Scene

Before I went to Vietnam, I’ve done quite a few researches on what to expect in this country. I tried to find out how life is in Vietnam, especially Ho Chi Minh city since I’m planning on staying there. And one of the top things that enticed me more into coming to Vietnam is its vibrant coffee scene. I didn’t know then that Vietnam holds the second spot in the best coffee-producing countries in the world. I didn’t even know how Vietnamese coffee actually tastes. But I must admit that just looking at the interior shots of those coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh city is already enough to make me want to go there.

And they didn’t fail me. Having been in Ho Chi Minh city for almost 9 months now, I could say that the coffee scene in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) and in Vietnam as a whole is really vibrant, fascinating and so chic. I love how coffee shop hopping is such a fun thing to do here. My fondness for chic and thematic designs is being indulged in this country, especially in Saigon. I love how the ambiance of each cafe is different from each other.

I must admit, I’m really impressed. And surprised. Never had I imagined and expected that Vietnam has this really huge, vibrant and artsy cafe scene. I thought that these kinds of coffee shops can only be seen in South Korea or in Japan. Not in Vietnam. Definitely not in Vietnam. 

And yes, I was totally wrong. Man! I don’t need to travel all the way to South Korea just to have that chic coffee shop scenes I’ve always imagined myself to be in. I am actually having those scenes here, right in the heart of Vietnam — Saigon!

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Ngoi Nha So 7 Cafe, District 3, HCMC

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ID Cafe, District 3, HCMC

 

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Fig Cafe in Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

The styles of the coffee shops in Saigon range from traditional Vietnamese designs to chic, artsy, and modern ones.

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Vung Oi Mo Cua Cafe,  District 3, HCMC

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Cafe Coi Xua, Phu Nhuan District

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Cosmo Cafe, District 1, HCMC

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The Morning Cafe, District 1, HCMC

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She Cafe, District 1, HCMC

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Koneko Cafe, District 2, HCMC

Plus,there are also garden coffee shops that are nature-inspired to add a more relaxing, calming feel.

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Du Mien Cafe, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

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Mien Dong Thao Cafe, Phu Nhuan District, HCMC

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S Cafe, Phu Nhuan District

These are only some, and I mean just SOME of the most fancied coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh city. There are still a LOT more! Believe me, my 8 months here is not yet enough for me to visit all those charming fascinating coffee shops in the city.

And yes, these coffee shops are one of my top reasons why I’m enjoying my stay here in Vietnam. I always feel like I’m in a K-drama whenever I’m in a coffee shop here.

Yes. That is weird.

Aside from having really eye-catching cafe designs, Vietnam also boasts off its world-renowned coffee taste. It is just so addicting-ly good and definitely for the win!

Being a self-proclaimed coffee lover, this city and this country is really satisfying my coffee taste bud and my love for chic designs. I just know that I am exactly where I should be at this moment of my life.

Thanks for the awesome coffee, Vietnam!