HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Year in Review

I'm a few days late with this, but I hope everyone had a great celebration on New Year's Eve. In less than 24 hours I'll be boarding a plane to head back to Saigon (by way of Atlanta, Seoul and Shanghai), and I thought this would be a good time to look back at 2012. Overall it was a great year for me, as I had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling and see some truly amazing places, and also began a writing career.

January
Spent a few days on pristine Phu Quoc island, off Vietnam's southwest coast, before celebrating the Tet holiday in Saigon.
serenity now
February
Rode a bicycle 1,200 miles from Hanoi to Saigon for charity with an awesome group of people over 26 days. (Well, most of the way - I pulled my quads in both legs outside of Buon Ma Thuot.) This ride, called H2H, was quite possibly the greatest experience of my life so far, as I was able to see a side of Vietnam that few foreigners do.
animals
March
Became the contributing editor at AsiaLIFE HCMC, and recovered from the bike ride by gorging on delicious food in Saigon.
gluttony
April
I managed to stay in Saigon for this entire month, focusing on work when I wasn't staying out till the wee hours drinking and pigging out on dim sum. Saigon was also hit by a tropical storm.
May
I put in some serious mileage this month, as I went to Da Lat for the first time over a holiday weekend, flew to Singapore for the third time, and left for a two-week India trip in May's last week.
scenery outside Da Lat
June
This was an eventful month for several reasons, as I had way too much fun exploring Goa and Tamil Nadu with one of my best friends from home, his brother, and one of his friends; began taking Vietnamese lessons; and decided to move out of the District 3 house I had lived in since moving to Saigon.
Goa
July
I didn't go anywhere this month, as I was occupied with moving into a new apartment in District 5. It has epic views. I interviewed for a job at a real estate analysis company that would have potentially put me in the position of having a 9-5 job for two years, but a few days later I decided that is not what I'm interested in and asked the company to take me out of consideration.
August
This was a bit of a rough month. Moving out of my old house was a complete nightmare thanks to our insane landlady; I began to question how much I really liked Saigon; and the wet season kicked into high gear. On the good side, my language lessons progressed well and at the end of the month three college friends were on their way out for a visit.
disgusting
September
Went to Mui Ne and Da Lat with the aforementioned friends; saw an epic sunset; cycled to Monkey Island in Can Gio; and took part in a triathlon in Da Nang.
October
Work continued to go well; I began to realize the challenges presented by speaking Vietnamese; the relentless wet season made life absolutely miserable; I wrote one of my personal favorite blog posts on the treatment of animals in Vietnam; I went on a 150km charity bicycle ride from Saigon to Ho Tram; and I helped turned Saigon into an episode of The Walking Dead for Halloween.
November
Early in the month I interviewed Gary Fisher, the inventor of the modern mountain bike, for AsiaLIFE and then went on a ride with him in the countryside south of Saigon. Work and Vietnamese lessons trundled along smoothly, and I celebrated the strangest Thanksgiving of my life so far. Over the month's last weekend I got to stay at a 4-star hotel in Chau Doc for free through work.
December
I spent the first week working and preparing for a big trip. On the 7th I flew to Seoul, where I visited a friend over four nights during record-breaking cold weather. I loved the city, and had an absolutely great time. On the 11th I flew home, New Orleans, for a three-week visit that would take me through Christmas and New Years. It was my first visit home in 15 months, and my first Christmas at home since 2009.

So, what's ahead for 2013? There are some question marks, but this I do know: I will be visiting Malaysia in both February and March. In April I will take part in H2H again, this time as the ride leader and organizer. (ahem, fundraising for the charities we support is open now, donations are welcome: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/michaeltatarski/h2h-charity-bike-ride-2013) After that, things get a bit fuzzy. My mom and one of my sisters may visit in late May/early June, and at some point after that I intend to leave Saigon for good. As of right now I'm setting July as a rough date, and there is a solid 70-80% chance that I will be moving to Seoul. I want to continue writing and developing a journalism career, and I want to go somewhere where the press is freer. I'm just not sure I could handle moving straight back to the West yet. Stay tuned.

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