A Bold Coffee kinda morning


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I am sitting at my desk in Princeton, unapologetically blogging on my travel blog.  I recently finished some recent engagement sessions and weddings on my wedding blog, Ted Nghiem Photography Blog.

Yesterday, I came back from a coffee date, (I hope she gets back to me for lunch!) and had me thinking about.. what’s next in my life.  Well actually she asked where am I planning to go check out next.. but I think the question was leading to what’s next in my life.  The answer to the question of where?  AUSTRALIA!  I would love to check out the land down under!

But to the question implied.

I love where my wedding images are going, there is still much more room to improve and experiment.  As I was also thinking on my flight down to Vietnam, have I gotten over my reticence?  My brother and sister in law would say, I don’t climb out of my “box” very often.

I find myself slowly breaking out of the box, so there is still progress.  The traveling and meeting new people on my journeys have helped me tremendously in breaking out of the shell.  Still, at 29, I am still shy and extremely nervous in social settings.  It’s pretty embarrassing to admit this.  As adventurous I can be, trying out new places, traveling by myself, I still have a fear of verbally communicating with others.

Being a little scattered in my thoughts doesn’t help either…

I remember growing up being mostly ignored by my peers, so, the progress of turning inward grew.  The few childhood friends who accepted me and let me be me, I have remained in touch and love deeply. It didn’t help that the belief that I grew up with reinforced the non-social.  I quit that belief system a couple years ago after a life altering wake up call.  One thing that I have never been open with others was that, it was a cult and that cult made an attempt to force me into a faux marriage.  So yes, I was in a cult.  It was something I grew up with, so as a child it was hard to not go through with what the parents wanted.

Luckily, two of my older brothers and I jumped ship and regained control of our own destinies and paths in life.  But, my other brother is out there with them.  And.  This pains me the most as it is one of the things that I just could not get over, and still can’t.  It was my brother who contacted me to go over there.  Long story short, he told me that I would be photographing something for the group.  But when I got there it was trying to get me to marry someone from abroad so they could stay in America.

It has been 4 years, come this December, from that event.  My brother Eric and I laugh about it now, to try to get over it.  But, the realization of the lost years of dedication to that belief really sucked.

Back on the point, I am trying out different things and doing things to break out of my self-created box.  It’s hard but a necessary step.

So what’s next in my life?  The additional steps to break my shadow.




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I landed in Newark!  Thank god!  When the customs guy saw me he asked me what had happened to me and I told him.  It was no fun flying with an arm in a cast, let me tell you that!
Grabbed my things and called Dave that I am back in Newark, but I had to take the NJ transit to the 30th street station in Philadelphia to be picked up.  I stuffed my day bag into my Kelty bag to make it easier for me to carry all my things.  When I called my parents to tell them what had happened, they thought I cracked my ribs.

This was the end of my voyage to Vietnam.  What a crazy, fun, and stressful adventure!

Things I learned.

  1. moped drivers in HCMC can quickly change their path and not hit people.
  2. moped drivers in Dalat are not used to tourists.
  3. fracturing a bone abroad sucks.
  4. HCMC is extremely packed with people.
  5. Cambodia is awesome.
  6. I loved adventuring around the Angkor Wat.
  7. Four pairs of clothes and two undie/boxers arent enough if I don’t wash my clothes.


  1. I was finally able to see an orthopedic specialist about a week and a half after the accident.  I went to Rothman center in Philadelphia to get seen.
  2. I had surgery on August 12th.  My very first surgery to get my bones reset and for the surgery team to put a titanium brace with 8 screws to keep my bones in place.

  3. The fracture was much worse than what I was told in Dalat and from the FV hospital.

  4. I am now recovering and undergoing physical therapy.

All in all, this was an adventure that was worth it!  Sure there were some shortcomings, fractured wrist anyone?  But that is all part of the experience.  Would I do this all over again?  Heck yeah!  Only I would like to avoid mopeds and broken bones.

Chapter 16


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The flight home

I didn’t check my flight itinerary before I got to the airport.  Which I should have.  The flight numbers on the check in board were not matching up to my original flight print out.

Uh oh!

I luckily was able to charge dad’s cell just long enough for one last call to Eric.  Eric found my new number to be UA967 and I was flying with ANA, All Nippon Airways!

Now knowing my new flight number, I checked in at 9 PM.  The process of check in and security was really fast in Vietnam!  They did feel up my arm with the cast, but that was it!  I was on my way!  But the good news ended there.

When I went down to my gate, there was this kid giving one of the worst fits I have ever heard!  He was screaming at the top of his lungs to not go.  Argh!!  It lasted for an hour and a half!  Didn’t the kid get tired or something?

We finally boarded our plane and the kid finally stopped giving his temper tantrum.  Like the other time, there was no row call, seat call.  It was first come first serve.  I held onto my left arm so I wouldn’t accidentally hit someone.

I thought the pain and swelling would increase in the air, but it didn’t.  The only thing was that it was really uncomfortable to have this cast on in such a tight space.  There was no way I could go to sleep or be comfortable for the next 6 hours.

The meal was actually fresh and we ate with metal utensils!  Sweet!  This was something I don’t normally come across fresh meals and metal utensils on airplanes!  It was amazing!

6 hours later.

We landed in my mecca.  Japan.  I knew I was going to stay in the airport if judging the prices of coffee and some snacks was costing inside.  Granted items inside an airport are already inflated, but, outside would have been a strain on the budget.

I signed up for Boingo, grrr!  since it didn’t want to work after I signed up on the ipad but did on my droid.

I continued on eating real Japanese ramen while tweeting and sending out emails.  The ramen probably had fish in it, but oh well.  

When I finally found my gate number, I met this nice couple who reminded me of Otakus from America.  They spend two weeks in Japan!  How awesome!  Of course the first thing that I asked was how was traveling in Japan financially.  His fiancee had work in Japan so the company took care of the flight and accommodations, but they covered everything else.  Nice!

By 4:40 pm we were boarding our United flight to Newark.  This was a larger airplane and there was someone in my seat.

She asked if we could swap since hers was right next to mine anyway.  Another aisle seat.


Throughout the flight the announcer kept on talking really slow breaking in and out of watching anything on the monitors.  It got so bad that at one point I wanted to shout to just say it in one sitting!

This was going to be a long fourteen hour flight.

Chapter 15


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Day 14

I had some good sleep regardless of the cast poking into my chest.  Then Eric knocked on my door for me to watch Vincent.  Little did I know it was 9 am already.

9 am?!  It felt like 7!

Then again there were no windows for me to know that the sun was out.  I went back and forth from Eric’s and my room to brush my teeth and watch Vincent.

But once I finished getting dressed and brushed my teeth, Vincent and I went downstairs to get a pastry breakfast.  The breakfast had more variety than Duc Voung’s but, it was mainly meat and pastries.  We ate as much pastries as we could stomach it and went back to watch cartoons.

When Eric and Ann came back, I went back to my room to re pack my things.  Since I am with one hand, I had to pack my things efficiently.  Since I had to check out at 12, I started to pack at 10 am.  I packed all my books into my check in back, all the plugs that I don’t need in there, and any non essentials and expensive things in there.  This way my day pack will only have my xrays and journal and my camera bag having my camera, ipad, and pens.

After I finished, I stashed my things in Eric’s hotel room and we went to check out.

We went for lunch and a stroll around the city.  I learned who those guys in dark olive green were.  They were tourist police who helped tourist cross the street in HCMC.  We stopped at this corner ice cream shop to get some ice cream.  The dishes were pretty small.  Hmmm…

We finished our ice cream, which wasn’t long at all and went back to our hotel room to relax from the heat.  Taking a little breather in the mid day was perfectly normal when traveling in Vietnam.

We stayed in till 5 pm when we went back out to get one last dinner together, since I will be leaving for the airport at 8 pm.  My flight wasn’t till 11 pm, but I rather be there early.  We went to dinner at this one alleyplace eatery that we have been to before.  We ordered our food and I got some banh mi to go.

The Banh mi was finally finished when we were about to go!  And those are usually really fast to make too!

Since it was almost my time to go, I said my byes to Eric, Ann, and Vincent.  Proper ones this time.

“Have a safe flight back!”

“Let us know what happens when you see the doctor!”


I hopped into the Vinasun taxi to grab my gear at the hotel.  I went into the bathroom to wash up a bit and didn’t realize my cast knocking over the glass cup.  Shit!

Next thing I needed to happen.  Breaking something from the hotel.  So I cleaned it up, left a note, and money for them.  And keeping just enough for my taxi fare to the airport.

This time on the way back there was no parking ticket fee.  Sheesh, that guy from when I got here was trying to pull a fast one.  Good thing I was impatient and jetted that taxi!  I gave this taxi driver money and tip, since I didn’t need the rest of the dong.

Grabbed my gear I went into the airport.

Chapter 14


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My last full day in Vietnam.

I woke up numerous times from the aches and pains from my arm, roosters calls, and sleeping way too early yesterday.

The pains were too noticeable that I just stayed awake from 6:30 am.  Vincent and Ann woke up too, but they woke up because of the roosters.

There was this huge platter of fruit from the fields waiting for us to eat.  I ate most of the fruit there, Chum Chubs (spelling?), jack fruit, dragon fruit, this custard apple, and.. durian.  I had some Durian, which my family knows that I don’t particularly like.  At all.  But it was nice out here cause it was fresh.  I still didn’t like it, it had a very pungent smell and it was very slimey to eat!

That was how I spent the morning, eating fruit and guzzling down Vietnamese iced coffee.  So I am supposed to sip the iced coffee… I am told.

We had to leave at 4:40 pm and Ann’s cousins and uncle took us on their moped to wait for our bus at the stop.  Vincent was riding with me and his uncle, who was zipping through those small alleyway streets.

“Great… more mopeds.”

“Isn’t this fun, Uncle Ted?!” Vincent yelled in the blowing wind

“Uhhhh….not really, Vincent!” I shouted back

Ann’s cousin laughed in return.

When we got to our stop we had to wait for our bus, but it looked like a while.  A taxi pulled up and Ann’s cousin negotiated a flat fee of 300.000 dong to take us all the way back to HCMC.  That was 2 hours away and for 300.000 dong?  That was a steal!

So we piled into our taxi and happily on our way back to the hotel.  Happy because we weren’t being packed into a van like sardines.

As the night pressed on, we noticed the driver starting to fall asleep.  So we did our best to keep the driver awake till he got to a swap stop.  At the stop he changed spots with another driver so he could go back home to go to sleep.  It looked like he had a long day.

We were finally dropped off at our hotel and I checked into my room.

Ahhh flushing toilets!  And showers!

Doing my business, I plopped onto my bed trying to grab some comfort, which couldn’t be found because of the cast poking into the sides of my chest.

Eric kocked on my door telling me that they were going for dinner.  I went for my last bowl of Pho.