Faith, Family, & Food: Malaysia, Cambodia, & Vietnam

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday!!!

I just got home from the 10 day trip you encouraged me to take. I am grateful to have a mother like you, someone who continually pushes me out of my comfort zone. As a child, you would always make me order food on the phone and go inside the restaurant to pay even though I was scared to go by myself. Now, that’s all paid off because — while I’m still scared to go by myself — I know this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last!

On my trip, I learned many things you couldn’t teach me — like what poverty looks like or how it feels to be the only woman not wearing a hijab. I think this was your purpose all along because there’s no way any one person can just “tell” you about these things — you have to see them to believe.

And I believe there’s a great value in traveling the world and experiencing how other people live. I plan to teach my children the same lesson and equip them with the same skills you gave me — that is — strength, respect, curiosity, and empathy.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What operates in the background of Singapore can be seen in the forefront of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a futuristic city that clings to its local roots. Because of this, you can visit premier shopping districts in one part of the city and haggle for street food in another!

Lord Murugan, a Hindu deity, stands 140 ft tall at the Batu Caves
Elbows on the table and eating with my hands!!! What a charm!
Marty! We have to go back!
Satay sticks and smiley face french fries
The KL skyline
Malaysia’s signature dish: Chicken Rice
The English sure do love their botanical gardens
Kuala Lumpur gets its name from the joining of these two rivers

Siem Reap, Cambodia

I hadn’t planned on going to Cambodia until a friend told me about something called “Angkor Wat,” some temple that’s located there. I did a quick Google search and thought “Eh, sure, whatever, this seems cool enough and at least the weather will be warm.”

First of all, I don’t understand why Angkor Wat is not listed as one of the wonders of the world because it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The entire city of Siem Reap is dotted with ancient temples built by 11 different kings during the Khmer Empire (802 – 1431 AD). They range from Hindu style to Buddhist style and sometimes both. Not only are these temples ginormous, but they are decorated from head to toe with stone carvings and sanskrit writing that describe ancient Khmer life and religious stories. It’s amazing they let anyone go near these things, let alone walk all over them! I consider myself lucky to have seen them in my lifetime because I suspect they won’t last forever.

The two stone pillars are carved so as to look like decorated wood
Ta Prohm, or, where Tomb Raider was filmed!
Ta Prohm – Buddhist style
Elephant Terrace at Baphuon
Baphuon, dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva, destroyer of evil
Smiling Buddhist faces at Bayon
Angkor Wat, the symbol of Cambodia
Beautiful Apsara gods who sprung from the Churning of the Ocean of Milk

Besides the delight of getting to play archeologist for a day, I also had the privilege of being a homestay guest with Maden and his family who live on a farm outside of the city. They welcomed me with lots of love, home-cooked meals, and a reality I’ve never been faced with. Their farm brought me peace and quiet and his family showed me warmth and kindness. I wish to see them again one day and see how everyone is growing up.

Surrounded by vibrant rice paddies
Early morning playtime before the sun heats up
The cows go out to graze in the morning….
….and the cows come home in the evening
Sunsets in Cambodia
Where I spent most of my time
Disclaimer: Mosquito nets do NOT keep lizards from hiding underneath pillows!
My first home-cooked meal: lemongrass morning glory and eggplant
Traditional breakfast of steamed sticky rice with banana filling
I even ate all my tomatoes like a good guest!
Had to stop at the gas station
I left my dog behind
I left my boy behind </3

Hanoi, Vietnam

Lastly, I visited Vietnam to learn more about my best friend Lucille’s culture. What essentially was a two day food tour also enlightened me to the fact that some people are very proud to be communist. Growing up American, I was taught that communists are evil, yet, here they were and they didn’t seem so evil to me. Sung taught me all about what their “grandfather,” Ho Chi Minh, did for their country, and Van took me on a street food experience that cannot be compared!

Portraits of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx in Ho Chi Minh’s study
Many national flags hanging for Tet (Lunar New Year)
Escaping the street noise in secluded alleyways
Stopped by a cafe for some green tea
This cat, protector of Vietnam
phở bò – beef noodle soup
Cà Phê sữa dừa – iced coconut coffee
Bún Chả Đắc Kim – grilled pork with vermicelli noodles and many other dank ingredients
Fried tofu and pig stomach with vermicelli noodles and fish sauce
Che Thap Cam – mixed fruits/beans/jellies in coconut milk


This concludes my tour. When I got home, I slept for 15 hours straight! Phew! Tomorrow, a new cohort of Xinjiang teachers will arrive, and Spencer comes to visit me in less than two weeks!

I hope you have a great day today and look out for presents in the mail! ❤

I love you!


Nat Nat


Fun fact: Angkor means “city” and Wat means “temple,” therefore, Angkor Wat means “City of Temples.” It was once the largest pre-industrial city in the world.


3 thoughts on “Faith, Family, & Food: Malaysia, Cambodia, & Vietnam

  1. Wooow looks like quite the trip! I’m jealous. I’m glad you look like you’re having the time of your life though just like we talked about. That satay looks delish…I want one right now and so does that pho! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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