From 13 Years in Education to a Lifetime in Music

I was 19 years old when I signed my scholarship agreement with the Public Service Commision, and from that time until now, I’ve been a civil servant, serving my whole career with the Ministry of Education as an Education Officer. If not for the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my University studies in Mathematics and Music. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity. I will also be grateful for my 13 years as an Education Officer, and having the privilege of experiencing 5 very different and challenging postings. At each stop, there was so much to learn, so many wonderful people to meet, so many difficult situations to overcome. Not everything was perfect and not everything went smoothly of course, but I believe that everything, good or bad, happened for a reason. For this, I will choose to be grateful. 

Many people have asked me, why I chose to walk away from a seemingly promising career in public service. My answer is, I simply reached a point where I had to. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe strongly in education, in giving back to society and remembering one’s roots, but there is also more to life than just cruising and doing what one can do. I felt that it was time I made a stand and choose to do what I was meant to do. 

Ever since the first day, I wanted to write music. I might not have been the most talented or accomplished musician in my batch, but I knew that I enjoyed having my own musical voice. I might not be Mozart or Beethoven, but I needed to explore what Lennie had within him, the message that he had to share with Singapore and the world. I honestly do not know if I’ll ever be a success in this area, but I do know that if I didn’t give myself the opportunity and time to grow and develop in this area, I would regret when I come to the end of my journey on this earth. 

The transition between having a stable income and an unpredictable one has been hard. For sure, I expected that it would not be an easy one. But I am extremely grateful for the people around me, my friends and family who have rallied behind me, to encourage and support me. You all are the wind beneath my wings. Thank you!

Do join me in following my exploits: 

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5 Oysters, HCMC

We were looking for a good place to eat for our final meal in Ho Chi Minh City, and we settled on the 5 Oysters restaurant at Bui Vien. Thankfully, our experience here matched the generally positive reviews on Tripadvisor. Prices were reasonable and well worth it considering the quality of the food. 
Summary:

Bo Nuong La Lot, Vietnamese Grilled Beef with Wild Betel Leaf, VND80,000 (Rating 8/10) – This was more tasty and authentic that what the version we had at the Royal Saigon Restaurant!

Goi Cuon, Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Pork, VND40,000 for 5 pieces (Rating 7/10) – These were the best fresh spring rolls we had during this trip, and we were so happy we ordered a second plate. However, in our previous trips we have tasted better. 

Chim Cut Chien Bo, Fried Quails with Butter, VND70,000 (Rating 8/10) – This was delicious, especially the sauce and the veggies. The quails were good but a little on the tough side though and were not easy to chew. 

Hau Nuong Pho Mai, Grilled Oyster with Cheese, VND30,000 per oyster (Rating 8/10) – Oysters were reasonably fresh and well grilled. Cheese was grilled just nice, not over or under-done.

 

King Kebab, HCMC

Sometimes the simplest meals can be the most satisfying. This simple Kebab takeaway along Bui Vien was tasty and a great option when you need a break from Vietnamese cuisine. A nice blend of kebab meat, veggies and french fries with delicious sauce all wrapped up. The service is great too, with the shop owners always greeting you with a friendly smile. The cost is VND40,000 for the Chicken wrap and VND50,000 for the Beef wrap. Highly recommended. Rating 9/10.

Ho Chi Minh City

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It has been a refreshing short trip to Ho Chi Minh City, even though we didn’t really do anything much! 6 years ago, we visited Vietnam 3 times, covering Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. My wife always loved Vietnamese food, and Vietnam is certainly a paradise of spring rolls, noodles and other fine delicacies, all of which I only began to appreciate when I came here. Somehow, Vietnamese food in Singapore never left that much of an impression on me.

We started this trip by being re-acquainted with the remarkable traffic chaos. Our taxi driver from the airport was incredibly reckless, finding every opportunity to cut corners and running red lights. Along the way, we witnessed a collision between a car and two motorcycles, which thankfully didn’t seem to be too serious.

We spent most of our time enjoying our meals, going to the gym and watching TV. The weather was pretty rainy, to the extent that one evening I witnessed a flash flood along Bui Vien with water levels going up to the shin level, forcing me to abort my visit to the laundry shop. Pity I didn’t bring my phone with me, if not I would have definitely taken plenty of photos of that! I made a quick trip to Ben Thanh market to buy some clothes for our kids. That was an enjoyable walk.

Life here is so different from back home. People here know how to appreciate the little things of life. They have time to sit down at road side cafes to enjoy their coffee and to observe the traffic passing by.

When I go back, I know I will miss the food and the warmth of the people here, but I will learn to appreciate Singapore’s less complex traffic situation and smooth pavements. You win some, and you lose some. 🙂

Pho Ba La, HCMC

This Pho eatery, along the Bui Vien backpackers stretch, used to be called Pho Vin, but the now it is Pho Ba La. It serves a few versions of Pho, all using different cuts of beef. You can also decide on the portion size you require. We ordered one Pho Tai Nam (Rare – Flank) and one Pho Gau Gan (Brisket – Soft Tendon). Both were delicious. Compared to Pho Thanh Canh, this eatery is probably more catered to the tourist pallette, and also has a wider variety of drinks on offer. All in all, it is a great place to hang out and chill!

Summary:

Pho Tai Nam (Normal Size) VND55,000 – Rating 7/10

Pho Gau Gan (Normal Size) VND55,000 – Rating 8/10

Iced Milk Coffee VND18,000 – Rating 7/10

Passionfruit Juice VND20,000 – Rating 6/10

Overall Experience – 8/10

Cobalt Restaurant, Pullman Saigon City

This restaurant is on the 30th floor of the Pullman Saigon City, and it offers some spectacular unblocked views of Ho Chi Minh City. This is a classy restaurant, featuring a whole wall of wine displayed elegantly in a glass cabinet. The spread of food here, however, is disappointingly limited, without any local cuisine or even the standard western fish & chips or burgers. In the end, we settled for two pastas (there were only three pasta options) and a Lobster Bisque soup. The meal came with bread and spread as an appetizer, which was delicious. The soup was thick and tasty as well, with nice texture. The pastas were nice with generous portions of ingredients.

Summary:

Lobster Bisque with Beignets VND235,000 Rating 7/10

Spaghetti with Clams in White Wine Sauce VND315,000 Rating 8/10

Orrecchietti with Italian Sausage and Goat Cheese VND315,000 Rating 8/10

Total bill VND432,499 (After Accor Plus 50% off)

Pho Thanh Canh, HCMC

We were looking for a good Pho to undo the damage caused by last night’s disappointing visit to the Royal Saigon Restaurant. We decided to try out this humble looking Pho eatery just around the corner from Pullman Saigon Centre where we were putting up. This seemed like a place targeted more at locals rather than tourists and we felt that this would mean a more authentic Pho. We ordered the Pho Bo which came with all the standard vegetables and spices and it certainly didn’t disappoint. At least a million times better than the Pho last night! The soup was tasty from the spices and not artificially salted up. The bill came up to VND62,000 for one bowl of Pho Bo, which is on the pricy side, but at least it tasted nice! Rating – 8/10