You’re originally from Vietnam and are currently working in Singapore. How long have you been living here, and how often do you visit home?
I’ve been here since my school days actually, so it’s been quite a while. When scholarships to study in Singapore first opened up in Vietnam, I applied because the MTV Asia headquarters is located here, and I loved Utt, so I thought this would be a cool place to live and study (laughs).
I go back to visit my family two to three times a year. When I can, I like to explore new areas in the country too, as there are so many wonders in Vietnam that I don’t think many people know of.
Tell us about your latest trip back to Vietnam.
Earlier this year, I went on a 6 day 5 night trekking tour of the largest known cave in the world, Son Doong, that was only officially discovered in 2009.
The eco tour was led by Oxalis Adventure and only 1,000 people are allowed to visit every year to preserve the pristine condition of the cave. My tour group consisted of 10 people, along with a group of 30 caving experts, guides, safety assistants, porters, and cooks. All our meals were provided by the cooks, and we even got fresh-ground coffee in the mornings, so aside from the strenuous activities, leeches, mud, and everything else, you can probably call it glamping (laughs).
I was always aware of how small we are in this universe, but when I was literally standing in a five-kilometre-wide cave that is 200 metres high, the feeling was greatly amplified and I was so in awe of nature. I even heard that you can fit an entire skyscraper within the cave itself!
Where will you be exploring next?
A tour guide mentioned that Son Doong could possibly be linked to an even larger cave, but they’ll need more time to discover that. I also wouldn’t mind returning for a tour of another cave that has a waterfall inside and where we get to camp under the stars. And who knows, maybe I’ll find some rare new cave animal species to name after myself (laughs).
Beyond just appreciating nature, I’m personally very heartened by the rise in tourism as a result of these cave discoveries. Central Vietnam is a very poor region that is devastated by floods for months on end. Previously, many of the local tour guides and porters had to do odd jobs like illegal logging and reselling bomb parts to make ends meet, but now these new jobs have helped to improve their economic circumstances, which is great.
How has life changed since the last time we spoke with you in 2019?
I think the pandemic has changed all of us. Somehow, I got into ornamental plants during that time so I’m now a plant parent (laughs).
How has your plant collection grown in the last few years?
I started with the money plant because it’s so easy to grow and impossible to kill—from one small shrub, it’s taken over my entire window!
I’ve probably acquired 80 plants since then, all sorts of Philodendrons and Anthuriums. Last month, I participated in a live plant bidding by @kampong.niners and bought about five plants from them.
But there have been huge failures too. I once bought a 1.8-metre-tall cactus and went on a vacation shortly after. When I got back, it had died and became a brown mass of rot.
What’s your current favourite plant?
I really love Regal plants and the Queen Anthurium because of their beautiful velvety leaves. I love all my plants and whenever I see yellowing leaves, like on one of my Regals recently, it breaks my heart. But there’s a new baby leaf coming through, so I’m hoping this one survives.
I’m also a fan of hydroponics and self-watering systems as I travel often and I want to come home to live plants (laughs), but I still stick with ornamental plants instead of edible plants because my husband hates salad, and can I eat 6kg of kale a month on my own? Probably not (laughs).