Tag Archives: Karma Waters Restaurant

A day with Karma Waters volunteers in Quảng Ngãi Province, Vietnam

How was YOUR Sunday? Well, yesterday, mine started with me waking up at 3:30am to prepare for a 4:30am pickup. Yesterday, while I was interviewing Ronnie Defour at Karma Waters,  Grace Nguyen, Karma Waters owner, invited me to ride along to observe and participate in a community support project in Quảng Ngãi Province, south of Da Nang, in Vietnam.

4:29 am waiting in the doorway of the Stingray Hostel on the deserted streets of Da Nang, Vietnam
My pickup posse arrives. First, Tran, then Uyen arrived, then a third

My pickup posse of three arrived, we greeted each other and headed out into the pre-sunrise morning to Karma Waters.

Waiting for the bus to arrive

After a short wait, then quick loading and boarding, our two-vehicle convoy (supply truck and passenger bus) set out at 5:29am.

We set out on our journey at 5:29am!
Catching the Sunday sunrise in Da Nang, Vietnam!

Okay, Okay. I know I may not LOOK happy in this next photo, but trust me, once the bus driver told us he would NOT be able to turn on the air conditioning, I was in heaven! Imagine! A window seat, an open window for natural breezes, a four hour plus drive through the hills of Vietnam! This is exactly the sort of thing I thrive on!

“No, this IS my happy face.”
Stopping for fuel. Petrol is 21,560dong/L (About $0.93US/liter or $3.50/gal)

Yes, this is exactly how I like to get to know a new location–spending a few weeks hanging out with local folks, doing what local folks do, being outdoors, breathing the air, feeling the sunshine and rain, taking the pulse of the community, adjusting to the pattern and pace of everyday life….just living like a local!

On the road up to the mountains
A rest & rejuvenation stop halfway through the journey
Lots of beautiful scenery

The trip took 4 hours 43 minutes  We left Da Nang at exactly 5:29am, and pulled up to the Tra Khue Ethnic Minority Primary School in Quảng Ngãi  at 10:12am. (Sorry, it’s the former civil engineer in me who tends to get so detailed!)

A screen shot of Google maps on my phone places me at the blue dot. Approximate distance on the map: 165km or 102mi, but we definitely traveled a bit more than that!

 

Now, on to important matters. This trip was part of Karma Waters’ series of Charitable Programs. From their website:

“Our Karma Waters Ethnic Support Program delivers daily plant-based meals and support (such as books, clothing, toys and more) to ethnic minority families in the Quang Nam Province in Central of Vietnam.

With this program, and with funds collected in the Karma Waters restaurants, we help provide critical support to children and families in poverty through improved nutrition, health and even friendly support visits and friendship which provides them with some happiness.

With your help, Karma Waters can expand this program and help even  more ethnic minority families. Check out our video and gallery below [see website] and you can see the impact this program has on the children and families in the Quang Nam Province.” Donate

Photos from the event:

Students, teachers and parents await our arrival

 

View of the compound. photo: Diễm Uyên Nguyễn Hồ

 

photo: Diễm Uyên Nguyễn Hồ
As in nature and throughout many cultures, the vegan does the heavy lifting. (“A nuh nuttn, mi do dis all di while inna Saipan!”) photo: Diễm Uyên Nguyễn Hồ
Narrating the adventure…Video coming soon!
College student volunteers organize the gifts
Hoisting the school banner donated by Karma Waters
Students line up by grade and wait to be called by name

The founder of Karma Waters is Nguyen Thi Bao Duyen (Grace Nguyen). Grace is an IT graduate, a professional vegan chef, and the founder of 2 vegan restaurants called Karma Waters in Vietnam. She also helps run the Karma Waters Charitable Association, teaches vegan cooking classes, creates menus for restaurants and hosts private dinners.

How Karma Waters Began
[According to Grace] “I became vegetarian in 2002, and later a vegan. I became vegetarian myself because of an incident with a fish. Yes, a fish changed my life! One day, while I was in China…(Read Grace’s amazing story here)”

Nguyen Thi Bao Duyen (Grace Nguyen) Karma Waters founder addresses the gathering and speaks about the mission
The school’s principal accepts an additional gift of a laptop from Karma Waters donor, Trinidadian Ronnie Defour
Each student receives a backpack, jacket, treats and other gifts
Participating in the distribution. photo: Diễm Uyên Nguyễn Hồ
photo: Diễm Uyên Nguyễn Hồ
photo: Diễm Uyên Nguyễn Hồ

All the students waited patiently until their names were called, and Ronnie helped them pass the time a little more enjoyably while they waited.

photo: Diễm Uyên Nguyễn Hồ

Ultimately, every single student there that day (between 125-150) received a gift package. Once the distribution was complete, the volunteers posed for a few photos:

Job well done. Karma Waters volunteers pose after all the distribution is complete

The giving, however, was not over. Volunteers also helped erect a children’s slide….

…and a swing.

We all ate some guavas, watermelon and spicy tofu with sticky rice…..

Sticky rice and tofu for the dogs, too!

…then headed back north in the rain, departing at 1:45pm! It was sad to leave after such a rewarding day….

So, this would be my sad face. Just kidding, wasn’t sad at all, simply very fulfilling!

Congratulations to Grace and family, Karma Waters, the volunteers, Ronnie and family, the bus driver, his assistant, and all the unseen folks who made the event a success! And, thanks for letting me be and see a part of it all!

More beauty on the journey back
Homes with satellite dishes abound
Mountains in their overcast glory
hay stacks for feeding livestock
Sunset in Da Nang

Back at Karma Waters Headquarters, we said our goodbyes, and my pickup posse took me back to the Stingray Hostel! It was a great experience, exactly the sort of thing that exemplifies why I travel abroad!

Faahword! Likkle more!

….and THAT’S how I spent my Sunday. Like I said, how was YOUR day?

I’ll be working on the video over the next few hours and will make another post announcing it!

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Da Nang, Vietnam-Day 1

After my special plane flight to Vietnam, the first order of business: changing my US dollars and Hong Kong dollars into Vietnam Dong. The exchange rate is about 1USD = 23,100dong. I decided I would change only $50US just in case the rates at the airport weren’t that good. I’d change more once I familiarized myself with things here on the ground. With that done, I now had 1.16 million dong in my wallet!

Next, I recruited the assistance of a young lady named Tram who was waiting just outside the airport exit with a passenger’s name on a sign. She was nice enough to call my hostel to verify their location, and then get me a cab from the airport.

Tram helps me get a taxi

The ride ended up costing $100,000dong, which, I later found out was a bit high, but que sera sera!

About to check in at the Stingray Hostel in Da Nang, Vietnam

Mine is a single room on the 3rd floor of the Stingray.

There are 3 other single rooms, and the rest of the accommodations are bunk beds that remind me of photos I’ve seen of the capsule hotels in Japan.

2nd floor bunk beds…all empty

From what I’m told, it’s a fairly new hostel, so occupancy is not that high at the moment. When I checked in, there were only 6 other people checked in, and one was leaving that day. So, pretty much had the whole second floor to myself! Yippee!

2 toilets, 2 showers…pretty much all to myself

 

Manager, Hủng and Ngọc Ánh of the Stingray Hostel

The manager and receptionist at Stingray lent me a SIM card, and downloaded a ride sharing app called GRAB–a Vietnam version of Uber–that’s cheaper than a taxi! So, with that vital and valuable tool, I am now able to see Da Nang cheaply and much more easily than I was able to in Macau. This is great! They’ve been very helpful and accommodating! Read more about Stingray Hostel here

Here’s a short video recap:

 

My first stop was Karma Waters, a vegan restaurant that got great reviews on HappyCow.net!

Spring rolls and fried noodles

 

This is how we do it! “Wrap veggies and spring rolls in rice paper, dip in sauce and enjoy!”

Then, another Grab cab pulled up and out came a fellow who caught my eye.  His name is Ronnie Defour, and turns out he’s a Trinidadian who’s lived in South America as well as the US, and is planning to relocate to Vietnam! He was there at Karma Waters to make a generous donation to one of their community projects! (see details here)

Ronnie Defour from Trinidad!

When I first arrived at Karma Waters, there was no one there who spoke English (and, thanks to the helpful officer at the Immigration desk at the airport, my Vietnamese consists only of “hello,” “thank you” and “see you later”). So, the waitress enlisted the help of the owner’s 13-year-old daughter who was in the back. We ended up talking for the duration of my lunch, she showed me her sketch pad of artwork (on the table),  added my own sketch to her pad, and due to serious case of camera-shyness, you can make out her forehead behind me in this shot!

Shy artist’s forehead behind mine

Hey look what I found on the KarmaWaters Facebook page! At the same time that Ronnie was discussing his donation with the Karma Waters owner, Ronnie snapped a photo of his table with me in the background with my shy artist!

The shy artist exposed!

Among the things I learned during my hours-long lunch is that Karma Waters is more than just a restaurant.  They feed the less privileged, give tours to children; organize tours and homestays; offer cooking classes; provide recipes and more! (More at www.karmawaters.com)

 

Ronnie and family!

I plan to interview Ronnie as well as Grace, the Karma Waters owner, in another post! Stay tuned.

Rearranged the furniture in my windowless dorm room, caught up on some writing, website updating and communications….then called it a night!

Stay tuned for more!

 

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