(JDR) One of the late nights drinking booze in the hotel lobby with the crew, it was decided that I’d be joining a group for a trip to Phu Quoc island. This was a post-TESOL-course celebration. I had planned on looking for a job straight away, but the allure of the island pictures and the thought of a few days away from the busyness of the city, convinced me to join (the half-dozen beers probably helped as well). The group decided to stay at a hostel, but fuck if I was going to be staying at hostel (never have, never will). I booked a bungalow on the beach, a room with two beds, and large enough to easily accommodate three to four people. I need my living space (and space from people).
The night before our trip, it was someone’s brilliant idea to go out and try to pull an “all-nighter.” I don’t have any recollection of the evening. The next morning, I do recall the attendant for the airline telling me I smelled like “drunk”, and despite my efforts to convince her otherwise, I think she may have been right. Our flight was early, like EARLY (6:30 a.m. or something like that) and I was knackered, shattered, and all sorts of ready to give up on life. My body doesn’t always agree with my child-like brain.
The flight to Phu Quoc island from Ho Chi Minh City is only 45 minutes, which meant we arrived before check-in time to our respective short-term residences. As I mentioned, I was staying at a bungalow. Once I arrived, they owners were kind enough to let me store my luggage and change into my beach gear so that I could go chill on the beach (their ‘private’ beach). I immediately went to their restaurant and sat at a table with a view of the ocean. It was extremely peaceful and quiet, but I did notice that this was a place that may have been for couples. Nevertheless, I welcomed the serenity.
The “others” as I’ll call them (a total of seven, I believe) were unable to check-in at their hostel. I eventually walked down to the beach closer to where they were staying (about a ten minute walk). It became apparent as I walked closer to their area of the beach, that it started to resemble a beach on the Jersey Shore (not people, but rubbish). After an hour or so, we made a decision to head back to my bungalow and the ‘private beach’. It’s at this point that the choices made on this trip would begin a nosedive beneath the depths of hell (I even gave a what’s up headnod to Satan on the way down).
Drunk Dan and Innocent Dan found a place to buy beer in bulk. The chairs reserved for the guests of the bungalow were soon confiscated by the ‘others’. (The group was unaware that I’d be charged for them using the chairs.) By 11:00 a.m., the group had overtaken the private beach and the restaurant. We were wasted, but some more than others. The group was loud, obnoxious, drunk, and unaware that it was not even noon. We were met with glances that I could only decipher as “What The Fuck!?”
Eventually, my room was ready for me to pass out for a much needed rest. The others left to go check-in to their hostel (the thought of sharing a big room with people you don’t know just disgusts me, but to each their own). Several hours later, we reconvened for dinner at a western style restaurant with fruity drinks and pizza.
(HS) When you finish a vaguely stressful TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh city, what are you to do? Go on the lash, of course. And the only thing better than lashing in Ho Chi Minh City is lashing on Phu Quoc island, a paradisicial island a mere hour long flight away from our newfound hometown. What started out as a girls’ trip for three to get away from the boys (seriously, we all laugh at dick jokes, but would it kill ya to vary it a little?!) turned into a party of nine- definitely for the better, as it turned out.
The night before our 6am flight, almost all of us went out, and many of the group hadn’t even been to bed by the time we boarded. Although I had been in lame, I-should-go-back-and-pack party, I was still knackered, so god knows how the others felt. However, heroically, everyone powered through.
Going through airport security was something of a novelty for me; compared to the super-strict UK, I was surprised to discover that in Vietnam, it’s fine to walk through airport security with pretty much anything except a knife in your hand luggage (from whiskey to leftover Indian food to a cigarette tucked behind your ear, carpenter-style, it’s all good). Taking advantage of this, my friend and I shared some of his aforementioned whiskey on the flight (he stole my window seat, so he owed me) and nobody batted an eyelid.
Once we arrived on the island, we checked into our hostel (and Jonathan into his fancy beach bungalow, a safe distance away from us plebs) and hit the beach at around 8am, where the first order of business was, surprise surprise, beer. We swam a little and wandered around for a while until we found Jonathan’s stretch of beach to ruin. Within an hour, I was both drunk and sunburnt; a true Brit abroad. We passed much of the morning pissing off the bungalow owners with our rowdiness. Belly-buttons were licked (never doing that again), truths were revealed and it was made clear that we were not particularly welcome to return to that stretch of beach any time soon.
A particular delight that morning was the experience of getting to know Dan (mentioned in BJ’s previous posts) a little better. It was the third time he’d been drunk, but to be honest it seemed more like he was high: “I don’t understand words anymore. What do words even mean?” he slurred, in wide-eyed hazy worriment. “Why are those ants on the floor so big?” (To be fair, they were pretty sizeable. But still.)
By lunchtime, we agreed we’d pissed off the owners of Jonathan’s place enough and that it was probably best if we all got a few hours’ rest before the night to come. We headed back to our accommodation to shower, nap and await the arrival of Amey, a friend of one of the group who was supposed to join us on our flight but had gotten too carried away the night before to do so- I liked her already.
(JDR) After dinner, I suggested we should go to this hookah bar (they call it shisha) that I saw on my way to the restaurant. We were all feeling better from the nap and the re-hydration of booze. It was agreed upon that hookah would be the stop. First thing I notice is a bottle of absinthe (um, yes please!). I bought a shot. But then wondered, “Can I just buy the bottle like I would in the States?” And YES, yes I could. Boom! A bottle of absinthe, two big boy hookahs and we were off to the races. I was soon enough pouring shots for patrons as they entered the lounge. We were given access to the music selection (always a big deal for me). The night was turning blissful. I was dancing. We were loud, but in a place where it’s okay to be loud, and making friends with fellow travelers. Unfortunately, the night was coming to an end (we shut the bar down).
Upon leaving the bar, the rain was coming down at a steady pace (not a downpour, but enough to where you’d be comfortably wet after a few minutes, and when I say comfortably, I mean my nipples are visible through my drenched shirt). I began the journey to my bungalow, which was only a mere five minutes away. However, in the midst of darkness, with the rain and absinthe drunkenness, I ended up on the beach, but not close to my bungalow. The next 30 – 45 minutes of my life would be in the hands of some Greek God (or Goddess).
I recall trudging through the wet sand in a new pair of shoes (purchased at Nordstroms before my trip) with heavy steps, ankle deep in sand puddles. Somewhere along the way, I lost my shirt. I found myself wading in the shallow parts of the beach. Soon thereafter, my leg was bloody from an apparent fall, but I was laying on the edge of the beach as the waves crashed upon me, in a futile attempt to wash away my infinite sins. I was in an absinthe daze, floundering around like a fish out of water, looking like I was snared by a fishing hook, gasping for a breath of soberness and familiarity. Finally, I somehow made it back to my bungalow, shirtless, numb, dumb, and incomprehensible, even to myself.
Yes, this was just the first day. Not all of this trip can be summarized in one blog, and thus another will be dedicated to this trip (foreshadowing: a monkey runs across the road, Jonathan on a motorbike, lunch on a floating restaurant, lunch with the most adorable couple in the world, and a laughing gas balloon). Stay tuned.
Thank you to Hannah Stephenson for her contribution to this blog. Please go read her blog @ How Far I’ll Pho for some wonderful writings. Despite her resting “huh” face, she can be quite smart at times (and a literature major, so the writing isn’t half-bad either).