As we were adjusting to Vietnam, we were fortunate enough to have a weekday off, as it was a public holiday. So a bunch of us decided to go to this place called Bui Vien in the centre of the city. From what we had heard, this was the place to be for the crazy partying. So we hopped into a taxi, where one girl chatted on and on, and the guy next to me was feeling exceptionally randy, as he continually tried to make out with a different girl, but to no avail.
The first time visiting Bui Vien was quite something. Many (club workers) tried to persuade us to go into their clubs, the smell of cooking wafting all over the street, karaoke singing outside restaurants, cars and bikes driving through the packed crowds, and tons of very drunk, happy people. When visiting, this is a great place, as the chaotic environment is quite thrilling. However, it can get repetitive very quickly, as most nights that I’ve spent there ended at 4 or 5 in the morning.
Our group ended up visiting different clubs, partook in very questionable dancing, and progressively we got more and more intoxicated. By the time we were ready to leave, we came across another member of our TESOL course. This guy is called Dan. Judging from the first few days, Dan was rather quiet, but you could tell that he was a very nice chap. Everyone from the course would agree with me on this. He certainly didn’t conjure the image of a party goer, yet here he was in the middle of the chaos that is Bui Vien. Eventually we found out that he had joined Jonathan for a night out. But, Jonathan was nowhere to be found.
There were 8 of us ready to head back to Go Vap. B
ecause of this, we had trouble finding a taxi. Yet we came up with a solution, someone was to go in the boot of the car. Dan kindly volunteered for this, even though he’s well over 6 foot, knowing that it was going to be a tight squeeze for him. Sure enough, we all managed to fit in, with Dan in a position resembling what those poor magician’s apprentices look like, crammed into those boxes to make it seem as though they’re being sawn in half.
In the taxi, every now and then a song came on, which we would sing along to, as for the most part, we were all in a jolly mood, and were glad that we’d got to spend the evening together. Eventually, one song that came along on the radio was from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The exact song is lost on me. But what isn’t lost is Dan quietly singing to himself in the boot, whilst we all listened with amusement. Good ole Dan, I’m glad we ran into him that night. We got to know him better, and from there, we were able to steadily help him have more life experiences. Something that we’re still doing for him.
We heard a whole lot of rumours about what Jonathan did that night. Many of these rumours, he never flat out denied. But I don’t think that anyone really knows what exactly he did that night. Therefore, I now turn you the reader over to the man-child himself. Take it away Jonno.
There I was, juiced up on codeine and alcohol, draped in thousandaire gear, shoes gleamed up for royalty, ready for a night out in this new city of mine. A recommendation was made by the teacher (an Australian bloke in his late 50s) of the TESOL course to try out this 7-seventeen bar, where apparently the waitresses were ‘nice’. Hmm. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but his intonation was convincing enough for me. The decision was made. Next up: who’d join me?
A tall (6’3”?) pale scrawny American with an old man’s voice was also in this course and in the same class as me. He was obviously young (not older than 24). I assumed he was from the Midwest but turned out he was from Northern Pennsylvania. His name was Dan. But his name would change quite often over the next two months.
Perhaps now is as good a time as any to attempt to describe the chaos that is the streets of Saigon. I’m sure you all have seen a flock of birds suddenly change directions with leaders of the flock alternating as often as populist politicians change positions (or how my high priced prostitutes change their positions – same same). That’s sort of how the traffic works here. It’s like a beautiful symphony, but only Amadeus knows how it goes … and it’s all in his head, but somehow, the participants in this incredible exercise of “I dare you to go left!” or “I hope he’s going left!” have figured out this complex chaotic disorderly orderly system. Fuck if I know how to figure it out, which is why I won’t dare to drive in the city. I’ll be forever summoning Uber-motorbike or Grab-bike (or the cars if and when it’s raining, which is quite often during six months of the year). Sidebar: riding on the back of the motorbike with your thighs up against another man (it’s always a man driving the bike) with bumps in the road and adjusting positions along the route is just something I thought about. Hmm. I suppose there is something more to that thought (think photoshopping out the motorbike).
Back to Dan and that night out. For those that know me, a ‘night out’ has a certain meaning to it (one that often produces memories for others and one where I have no memory of the night). We began at this 7-seventeen bar, where there was live music. I recall the ladies, who were quite attractive, singing and dancing the one and only Queen Bey (“All The Single Ladies” and you know I was dancing). I was thoroughly impressed. The waitress made her way to the table where Dan and I proceeded to order drinks. After our drinks arrived, it was time for me to take a tour of this facility. It was then I was greeted by a lady wearing a midriff, belly button pierced, shining bright like a diamond. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying, but a picture was taken nonetheless. After a few “huhs?” and “what’s that?”, she typed into her translator “is your friend gay?” … at least that’s what I remember it saying. Dan’s version of the evening differs in that he said she was proposing a price for the evening. It was funny either way. Dan covered the entire drink bill (thank you, sir).
After a few more rounds (drinks and trips around the bar), we decided to depart. It’s at this point where the evening becomes very blurry for me. I vaguely recall going to a club where I think I was negotiating with a few ladies, while we drank (and the ladies kept inquiring about Dan’s sexuality). I felt the oncoming black-out-ness, so being my experienced self, I said I had to leave. I think I encountered a number of friendly ‘dealers’ along the way to the pick-up spot because I recall Dan yelling “NO JONATHAN! DON’T DO IT!”. Those lines still makes me laugh when I think about them.
I woke up the next day with a fire extinguisher next to me in bed. I have no recollection on how it got there, but besides that red metal potential life saver, I was again, by myself. I later learned that that was Dan’s second time being drunk and again, for those that know me, your second experience of being inebriated around me is equivalent to skydiving without a parachute. Kudos to Dan for hanging that night. (Also, I think the fire extinguisher came from the Uber, but I can’t remember.)
Since then, his nickname went from ‘Innocent Dan’ to ‘Transition Dan’ to ‘Prodigy Dan’ as he’s tried many new things hanging out with the likes of yours truly. As usual, my ability to influence is used for the greater good. (Oh, yeah, I thought he might have been on Rumspringa, but turns out, he isn’t Amish).