Phu Quoc blog: part 1

(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).  

First night out … and Dan

(BT)

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.

 

(JDR)  

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).  

 

burning bridges

I’ve lost count of the number of

bridges I’ve burnt,

sort of like that number of partners

you’ve been with;

it becomes irrelevant at some point.

I burned them like I was being chased

by some unwanted baby mama(s).

in all fairness, once you’ve crossed

the bridge,

what’s the point of keeping it there?

a connection to what’s behind us

is the only thing holding us back.

so I say,

burn those mutha fucking bridges

down till your eyelashes and eyebrows

are singed off

and your nose is filled with the foul

odor of burned follicle:

it only smells that awful because

that was the nasty shit hanging on

to you, not wanting to let go.

-JDR-

“You choose”

there are people that are

occasional assholes;

there are people that are

drunkard assholes;

some are sarcastic assholes;

some people are inadvertent assholes;

and then there are some people

that are just fucking dickheads to others

for which there is no reasonable excuse

despite what they may have been through.

I’m one of these, but not quite sure

which one.  I suppose it doesn’t matter,

because you’re a fucking idiot anyways.

-JDR-

“Karaoke”

(BT) In this blog, there won’t be anything sexual, something that’s a bit different to our other posts. I can assure you this, as I don’t recall anything of the sort happening, although Jonathan might remember something occurring. Either way, you won’t be hearing any dirty stuff from me this time round.

 

One evening during our course, it came to the group’s attention that there was an upcoming birthday. After much debate we realised that the both classes hadn’t had a proper get together.

So it was decided that we would go to a karaoke bar near the school, as most people could attend, and it was close to where we were situated.

 

The karaoke bar was situated in a building where you could also get a massage with an optional happy ending. Another story, another time. Myself and two others arrived first, and proceeded to book the room for the night’s festivities. Gradually more and more people turned up, until finally the birthday girl turned up. A quick cheer, and we continued with the evening. Everyone got very into the event. Songs were sung, laughter was made, and in general there was a sense of enjoyment. Most of us who sang sang without any shame, despite our off key screeching that we tried to pass off as singing. A few people surprised the lot of us by proving that they had a very impressive set of pipes.

 

Jonathan eventually turned up once things were well under way. Already absolutely plastered, he proceeded to make himself known as the class clown, as he began to sing Rihanna’s ‘Work Work Work’ song. In front of the group, he was making odd gestures, bending his knees and singing in a voice that whilst trying to resemble Rihanna, made him sound like a fool. Of course I had to join him for a few songs. God knows what we ended up singing/shouting.

 

Then again, that was the point of the evening. Those of us brave enough to sing knew that we couldn’t sing for shit. But we got up there, belted our hearts out, and had a blast. The drinking certainly helped, as we discovered that we could order beer by the crateful. Therefore we ended up drinking far too much and getting very pissed throughout the evening. By the end of the night we must have drunk 6 or so crates. Who knows. Either way it was rather a lot, but it was a definite contribution to the fun evening we had.

 

I haven’t been to a karaoke bar since, but I must say that I’m certainly not against going again. Although in all fairness, I’d rather go with people who I know, people who expect me to make a fool of myself. Because that’s karaoke for you.

 

(JDR) Where was I?  That was the question I asked myself after nearly two hours of performing for the crowd.  It may have been the largest audience I’ve ever performed for (approximately 10 – 20 people, who all adulated equally).  Truthfully, I had never performed karaoke and always said I never would, no matter how drunk I was…  Well, I suppose I should start there.

 

The night started off with my new Vietnamese friends, Duc and Phouc.  We were at Phouc’s restaurant, which was near the hotel I residing in during the TESOL course.  One night during the start of the course when I was still unfamiliar with my classmates in the course, I stumbled upon this restaurant a few buildings down from my hotel.  The restaurant had open seating, meaning I could eat outside under the siege of Vietnam’s friendly, but brutal, heat (even at night). I was clearly struggling with the menu, which was all in Vietnamese.  A young Vietnamese man approached me and asked if I needed some help.  It was at this moment that my experience in Vietnam would forever change.

 

The stories with Duc, Phouc and friends will come at a later time.  This is the story about how I performed karaoke for the first time.  I left the restaurant after consuming a minimum of a dozen beers (but who really knows for sure).  I decided I was going to this karaoke event.  For some reason, I feel like there was at least one other person with me, but I can’t remember for sure.  Although I had not officially met the birthday gal and spent much time with the other group in our TESOL course, I was determined to demonstrate my skills (of which, I possessed none) and maybe, just maybe, throw in some of that charm I think I possess (again, no proof it actually exist).  

 

Here is what I remember:  I enter the private karaoke room.  I immediately grab the microphone and say something like, “Hola, mi amor.  Feliz cumpleanos.”  Yeah, I was attempting to speak Spanish in Vietnam to English speaking folk taking a class in teaching English to foreign speakers.  I’ve always excelled at creating awkward situations and this moment was no exception.  I requested the machine (tablet) that played the next song.  What, what, what?!  Yeah, Rihanna and The Weeknd were my choices.  Other than my sweet Gucci shoes I was wearing, I have absolutely have nothing in common with these two artists, except, well, I’m sexy as fuck, and Rihanna is my future ex.  Nevertheless, I was so exhausted after the first verse (if I even made it that far into the song), I just gave up.  I have so much respect for singers after that experience.  Their stamina to perform two hour long shows that includes dancing and singing is incredible. [side bar: I’ve seen both Rihanna and The Weeknd live in concert and they were amazing.]

 

After I performed my fave’s, I joined in with Barney to perform more popular karaoke songs (and fuck if I can remember what those songs were).  This is what I know:  I suck at singing.  I can gyrate and distract ladies from my very unattractive singing voice.  But when Barney and I performed Whitney Houston and Bon Jovi, panties were thrown our way and we were sure to catch them with our teeth.  They weren’t all delicious (and not all women), but we still had a good time.

 

For those who are nervous about attempting kIMG_20170416_234755araoke, I sympathize.  But, drink enough, choose your favorite song (even if nobody else knows it), close your eyes, and sing the fuck out of that track.  For some inexplicable reason, you’ll feel good.  You might even find yourself with a new hobby.  Moral of the story:  Don’t ever be afraid to try something new; it just might be the best the decision you ever make (or worst, but at least you tried it).  Video of karaoke

The Eiffel Tower

(JDR)  Sitting, drinking, and kibitzing with the newly formed crew in a less than ritzy hotel lobby (I’m being generous), we mused about various subjects, which, Barney, correct me if I’m wrong, included one of the guys fucking a monkey (no judgment here).  We were still in the midst of a month long “TESOL” course that would provide us the opportunity to teach English as a second language to Vietnamese students (to clarify, we can use this TESOL certificate around the world).  These nightly meetings occurred almost every evening in the hotel to study, discuss teaching ideas, but mainly to drink and decompress.  We were fortunate that the hotel staff allowed us to utilize their “coffee lounge” as our personal family room (my 50,000 dong tips may have attributed to their flexibility).  

 

One evening, my current flat mate, Barney, mentioned “Eiffel Tower.”  Certainly, I’m familiar with Paris and the Eiffel Tower.  Turns out, there is another meaning that I was unfamiliar with and one that can never be disassociated from that point forward.  Yeah, it’s a sex position.  And apparently, as Barney attempted to demonstrate it to me, we took it to another level.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  

 

[Sidebar:  The difference between the “Eiffel Tower” and the “Eifel Tower” is that one involves two females and the other, one female, thus the one ‘f’ and two ‘f’s.]

 

To this day, I’ve yet to experience the actual sexual maneuver; however, as the pictures will demonstrate, I think we’ve got the practice in.  Ladies…thanks for posing and for not consenting to publishing these photos (wink, wink, smiley face).

 

As I’m writing this, I’m not opposed to an “Eiffel Tower” challenge (similar to the Ice Bucket challenge) where people pose for pictures so that we can raise awareness for … I dunno, color blindness?   I never said I was altruistic or gave a fuck about anyone.   

 

 

 

(BT)  During our TESOL course in Go Vap District, many of us were situated in a hotel near the school. Eventually, we ended up spending our evenings and nights drinking, eating, and being generally boisterous in the lobby. Every now and then, the receptionist would close the door in order to muffle our noisiness. But on the whole they were very accepting of the situations, although Jonathan’s bribes probably helped.

 

Our group chats, like many other group chats, began to get strange in nature. As Jonathan mentioned, one guy did indeed talk about engaging in sexual intercourse with a monkey. Always a sucker for details, he actually wanted to have sex with a bonobo, a smaller, hornier version of the chimpanzee. Bonobos are known to fuck instead of fighting, hence why they are far less aggressive than their larger, bellicose cousins.

 

One particular evening, we started talking about sexual positions. In order to be part of the conversation, I mentioned the Eiffel Tower, a position that isn’t unknown. Many of my friends from both sides of the Atlantic know about. However, the people in this course were oblivious to what it is. Therefore, I took it upon myself to demonstrate it, with my clothes on of course (getting naked in a hotel lobby isn’t exactly polite). So I guided Jonathan and explained the way it works. I don’t know if it was the hands interlocking or the faces we made, but it just sent the others into a frenzy of laughter.

 

To this day, if you mention Eiffel or tower amongst our group, they’ll still fall over, and get stomach cramps due to the laughter.

 

Like Jonathan mentioned, this would be quite a funny challenge. Although instead of colorblindness, we should focus on something serious, like the rehabilitation of abused animals, particularly monkeys and apes that have had the unfortunate experience of meeting our mutual friend, who shares the name of a certain Irish saint.