It was decision time a few days ago in northern Vietnam. I would either go back up to China and travel the south of the country until Taiwan, or travel further south along the Vietnamese coast until Saigon and then fly to Taiwan. I stalled until I was back in Hanoi and then decided to continue on in this new country and fly to Taipei. Sure, I’ll miss seeing Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Sanya, all of Hainan, Xiamen, and practicing my Chinese for half a month, but my gut was telling me to stay in Vietnam. A guy I met on the bus back to Hanoi told me to fly to Da Nang, the central city in Vietnam, saying that the tickets were really cheap. Really cheap for most people usually means in the $100-$300 range but these tickets were Jim cheap. The train would have cost me $28 and taken 12 hours, and the plane ticket cost me $30 and took less than an hour.
The hostel in Da Nang was pretty great, it had curtains around each bed along with personal lights and electrical sockets, you know, those little things. So, it’s been a beachy few days for me. The sun is hot, the ocean is clean, the beers are cheap, the people are nice, and the only weight on my shoulders is the gentle curiosity of where I should go next. Oh, and that man pacing back and forth saying, “I’m almost 30 what the hell am I going to do with my life” but the waves are loud enough to drown him out.
Vietnamese – what a language. Standard Mandarin Chinese has four tones which can be difficult enough, Vietnamese has six, some phonologists estimate it has eight in the south.
But the sounds are so funky – there isn’t any real explosion out of the mouth from consonant to vowel combos, it’s almost imploding. Just say the english “The” and try to swallow at the same time, that’s the kind of sound it makes. So cool. The only real exposure I’ve had to it is from Vietnam war movies WHOOOOOOPS!!! I mean American war of destruction movies. I find myself walking around trying to form lists in my head of my top five favorite ones. I mean, Deer Hunter has to be up there, but then Apocolypse Now creeps in my mind, and of course Full Metal Jacket, but, come on, doesn’t Charlie Sheen deserve a little love for Platoon? and anyone who argues against Tom Cruise’s acting abilities clearly hasn’t seen Born on the Fourth of July (well deserved Oscar nomination), but what about Forrest Gump, and Jacob’s Ladder will give anyone nightmares, and Good Morning Vietnam ugh I miss Robin Williams, even Disney put it’s cards on the table with Operation Dumbo Drop. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
I spent my first day getting to know the beach front and talking to some tourists about when I should go to Hoi An and how easy is it to get to Saigon from here. For future reference, Saigon is now called Ho Chi Minh city and it’s the economic powerhouse of the the country. Hanoi, where I was before, is the capital. I had a chill day and planned to watch a movie in the common room and call it an early night. A tall skinny Australian walked in the dorm room and we started chatting about how cool of a hostel it is but slightly weird because no one is ever around, so we made a little man date to grab some beers later that night. Damian and I wandered around for a while and although the streets were lined with restaurants and bars, there weren’t any people around. We found ourselves gravitating towards a group of Vietnamese sitting in the street with a big keg in the middle. The beers only cost 3,000 Dong (13 cents). What a find! We did the necessary “guy” pleasantries, kind of feeling the other person out, making sure you won’t offend them with any jokes, and then we slowly came to realize that we have an unusual amount in common.
First beer – Damien worked on BlackHawk helicopters for the Australian army for six years. Oh! That’s the helicopter that my brother flies.
Two beers down – He was stationed in Australia the same time my brother was in Iraq.
Three beers– He gave up the army to work in arts. Nice, same with me and acting, dude. Well, I wasn’t in the army or anything but it was my dream for a while to be, like, one of those rescue divers. But fuck, man, my ears were so beat up from swimming for twelve years that I can’t go more than, like, 8ft deep in water, dude. But before acting I wanted to be a diplomat.
Four beers – You became a cinematographer? Hell yeah. Nice, man. You guys are key.
Five – Is it weird if I watch Pride and Prejudice all the time because the cinematography is so beautiful? It’s so good, man.
Six – Oh dude. Star Wars is HAPPENING! It’s happening and I’m going to be in Taiwan standing in line no doubt about it. No way José.
Seven – Get down to South America, Damian, the soul of the world lives there. By the way, go see Nebraska, yes, cinematography is killer.
Eight – I, I , I don’t, I don’t just watch Pride and Prejudice for the cinematography, man. I know! They did such a good job with that movie. That movie is SO GOOD. Man, I have to piss. Yeah, you just piss in that bucket behind that canvas thing. Did you know the director originally thought Keira Knightley was too pretty to be Lizzy? Yeah. You did? Yeah, crazy.
Nine – Yeah, night swimming would be really cool.
*Awkward look at each other. We crossed a line here, or did we? Is skinny dipping at midnight in an Asian ocean with a presumably straight Australian man crossing a line? What happens in Vietnam. . . . ? Fortunately (or unfortunately) my drunk hunger overrides any and all other feelings, gay or straight, so I made my way back to a small outdoor restaurant to spend the rest of my night with some Phô.
Next day I hung out at the beach with an Australian girl I met at the hostel breakfast and then at night I walked to LUNA bar on the main strip. There was a wonderful cover band playing and I was invited to sit down with two Vietnamese girls who I then hung out with for the next five hours. One was named Giang, and she speaks English pretty well. We’ve become really good friends.
I like Giang, she’s honest, but with her cute accent I really can’t take any offense. This is a direct quote – “You ah handsome, bot not vey handsome. No beer, less stomach, more handsome.” I mean, come on, who can get mad at that?
And finally – RIP Scott Weiland. STP’s music has been a force in my life. I’ll miss your voice very much.