It rained for a few days straight so I relaxed and watched movies during the day and then went out with Giang and her friends at night. She took me to see two movies, one was called The Wave, and then we went to see the final part of the Hunger Games trilogy.
The Wave – wow, pretty bad. It’s a Norwegian film about an avalanche which causes a massive wave that kills most people that live in the town. But it was in Norwegian, obviously, and shittily dubbed in English with Vietnamese subtitles which begs the question, why not just keep it in Norwegian and put Vietnamese subtitles? I mean, it worked for me, because I don’t speak either, but it was almost more frustrating thinking about that than trying to follow the movie. I’m no scientist, but if a 30 meter tidal wave hits you, you’re not going to survive just because you’re in a minivan.
The Hunger Games – (sigh) I don’t want to lose half of my readers here (cheers to my fans in Slovenia!) so I won’t go into detail about this “trilogy”, but come on, she picked Peeta over Gale? give me a fucking break. That’s even more unrealistic than the woman who turned herself into a goddamn tiger.
The other night I went out to a bar with Giang and three of her female friends, and a drunk Australian man in his mid-40s to mid-50s stumbled up to the table. Before he slammed into the table I had my back turned so he didn’t see me and he said, “Hey! Any of you ladies single?” At this point I was looking right at him but he still didn’t see me. He had put his arm around Giang and another one of her friends, a beer bottle in one hand and his head hanging slightly lower than his shoulders, sort of slumping and leaning on the girls. He looked from side to side, at each one of the girls and then our eyes met. I don’t think I looked angry, or shocked, I remember scrunching up my face in a curious way trying to figure him out. As soon as our eyes met he sobered up, stood tall, nodded his head at me and said, “Oh, hey, sorry about that man” and he walked away like a man who just got his ass kicked at boot camp. The “sorry about that, man” was almost more of a whisper than a real apology, as if we accidentally brushed shoulders at a bar. I’m so perplexed by this whole encounter. Giang and her friends acted like it never happened, I’m sure this happens to them all the time, but I have a weird feeling about it. Why act like a drunk? Why change your whole behavior when you see another foreigner? Did I ruin your vacation? I’d almost understand it more if he continued to act like an ass when he apologized and walked away, maybe a slap on my back that was a little too hard, a loud laugh and a thrust of his beer into mine.
Giang brought me over to another table of her friends; the only girl at the table told me her name so I started talking with her. I got a nudge from Giang and she told me that I needed to shake hands with the guys at the table but the damage was already done, the guys were a bottle of Jack deep and it was clear that I was no longer welcome there. Giang told me I needed to go back to the other table, stay there and she’ll come and talk with me when she can. I saw the other men’s eyes follow me as I left and I knew that I was very close to getting my ass kicked. This is just one situation Da Nang, every other time I’ve felt completely welcome. In China, it’s a little different. On one level, Chinese men are more hesitant to start with me because they have less exposure to foreigners, especially outside of the big cities. On the other hand, the gender gap in China for the marriage ages of 18-34 is enormous. Most estimates are around 40-60 million more men than women in that group but I’ve read some that go up to 70. For some reference, that’s more than the whole population of the United Kingdom. So in some instances, if I’m talking to girls in a place where people are drunk, I really have to watch my back. I’ve never been to Mongolia, but I hear it’s horrible there, with some travelers I’ve met telling me they were chased down the street for talking to local Mongolian girls. Once again, I have to look back and wonder if it’s really that different than back home. When I was at Bloomsburg I met an amazing girl named Elizabeth, an exchange student from London whose family is from Nigeria and we instantly became friends. One night we went out and she introduced me to a guy she was friends with, an African American guyfrom Philly. He looked at her, looked at me, looked at her, looked back at me, pulled his hand back, asked her what the hell she was doing and told me that “if you fuck with her I’ll fucking kill you.” Whooaaaaaaa buddy. Elizabeth, a natural badass, gave him a piece of her mind.
Giang and I decided to go to Hoi An together, it’s only a 45 minute ride so I hopped on the back of her motorbike and we hit the road. I can’t believe I found the only person in all of Vietnam who is as bad of a driver as me so we were both having a panic attack the whole ride over with our big bags on the bike. Hoi An has a history and a structure of a merchant town, with canals, boats, and old bridges around every corner. It’s a tourist town, but damn I loved it. Giang is pure Vietnamese but she has a western look so when people see the two of us they just assume she’s from out of town. This usually means they give us a ridiculously expensive price for everything, but when they find out that she’s Vietnamese, they’re shamed into giving us whatever price Giang feels is appropriate. She was able to bargain down a beautiful hotel room with a balcony and killer bathroom to $30 a night – expensive by Vietnamese standards, but cheap as hell for Hoi An.
I don’t know the exact reason, but Hoi An has become a hotspot for tourists to buy suits and coats. I met a few travelers on the road who spent a few hundred dollars and got a few tailored silk suits. I haven’t spent any money on anything for myself thus far on the trip, except, you know, the trip itself is a treat and of course backpacking around instead of staying in a room studying Chinese characters all day is another treat but you know what I mean, material possessions! The idea of a suit didn’t sit right with me but there was this bag that kept catching my eye. I never understood when girls go nuts for bags. It’s just a bag. I dated a girl once who owned over 20 bags for all different outfits. 20! Why? A bag is a bag, I’ve been using the same dirty backpack for years to lug my stuff around the city. When I first started working at the winery I was known as “Matt’s friend with a backpack”, but goddamn, this leather bag looked so good. I had to have it. My wallet was exploding in my pocket looking for some fresh air. It’s like that time I didn’t eat any sugar for a month and then had a Christmas cookie. . . . and then I had seventeen more – it was like a straight 8 minute orgasm. I bought a leather wallet, then I bought two new coats, and then I bought the bag. Giang bargained it all down to an unbelievably low price and I never looked back. What a day.
We went to the beach and walked around the city for the next two days. Giang showed me the local food and her constant poking at my stomach kept me sober the whole time. At night we walked by some people singing and wearing traditional clothes; they held up different wood panels once in a while and it looked like people we betting. We took a seat and Giang explained to me that it was a sort of Vietnamese bingo. Each person who played got a wood paddle for $1, and each paddle had three words with corresponding symbols.
The two singers would randomly pull a symbol, and then sing a folksong all about that symbol while another woman walked by holding it up for everyone to see.
Oh man, it was heating up. I got two out of the first five.
And you KNOW who won Vietnamese bingo. This guy! I was so excited. I bought so much stuff earlier in the day I needed this win and free lantern to close out the perfect day.