Что это такое? Я не могу есть палочками
We have left the Russian getaway of Mui Ne but still found plenty of Russianizatoin, over-kill of western food, and a general lack of chopsticks in Nha Trang. This might strike some of you as a petty thing to complain about, chopsticks. But call me crazy, I like to feel at least a small sense of intact culture of the country I am visiting. It also helps with my eating problem. I have the ability to down an entire four course meal in a matter of seconds. Often getting mistaken for a Nathan’s Hot Dog competitor in training, I actually look forward to using chopsticks in order to slow down the inhaling of my food. By adding at least an additional 2 minutes to my dining experience. Those last few scoops of rice are a bitch!
Thankfully, if you take the time to walk 10-15 minutes in any direction away from the tourist pocket of high-priced hotels, Texas BBQ, and raging backpacker bars, you’re able to find what you would expect to see when visiting Vietnam. . . Vietnamese people, Vietnamese food, and fucking chopsticks!
But we did manage to find what we both agree is hands down the best Banh Mi (Sandwich) we have had in country to date and wouldn’t you know it, the lady was smart enough to position herself right in the middle of the four square blocks of Western food. Fifty cents will get you a kick-ass vegetarian sandwich that is comprised of fresh vegetables, a concoction of sauces, and her secret family recipe of glazed soy chunks. They look like pieces of teriyaki chicken and taste awesome!
For those regular blog visitors, you are all to familiar with the recent (by recent I mean the last three months) complaints about the weather. It started in New Zealand, followed us back to Australia, and ultimately continued here in Vietnam. We believe this recent string of bad luck is due to two things:
1) By the end of South Africa (about half-way through our trip) we had to put up with the rain a total of seven days. That is seven-fucking-days of rain in six months! We proclaimed our fortune arrogantly and often spoke aloud about how lucky we have been. Obviously dooming us for the future.
2) We are getting close to returning to Seattle. Our first real city we called home together. We had good jobs, a nice apartment, a handful of people we liked to have a beer (or beers) with, and ultimately a pretty good sense of the cities offerings. We liked Seattle. We like Seattle. We would love Seattle. Just as soon as global warming does something about that damn constant overcast and the shitty-ass rain situation. It turns out the two of us hate rain with an equal, non-tolerant, and disgusted passion. Short of being in the desert and dying of dehydration, neither of us ever want to see rain ever again. Not tropical rain, not light rain, not warm rain, not snow mixed with rain, not even rain made of Jack Daniels! No, wait, I retract that last one. Thankfully, Sally has learned from our past and now checks the weather on a regular basis and if she doesn’t like the forecast she is provided with, she just keeps checking different websites until she finds one she can deal with.
Sally: This one says only 40% chance of rain! See! So it might be OK. . . ?
So as soon as we arrived we hustled down to the beach (but ended up at a pool, with a bar of course!) for the only five hours of sunshine we saw while in Nha Trang. The remaining two days were spent under the cover of darkness. Scampering through puddles and trying our best not to use the weather as an excuse to sit in the bar all day.
We completed our last overnight bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An, our last bus trip for the entire trip, and we couldn’t be more excited to report that overnight buses have just been placed number five on the ‘Top Ten List Of Experiences We Never Want To Have Again'(better know by its acronym – FUCK THAT SHIT!). It ranked just below having a pregnancy scare and just above a three thousand Pound phone bill. Which for those of you not keeping up with the exchange rate, 3,000 pound is roughly four million US dollars.
We only had about two hours to wallow in our self-pity for our lack of sleep before we were due at our private cooking class. Our time in Chiang Mai made us fall in love with the simplistic, connect the dots, style cooking classes that can be had in Asian countries. In Thailand it felt like all I had to do was put on an apron, stir some shit, and BAM, good food just started magically appearing (No chopping, no thinking, no reading, no cleaning, just stirring! My kind of cooking!)
After a quick stop by the local market to pick up some fresh ingredients, we made our way to Gioan Cooking School. We were greeted by a young and chirpy host that walked a fine line between psychotically annoying and overly pleasant. Her extreme enthusiasm to cook was only matched by her inability not to giggle at literally every comment that was made and referring to Sally and I by what ever we happen to be dishing, chopping, or adding.
“Ha-ha-ha sugar boy! Now one tablespoon of sugar!”
“Ok chili girl! Ha-ha-ha, now how much chili do we add?”
And so on, and so on. . .
The first five minutes of class actually made me feel like I was Neo from the Matrix. But rather than Kung Fu being pumped into my brain through a wire in the back of my head. I was getting Eddie Murphy Raw, Kat Williams, and Ralphie May. I began to think I was the funniest man alive! I was so funny that I started to shoot from the hip. Not even taking the time to reflect on if what I was saying was actually funny. Dreams of a world comedy tour began to shape in my pea sized mind. I could see myself sipping scotch on stage, talking about salad side dishes, and actually getting paid to get wasted!
I think that was about the time that Sally could sense my already large head infringing on her space more then usual. She could see that my eyes were glazed over, fantasizing about having my own show on Comedy Central.
As our host walked away to grab me another beer Sally brought me back to reality.
Sally: Wow. . . that chick will laugh at anything, I mean anything! . . . It’s almost annoying.
Bret: . . . . . Huh?
Sally: She laughs at everything!
Bret: Really? I hadn’t noticed.
But I had noticed and it was all to easy to realize the truth upon our hosts return. A simple test of running through some trivial and somewhat nonsensical comments (conducted in an enthusiasm tone with a smile on my face) quickly divulged the truth.
Bret: Terrible weather.
Host: Ha-ha-ha, smash garlic, garlic boy!
Bret: I don’t know what I am saying.
Host: Ha-ha-ha, fish sauce please. . . . fish sauce boy!
So much for Comedy Central. Looks like I will have to settle for a late night show on CBS. Baaaaaa Zing!
We quickly learned to keep our comments to a minimum and tried our best to absorb the formalities of our dishes. It may have been as remedial of a task as coloring within the lines. But we enjoyed our cooking class and we were instilled with the full confidence that we will never be able to replicate the dishes we created during class to that level of quality again, ever.
The following day was Sally’s birthday. With expectations being at an all time high after my bash in Vientiane (Laos), we set out to re-create our own Hangover-esk night of shenanigans (The first Hangover, not the second. For those of you that were able to tell the difference.) We spent the day scouting the area, looking up bars on Tripadvisor, checking out the Old Town area, and of course having juuuuuust a couple pre-drinks.
The charm of Hoi An is definitely something to write home about. The traditional, mostly wood, Vietnamese architecture that derives from the 19th and 20th century, is tightly packed around the narrow and weaving streets of this one time port town. We easily found ourselves captivated by the beauty of city as we wandered for hours through the Old Town.
Sally had decided that we should get massages for her birthday as a nice way to relax before we headed out for our big night on the town. I initially objected to my participation in the activity but was quickly reminded the power that comes with the apex of the birthday week celebrations. We found Hoi An Day Spa through tripadvisor and set off for the half hour walk from our hotel.
When we arrived, two of the employees were designated the unfortunate job of washing our feet. A chore that the 97 degree day made a bit more demeaning. I gave Sally an odd look as I plunged my first foot into the cool cleansing water. Not because I was concerned about spreading my highly contagious foot fungus, but because the provider of my services was a Vietnamese man. From my approximation very close to my age. My look was easily understood by Sally and from her reaction I properly conveyed my objection to the situation. As soon as they two foot cleaners stepped away Sally addressed my glare.
Sally: I don’t think they are the same ones that are going to be giving us our massages
Bret: They fucking better not be.
As we were lead upstairs to our private massage room, each step confirmed my suspicions. The door was opened to our room and I frantically scanned the room to look for additional employees.
The room was empty.
We were directed behind a curtain to discard our cloths and left to wrap ourselves in a towel. I stood staring at Sally with my face clearly showing my discomfort. I slowly removed my cloths with the same hesitation as a first time inmate heading to the shower room for the first time during his incarceration. Not knowing exactly how or if I was going to make it back behind the curtain to put my cloths back on with the same sense of manhood I came into the building with. I stopped the process at my boxers.
Bret: There is no fucking way I am taking these off.
I said in the firmest, this is not up for discussion, I will fucking bolt right now if you say shit, voice I could put together.
Sally said with a big smile, trying her best not to laugh loud enough to be heard through the curtain voice she could put together.
I stepped out from behind the curtain and made eye contact with my masseur. I pointed to my boxers and said, “I am leaving these on bro.” in a very flat and definitive tone. As I meticulously observed his facial expressions for any sign of anything that would indicate anything. But he maintained his professionalism and responded as if it were as simple of a request as asking a waiter for a straw.
I wish I could say the next hour was a blur of relaxation, where I lost all sense of time. But that was simply not the case. My constant awareness of my masseur’s hands and body position crippled me from ever fully being absorbed into the relaxation of the massage. Thankfully he used a towel as if I didn’t have boxers on, constantly adjusting it to ensure I was always covered from mid-thigh to lower back, he always positioned himself at a far enough distance to ensure there was never any incidental crotch grazing on any part of my body (something I was sure was inevitable), and he used such a monumental amount of force that there was no questioning this was a massage for the muscles and not an oil rub down for the skin. He actually did a good enough job at conducting himself, that approximately between the seconds of 58:55 and 58:56 of my hour-long massage, I was finally able to look past gender, relax, and take in the situation for what it was. A relaxing and revitalizing treatment.
We began our night of celebration in our traditional fashion. A few sips of our favorite adult beverage, Sir Jack Daniels The Great or at least it would be called if we were in any kind of position to knight people and or products.
The pre-drinks put enough enthusiasm into our veins to skip the one mile walk to the bars and grab ourselves a two dollar cab ride. The enthusiasm deriving from wanting to keep our buzz going, not physical exertion. We had sorted our first watering hole through Tripadvisor reviews and were expecting a great crowd and cheap happy hour deals. However, it seems the travelers passing through Hoi at this particular moment didn’t conduct the same research. The place was completely dead. Thankfully we had heard the serene sounds of Bob Marley in the not so far distance and we scored ourselves some reasonably overpriced cocktails.
We decided on the Secret Garden for our birthday meal of indulgence. Appropriately named because it is fucking hard to find. The birthday meal is one of the few times we don’t decide our dish based on price (the cheapest one on the menu), don’t split, insist on ordering at least one bottle of wine with dinner ,and have as many mixed drinks as we can squeeze in before the food arrives. We over ate to our hearts content and laughed it up until we closed the place out, literally. The waitress had to come over and ask us to leave. Normal circumstances would have had us taking the last quarter glass of wine down as a shot and asking for a roady to supplement the establishments inability to cater to our needs. But when you’re birthday ballin’ you elevate your game to rise above these penny pinching habits Which means we actually left the establishment with booze on the table. Break the wrist and walk away.
We ended the night after a few post-dinner drinks and an incredibly long walk home. Despite my unrelenting protest and repeated attempts to hail a cab.