From Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City — a Month In Vietnam
I’ve got a tall can of Zorok lager beer (which I’m assuming is from Vietnam) just about finished, opened a Red Bull and there’s also a bottle of beer on this table, a Saigon Export. I haven’t had much time to write while staying in Vietnam. Back in Hanoi, I’d come off a wild week in Chiang Mai — wild to myself. I came here with very little expectations. So I got very fucked up the first night in Vietnam. Hold, please. Chug, chug, chug.
I’ve been coming up with new ideas. However, I was joined in Da Nang by a beautiful woman who had come from India — a Chinese woman whom I refer to as Miss Shanghai, Gucci, a Chinese model. She’s out there, somewhere. In the night of Ho Chi Minh City. Eating alone. Tomorrow, we’ll be traveling to Cambodia.
When she got into town last Friday — in Da Nang — I took her out to one of the restaurants I’d casually enjoyed. Alone.
It’s strange. To be a writer, traveling. So used to a certain sense of anonymity. (That’s a harder word to spell than you might think.) And to then be joined by a woman, beautiful. Who brought the sunshine to nearly two weeks of gray clouds in central Vietnam. But tonight I need these words. A cliche bastard.
I can see the neon green and blue lights of the city, shining at night. The reflections off some big hotel, wide. White. Peppered with orange-lit windows. And a bright white sign, beckoning some brand to the crowds … we’ve been staying back in an alley at the side of the Ben Thanh street food market. It’s supposed to be famous, I think. I don’t really know. I tried the food there and I wasn’t exactly satisfied with it a few times. But they had good chicken pho. Who cares????
The food in Da Nang was good. After showing my Chinese model (My?) the area I’d been exploring without her, I eventually got the chance to take her to a restaurant called CHICKEN & BEER. Somehow, I’d made her laugh harder than I’d ever seen her laugh. We were out on the patio in front of the place, eating a delicious meal. Enjoying each other’s company.
Da Nang is an easy place to navigate. It’s a thin slit of a beach town, after the bridges that lead you east and west across the Han River. A Dragon Bridge. I’d spent New Year’s Eve there.
One of my most favorite things to do while traveling these last few months: to go out after my classes and while drinking a beer, just walking around, staring at the night sky and stars and night markets and people, tourists, vagabonds, hippies, Ivy League graduates, degenerates, people with their children wrapped around them like a wedding band — impossible to remove on fat fingers, pale and pasty, etc.
(OKAY, AND NOW I’VE MOVED ON TO THE SAIGON BOTTLE … THE RED BULL IS WORKING ITS MAGIC ELIXIR. BOYS NIGHT OUT IN MY EARDRUMS. SITTING AT THIS TABLE IN A DIMLY-LIT ROOM.)
Where was I going? Chug, chug, chug. A big sip.
The moment was glorified in my eighth-floor hotel room overlooking a street about two blocks from the beach. The cloudy skies kept me company. Then I had Miss Gucci opening my curtains in the morning scantily clad in underwear and little else … heaven … the door of the place leading to a view of the sea, surfers, sand, beach, maybe people did Pilates out there???
She and I were sitting, lying actually, on the beach. The sun had finally come out!!!
“Have you ever heard of The Beatles?”
“Yes, of course,” she said with her sexy accent.
“What about Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”
“It’s a song.”
I played it for her with my cell phone.
She laughed and laughed, next to me in her white Roxy bikini.
“It’s just this line the whole time.” I started singing along to the song on the white sand, a towel from the hotel below me. There were dozens of people around us taking selfies. They’d come to the beach to take 85 pictures of themselves. Only to then leave immediately.
“I don’t know about you,” said I, “but when I come to the beach, I take 85 selfies and then leave immediately.”
She laughed again. Then I played her “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.
“Do you remember this song?”
“No.” (Chinese accent!!)
“We heard it in Thailand, Chiang Mai. Remember, that band we saw? They played this.”
We sat, lied actually, as the song played and played and played and played and played and played and…
There was another moment on the beach, up by the touristy spot … the buses stopped there to let people off to stare at the waves and take pictures. We sat there together in the early afternoon.
She went on and on about her plans to live there. She’d have an apartment. Work X amount of hours per day. There’d be this, and this, and this, and this. She’d invite friends over to visit.
“And what about me?” I asked her, my arm around her shoulders.
“Oh, you’ll be there. Cooking. Naked.”
“You don’t want that.”
She laughed at me, smiling with her eyes gleaming and the salty air made my heart feel selfish for puncturing her dreamworld.
“You should be the one who’s naked.”
She hit me.
We sat there staring at the waves.
“Let’s go back to the hotel and have sex.”
“Okay,” she responded.
We got up from the bench, holding each other.
“Wow, look at that!”
I pointed to a big hotel towering over Da Nang, looking out at the beach like: “So what?” It’s the beach.
“What about that? Imagine having sex up there?”
She hit me, laughing.
“I was thinking the same thing…”
Monday came … after a lot of other shit that I don’t have time to write about … we’d prepared to go to Ho Chi Minh together. I had a room booked for a week. The flight was short, less than an hour. We didn’t sit together.
When we got into town, it was a blazing heat. Da Nang was about 70–80 degrees and cloudy. Ho Chi Minh was in excess of 90 degrees. Hot. Hot. Hot.
We got a cab to our AirBnb place. We were there early.
The room was barely ready. And it was small.
“Ohh…” she said when she first saw it.
“What is it?”
I looked inside.
She asked about a room for herself. “We’ll fight here,” she said.
“Do you have another room?”
It was an ordeal to figure out another room that we could share together for the duration of the week. We’d have to change the room after five nights. That is, after staying in a different room … in another building next door. We made it work.
It was tough, though, figuring out the price with another person who hardly spoke English.
We went out to a place in the heat and they had an orange beer. I enjoyed it. She was picky with her food, her choice of anything at all. I was different. Easy to please. Just happy to be living differently. Yeah, sure.
A week together. Why not?
We visited a museum together. I did my work. One night, I kept writing in the script about our time together in Chiang Mai — when and where we’d first met.
Now, it’s hard to do anything at all without her. At least from her perspective.
The writer’s curse.
I guess Ho Chi Minh’s a good place to visit if you’ve never been anywhere else outside of the Western perspective. Very Westernized. Prices are similar to what I’d paid back home in America. In fact, the first night in town her and I sat at a rooftop bar and saw Eagles fans watching (re-watching) the game in their Eagles jerseys. I’d even seen a restaurant that sold a Philadelphia Cheese Steak which I tried a few days later.
It was good.
She was in a red dress. Smiling. Funny and sweet.
I was trapped.
We go to Cambodia in the morning!!! She’ll be joining me again soon. In this dimly-lit room.
I’m going to open another beer from the fridge. Then I’m going to