Route 69, Part Fifteen: Hoi An

Newman had shockingly awoken from his sickened slumber and began texting me, determined to make his way out and towards the bar.

In between texts, I was spending time with Toby and Rune as we played pool with some unsavory characters in a bar across town.  The bar was rather off the normal tourist path and we only ended up there after being coerced into going after an American rode up on us. He was riding a sports bike, the largest I’d seen yet in the country, and had found us at the most dire of times: 2:00am in the morning as we were struggling to find a new place to drink.

IMG_4493
Tet was full of wild light displays

This night was also one of the first nights of Tet, a bizarre occasion as each night seemed to bring its own demographic out to celebrate the festivities. On this night it had seemed to be the younger generation out celebrating (along with all of the locals) making it probably the busiest night we had.

We followed the bike guys advice for the bar because he didn’t seem completely crazy and he was driving one of the fastest bikes I’dseen the entire trip. Feeling our status as cool western bikers diminished in front of our very eyes demanded our presence at his bar to cast more judgement upon him.

Turns out the bar was pretty cool as well.

We showed up to a small scene with one large group of people enjoying the party. One gentleman, we’ll call him Ragnar on account of his Viking haircut and silk shirt that was only buttoned around his navel, immediately stood out as the most boisterous of the group and probably on some shit. I don’t particularly like casting judgement on people, but his frequent outbursts at his table, coupled with his shrieking voice and general antics lead me to the conclusion he was probably on some shit.

Newman caught up with us quickly and it became the two of us with Toby and Rune hanging out around the pool table. At some point I reluctantly ended up in a conversation with Ragnar about where he was from. Turns out he was living in the IMG_4498country and everyone else was visiting from his homeland in France. In the same instance I met the owner of the bar, Cowgirl, a raggedy looking older woman who dressed up as a cowgirl-I’m not very original in these names. Despite her looks she was a killer shot with the pool stick, frequently sinking shots throughout the night that I’d never seen before. Not wanting to bruise my newly acquired pool ego I steered clear of the table for the rest of the evening.

At one point I wandered up some steps trying to find the bathroom and only managed to run into Cowgirl and Ragnar exchanging money for some nose candy. Caught off-guard, I tried to maintain my cool, worried that if I acted the least bit shook, I might be visiting somewhere worse than the Hanoi Hilton.

Cowgirl told me about all of her other offerings aside from the powder, I chatted politely as if I was considering it but was just not feeling any at the moment. Luckily she accepted my refusals and when I saw my chance I asked where the bathrooms were.

It worked.

A long, detailed, cocaine-fueled description was given that I can only summarize as:

“Down the stairs and to the right.”

I had avoided catastrophe, for now.

You avoid one disaster and another pops up to take it’s place.

While I was off in the bathroom, Toby and Rune had managed to start talking to two foreign girls who had been in the bar the whole evening. They were from Denmark as well (seriously these people travel everywhere) and I was no less surprised to find them completely trashed. Actually only one of them was so far gone it was hard to get more than two coherent sentences from her between the stumbling around and fight she was having trying to sit on a bar stool.

As fate would have it she decided to saddle up to me while the other one zoned in on Brian. Not nearly drunk enough to even be able to have a conversation with her I spent most of the night trying to avoid her, trying to shift her attention over to Toby and Rune in the hopes she would gather her senses and go after one of them.

She didn’t.

Not learning our lesson from past banh mi transgressions, we decided to go get some a few. Actually when I say we this was almost entirely the girls idea. One of them knew of one that would be open this late as she’d frequented it many times recently. Unfortunately, that cart was too far to walk and there wasn’t a reliable cab around. The solution? Bicycles!

The girls had some bikes, so they offered to take us there. Newmans new friend seemed able to ride and since she was the same size as Newman I figured she couldn’t handle the job. The Dane I was stuck with… was not suited to walk let alone ride a bike with a big boy like myselfon the back.

I argued vehemently for my cause, championing that there was no way I was riding with her and there’s no way she could even get going with me on the back. My fears finally won out and she let me ride the bike with her on back. I wasn’t sure which was going to be worse and I was pretty confident I was going to crash at some point.

As we started going I could feel her swaying back and forth as I tried to maintain balance. Keep in mind this bike wasn’t some beautiful new Schwinn. It was at least 40 years old and barely knew what straight was. By some miracle, and a few close calls, I managed to make it to the banh mi cart.

After ordering her sandwich she decided she had an announcement to make.

“Let’s go back to the bar!” she said, “I’m driving!” Her voice muffled between bites of sandwich.

Again, I tried to talk her out of it. Pleaded with her.  I didn’t want to finish my trip with road rash. Sadly, I failed to fight off the peer pressure. I figured at least it would lead to a good blog post if I did crash. I hopped gingerly onto the back, gripping the bottom of the seat as she wobbled her way to a decent speed to start peddling. One of the more horrific displays of safety: she kept reaching into the front basket to eat her sandwich, each time causing a temporary shift of gravity and the threat of plummeting to the earth.

By some miracle I made it back in one piece, though on this trip I had to bail off the bike at least two times as I caught her careening towards a curb or some boxes. Each time she, of course, pretended like nothing had happened and my worry was rude and unjustified.

Newman, whose carnal desires had gotten us to this point in the first place, was to be let down as his girl decided to call it a night finally. Her friend tried to stay out but, worrying for her safety out alone in the bar, we convinced her to go home with her friend.

A night of crashes and worse was avoided.

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