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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.

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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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Route 69, Part Fourteen: The Hai Van Pass

The ascension to the Hai Van started innocuously enough.

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Smell ya later, Lang Co.

We set off in a less-than-stellar mood as Newman was still feeling under the weather from a disgusting combination of seafood poisoning mixed with sleeping in a bed of piss. For better or worse it had finally started to warm up a significant amount, making us shed our larger jackets in favor of some windbreakers.

Newman, bless his heart, courageously battled the intestinal wrath of food poisoning the entire ride. He spent the better part of the morning in between packing and rushing off to the bathroom. Luckily the rumblings of the bike seemed to quell his need to clear his system as he was able to keep it under control when we took off.

We both skipped breakfast that day.

The Hai Van was composed of two paths. Almost all commercial vans and trucks were forced to take the tunnel pass through the mountains while cars had the option of going the pass route or the van route. Motorcycles were only allowed on the mountain pass, the tunnel was off limits.

We were initially worried about the ascent up the Hai Van, especially during our early stages of the trip. It seemed rather treacherous when you looked at the map and the sheer amount of people that were heading up it made it a little more daunting knowing there’d be so much traffic. Once we started up though we realized how prepared we were from our time in the mountains to the North. The road was one of the best maintained in the country and all of the sharp apex turns we had to battle were widened out for buses taking tourists to the lookout at the top of the pass.

If nothing else, the ride was a bit of a disappointment going up. We’d heard nothing but spectacular views awaited us and instead we were just met with a gaggle of tourists at the top, all clambering over ruins from the war and eagerly hunting a spot for the perfect selfie. We took part, of course, finding a good spot for photos and checking out the ruins before starting off down the back side of the Hai Van.

On the way down, we passed by the charred remains of a passenger bus. It had been completely burned out and gutted. I tried to stop to take a picture but some officials angrily ushered me onwards to prevent me from getting in the way. I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that the road was still so open and the officials so lax. There wasn’t any caution tape or anything of the sort you’d see in the States.  To their credit, there didn’t seem to be any injuries or fatalities from the accident which is probably why they kept the road open but it was still humorous how close we got until they were annoyed enough to send us along.

The south side of the pass did offer some spectacular views as you could see some beautiful beaches down near the bottom and the long, winding road snaking it

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All Play and No Work Makes Burt a Happy Boy
s way along the mountain. It was reminiscent of the opening scene of the Shining when Jack is driving the family up the gorgeous but slightly treacherous road up towards the Overlook hotel.

We touched down in Da Nang and rode through, eager to get to Hoi An.  Da Nang was rather remarkable to drive through as it was quickly apparent that the entire area was being rapidly developed by first world interests. Massive resorts were being built in alarming fashion and scale. Our experience in Da Nang would be nothing more than auxiliary as we passed through on the highway only, taking the most direct route we could to Hoi An.

We were riding down the highway when our map had us take a sharp right inland towards Hoi An. Almost immediately after turning onto the road we were suddenly aware of how touristy the city was going to be. Hundreds of people, almost all tourists, were riding and walking bicycles up and down the road. Traffic was noticeably slower as well as it was forced to contend with the whims of wayward eyes letting their bikes wander too deep into the road.

One of the horror stories I’d read before leaving on this entire trip was of a newlywed wife dying in Hoi An when her scooter was hit by a bus. I figured it must’ve happened on the very road I was on, it seemed ripe for that type of accident. We hit exceptionally heavy traffic as we got into the city and battled our way through clogged, one-way streets until we arrived at our destination. After doing the arduous task of unloading all of the bags from our bikes we headed to the reception only to find out we were at the sister hotel of the one we actually booked with. That one was actually across town. Another 20-minute ride to get there.

I could tell Newman was struggling by his lack of emotion to the situation. Rather than lament about the pains of having to load everything back on the bikes (a simple but tedious process), he simply loaded up and sat stoically on his bike while he waited for me to finish.

In silence we loaded our bikes back up and continued on, the clogged streets bringing even more frustration.

Luckily the hotel we were sent to was much nicer than the one we almost stayed at. The hotel pool was immaculately maintained, and the rooms were fantastic. It could have just been the fact that we’d been sleeping in piss and hairy sheets the night before but the rooms were arguably the best we’d had all trip.

At this point Newman was now visibly struggling. He looked ashen and  gazed into the abyss as we organized our stuff. I had to actually coax him out to go grab some food, which was practically unheard of.

Tet was just a day (or two… the details off how the holiday worked still eluded us) but we were already feeling the effects. As we tried to go to some of the top-rated restaurants, including ones that Bourdain visited, were already closed. The facts were simple: Any restaurant that was famous or popular meant they made enough income to take more days off for the holiday. For some this meant a couple of days. For others it meant the entire month.

Newman wasn’t too hungry, but I was famished. I made him walk almost two miles as he struggled to hold his stomach together while I made way to the best banh mi spot in town (I was already over the robbery that left a bad taste in my mouth regarding the banh mi culture).

Clearly I’d forgotten the cardinal rules I’ve just outlined about shops being closed during Tet. The sandwich shop was closed, and we were forced to settle for whatever we found on the street. Newman was too sick to walk back so I ordered an Uber that had to battle through the crowded streets to get to us. Once we got back to the hotel I got hit up by Toby and Rune who wanted to meet up. Newman immediately rejected the idea and went to bed, too sick to function.

I wandered into the night on my own, excited that I’d beaten the seafood bug quicker than Newman and elated that for once I was the one to want to go out while he didn’t. I met up with the boys at some dive bar they’d happened upon and started drinking. In the middle of it Newman started to text me.

He was coming out.

Route 69, Part Thirteen: Hue to Lang Co

IMG_0437We spent the better part of the day following our robbery in a sour and dismal state. The money was inconsequential for the most part, but our egos were bruised and wounded.

Luckily the day called for us to leave and head towards Hoi An. This day was highly anticipated as we were going to have to go through the Hai Van pass in order to get there.

The Hai Van pass was featured in a Top Gear episode where the trio went South to North and was one of the more profound moments in the show, causing them to stop and sit to just admire the landscape.

Hue to Hoi An wasn’t more than a days ride, about 150km, but we decided we were done with full day rides. We wanted to enjoy our travels. Looking up the route we decided on stopping at Lang Co first, a small coastal town which had a bay on one side and  the ocean on the other. Newman’s research had dubbed it one of the best beaches in Vietnam so we figured it was worth it to stay a night.

Boy, we could not have been more wrong.

Arriving in the town we stopped for lunch at one of the better reviewed places on Google. The staff were friendly with the owner speaking impressively good English. His restaurant was immaculately clean as well. We enjoyed our normal meal of fried noodles and rice with some chicken and beef and then went about our way trying to find a place to stay.

We were in Vietnam during the slow season, when the hotels and resorts were completely empty. Even so, their rooms were wildly expensive. Well, we say wildly expensive because they were about $30-$40 when we were used to spending $5-$10 on a room.

After driving up and down we finally found a place that seemed decent and, more importantly, cheap. We checked in and dropped off our stuff before bolting out the door to go find the beach. I should note, the only way we were able to book the place was because a Vietnamese man who lived in America happened to be there to act as our translator. We never saw him again.

Lang Co, even out of season, was uniquely beautiful. The beach was rather normal. You’d find that anywhere it felt like. But the inland bay was something else. When you looked IMG_4468out across the bay you’d see the mountains rising up in the distance (although sadly obscured by all the trash pollution). In the bay were countless stilt houses that sat in the calm waters, surrounded by numerous bamboo poles that jutted out of the water, as if they were relics of a bygone era.

There were no motorboats (at least none that we could see) operating in the bay. The few fishermen we saw were coasting around using a push paddle, stopping every so often to cast a line before heading off.

The water was surprisingly shallow as well. Fishermen would jump out of the boat in what seemed like deep ends only to dip in just above their knees.  As the first major water visit we’d had since our first week in Ha Long Bay, we were delighted to be near it again.

After a few hours we finally wandered back into town and tried to find a place to eat. Lang Co wasn’t a particularly big area so we were at wits end about where to eat. We decided to say fuck it, and just go back to the restaurant we ate at for lunch. The food had been great and there was even more on the menu we had wanted to try!

For the first time, we decided to take the dangerous shellfish route. After talking with the owner, it happened to be oyster season and all of their oysters were being collected fresh from the bay every day.

We didn’t want to take too many chances and made sure the dishes we ordered were cooked. Afterwards we road our bikes around until we found a pool hall where we could spend some hours until it was time to go to bed. We were eager to get through the pass and to the party in Hoi An.

I started feeling it almost immediately when we were playing pool. If you’ve ever eaten some bad seafood you’ll know what it is. That rumbling in your gut, when you’re not sure if this might be the last day you ever wear those underwear and pants… particularly troubling if they’re your only pants.

I ran frequently to the bathroom in between games, Newman constantly badgering me about what a pussy I was for not drinking my beer anymore. At this point I felt so full and greasy I just wanted to head back to the hotel. Newman allowed it only after I chugged the beers he’d bought me.

We made it back to the hotel and I raced to the bathroom.

“Ahhhhh!” I heard Newman scream, followed by loud smacking sounds.

When I came out he was looking in the corner of his bed.

“There’s a bug or something. It’s huge.”

I ignored him and hopped onto my bed and laid face first into the pillow. Bad call.

I got a whiff of it and almost wanted to throw up. It clearly hadn’t been washed and reeked of whoever had spent the night here prior. Possibly weeks ago. I pulled the blanket back to hop inside the covers only to see multiple strands of black hair strewn about the bed.

Whether it was the hair or the seafood, I’m not sure but I immediately ran back to the bathroom, ranting to Newman when I finally emerged.

“Dude, this is fucking gross. There’s like hair and shit in my bed.”

“Yeah well it could be worse.” He said, very matter of fact.

“Oh yeah?” I said sarcastically.

“Mine’s got a giant piss stain on it.”

My eyes widened as I came over.

“Dude, get the fuck out of here. No way.”

Under the thick top blanket, his sheets bore the unmistakable mark. A large yellowish circle about halfway down the mattress.

“Are you sure, it’s piss?” I asked.

“Yeah! I smelled it!”

I bent down and took a whiff. Sure enough, that was urine.

I didn’t expect it, but all I could do was laugh. I fell onto my bed, happy to be covered only in someone else’s hair, and laughed until I cried. My insides were screaming but I couldn’t help it.

“Should we go tell someone?” I asked once I’d collected myself.

“Who? No one speaks English!”

He was right. No one spoke English here and it was late enough at night we probably weren’t going to find anyone very easily either.

“Whatever, I don’t care.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

Surprised he really didn’t seem to care he was about to sleep in a pile of piss. I was too tired to argue the point for him though. I flipped the lights and climbed on top of my large blanket, rolling in it so I could burrito myself and avoid some of the disgusting filth I was laying on.

I expected the same of Newman but when I awoke I found him soundly sleeping under the covers, with no clothes on either except his boxers.

“Dude, did you sleep like that all night?” I asked incredulously.

“Yeah, I could smell it all night.” he said, again in such a way that implied he didn’t have a choice.

I about died laughing again. I was feeling much better, whatever sickness I got from the oysters had since subsided. I only noticed this fact when Newman failed to come out of the bathroom after some time.

“Are you alright?”

“No.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked, worried.

“Everything. I think that seafood fucked me up too.”

Somehow Newman’s iron stomach had failed him and he was now reeling with the sickness, on today of all days. The day we ascended the beauty of Vietnam. The day we climbed the Hai Van.

What a day it would be.

Route 69, Part Twelve: Hue Again

The Banh mi carts were located at a crossroads of sorts near the bottom of the tourist quarter. Since it was so early in the morning there was practically no one else out on the streets except for us and these three banh mi carts.

We all arrived but at varying degrees of intoxicated. The kids and other Danes were quite inebriated after pounding Saigon Beer after Saigon Beer (essentially a Coors Light). Somewhere along the way we picked up a a guy from France. Who was even more drunk than any of us.

Newman and I were just buzzed since we tended to drink every night and thus tried not to get absolutely smashed. We’re also pretty damn old compared to most of the people we’re keeping company with, forcing us to adapt our drinking strategy so we can keep up for the night.

Together with Newman, we sat around while the kids ordered their sandwiches. Newman split off from me while I started talking to Dahmer (the big one) and Toby. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed two scooters pull up and two guys hop off. It wasn’t uncommon for people to be riding around and since it was the only noticeable food stand in the area I wasn’t particularly worried about what they were up too.

A quick lesson in Vietnamese money. It’s ridiculous yet efficient. The numbers are astronomical:

$1 US Dollar = 22,000 Vietnamese Dong

With a number like that, it was easy to get confoundedly upset over small sums.

The two of us would frequently argue about the other person paying each other back 30,000 or 40,000 dong, even though that was really only about $2.00. When we withdrew money from the ATM I would get as much as I could, about 6 million Dong. 1 million Dong was roughly $50 USD.

Next is lesson, color. This one’s important for this part. Unlike US money, Vietnamese money is color coded.  The largest bill was 500,000 and green/blue, next being 200,000 and yellow and then 100,000 and dark green. Your smallest bill was typically the 5,000 Dong bill (though it went down 2,000 – 1,000 and 500 you rarely used these unless they built up to a 5,000 piece).

Interestingly enough, the 500,000 Dong and 20,000 Dong looked somewhat similar in color, especially in less than stellar lighting. Thee 500,000 Dong bill was designed to be longer than any other bills to make up for that but that still didn’t help much when you’re 10 beers deep. It’s worth noting that before this day started I had taken out money for both Newman and I and given us each 1 million Dong in the form of two 500,000 bills. The Banh mi’s cost about 20,000 Dong.

Back to the story, Newman is standing in line waiting for his turn to order a sandwich while I’m chatting with some of the boys.

“Hey! Burt! Do you have any money?” I hear Newman shout at me.

I’m deaf so he has to repeat it again. By the time I look over, he’s talking with one of the guys who got off his scooter just minutes before. It’s confrontational. Now that I’m paying attention I can see that it’s two Vietnamese guys. I wander over and ask what’s going on.

“No! No! I didn’t! I help you!” The Vietnamese guy was shouting at Newman.

“Bro, you reached into my wallet!” Newman said calmly.

The rest of the kids weren’t even aware of what was going on.

“What’s going on? What happened?” I asked, walking over.

“This guy reached into my wallet, took my money and gave it to the banh mi guyfor a fucking sandwich.”

“How much did you have?” I asked.

“Like, a million.”

At this point the guy was starting to act more aggressive. He was pulling off his raincoat and pulling his pants down screaming how he didn’t take our money and promised on promises. His friend stood silent in the background watching both of us. They both had underestimated how drunk Newman and I were compared to the rest of the group.

Problem was, we were still drunk. I pulled Newman aside so the two Vietnamese dudes wouldn’t hear us.

“Are you sure you had a million? You didn’t spend any of it all night?” I quizzed.

“Nope. I’m pretty sure I didn’t spend any of it.” He said, this time a little less sure.

We kept talking about it back and forth between us until finally realizing that we were about 90% sure that he had not spent any of the two 500,000 bills in his wallet and the fact that his wallet was now completely empty means the guy had taken it.

The tricky thing was he didn’t just take it.

He took it and then produced a 20,000 Dong bill and gave it to the sandwich artist all in one move so it looked like he was just helping Newman out as he drunkenly stumbled around his wallet trying to find the correct bill. Because both the 20,000 and the 500,000 were similar colors it was hard to differentiate between the two in the heat of the moment, making it easier to confuse us.

We were faced with the prospect of either starting a fight with the two Vietnamese guys who were undoubtedly smaller than us but under enough layers that it was hard to see what type of weapons they could have had. Additionally, fears of past historical lessons not learned sowed doubt into our minds on if we’d really be able to win such a battle.

By this point Frenchie had caught wind of the situation and tried to valiantly come to our aid with a series of drunken, incoherent ramblings in the general direction of the two robbers. Newman had to hush the guy just as much as he had to shout down the Vietnamese guy who was still trying to plead his innocence.

“You two just need to shut up and get out of here.” Newman finally said to the two guys who were still arguing with us that they didn’t take our money.

Enough time had now passed that we knew we weren’t getting our money back in any shape or form anyways since we had no idea which of two had it, or even if the sandwich guy was actually a sandwich bro in on the act.

“Ok, ok, ok.” The first Vietnamese guy said, before adding. “Hey you want to buy some marijuana?”

Newman and I couldn’t help but just look at each other and crack a smile. Not only were they robbing us but then they were trying to sell us drugs right after it.

“No. Get the fuck out of here.” I said.

The two hopped on their scooters never to be seen again. We spent the rest of the evening walking back to our hotel, replaying the the whole thing in our heads and talking about all the ways it should have gone down.

 

Route 69, Part Eleven: Hue

As if by fate, we happened to run into Toby, Rune and the rest of the Danish bros our first night in Hue. At this point it was starting to become less of a surprise as we realized we were going to be going in the same general direction as them for the next week or so.

At this point we realized that with only a week or so to go we were just not going to go south at all past Hoi An, roughly 100km away.

Tet was around the corner and we wanted to celebrate it in Hoi An, a popular destination spot for the holiday. Since we weren’t going to drive our bikes all the way to Ho Chi Minh City, we were going to have to sell them back to a dealer in Hue that would take them with the same deal that our original dealer offered us: 60% back. Not great but it beat trying to sell it the old fashion way and put it for sale online and just hope someone bought it. In fact we ended up trying this method but much to our dismay found it almost impossible to find any buyers as our asking price of $400-$500 was basically double what anyone else was selling theirs for in the area.

Since we were selling them back in Hue we also figured out that were going to have to drive down to Hoi An, then back up to Hue to sell them and then figure out how to get to Ho Chi Minh City which, thanks to Tet, bless your heart, made everything infinitely harder.

But, that was all a few days in the future. For now we were dedicated to exploring everything Hue had to offer.

It was a solemn realization that we weren’t going to be seeing any “hip” towns off the beaten path anymore. Between Hue and Hoi An there were only two other towns we could realistically visit and both were highly popular with tourists.

Nevertheless, Hue proved to be plenty entertaining to forget that we were part of the “typical tourist” group. One of the things Newman and I had talked about was buying something to bring back. Beyond the typical items like postcards and coffee mugs we were really thinking what could we get for ourselves?

It had to be something we could pack away in our backpacks but also something that was unique. We wanted something you really could only get travelling abroad. The answer had come to us in the town outside of Phong Nha, the local with excellent English had told us where each town was best to do things. Best places to party, best beaches along the coast, best places to buy a suit.

“Oh a suit?” I had asked.

“Yeah, Hue and Hoi An make the best suits and the fairest price. You can get ripped off there but generally they are pretty honest.”

Once we arrived in Hue we Googled up the best spots to get a suit made and marked a date to go check it out. In the interim we went exploring. Hue had some of the more unique attractions to offer during the entire trip. Other than the usual temples and palaces you got used to seeing on such a trip there was also the oft spoken about abandoned waterpark.

Situated on the outskirts of town, it took us about 30 minutes to drive on our bikes. We somehow ended up traversing into the park through the back which worked out wonderfully in our favor as we avoided the unscrupulous man who posted up outside the front and charged people a bogus fee to enter the park.

The gem of the entire area was a giant dragon shaped exhibit that once housed some IMG_4352type of aquarium and docking station for the boats that ran around the lake it sat in the middle of. The thing was absolutely massive and took almost an hour to fully explore.I’m going to preemptively credit this place with a newfound love of abandoned places. It was stunning to walk around these places which once saw thousands of tourists and now sat defunct, the jungle growth taking the and back one inch at a time.

A day or so later we went and got fitted for our suits. I’m not going to lie, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to how a suit should fit. I told them “I want it fitted” and that was it. We got measured and after a bit ofhaggling got them to a price of $150 for a custom two-piece suit with three custom fit shirts as well. All of it would be ready within 24 hours, which was important because the entire country was closing down in roughly 80 hours for Tet.IMG_4384

We left the shop rather pleased with ourselves for taking the plunge on such a big purchase. So far, we’d yet to spend more than $5 on something personal.

After a nap back at the hotel, we rendezvoused with our favorite Danish boys and started drinking in earnest. The night stretched on forever and we ended up leaving the bar (aptly named the DMZ bar, full of Vietnam War memorabilia) after 4am.

As with any good drunken evening we decided to cap it off with some food. The drunk item of choice was the Banh Mi, as sandwich of sort. Newman and I weren’t particularly fond of the item, but it was the only option we had.

Reluctantly we followed the drunk kids to their favorite spot which they swore had the best Banh Mi in town. Unbeknownst to us at the time, it was also going to be where we got robbed.

Route 69, Part Nine: Phong Nha

Let’s rewind a little bit.

About three weeks prior to arriving in Vietnam we were hanging out in an odd little yogi bar in Laos. The whole place was quite the experience as much of the seating was devoted to floor mats and pillows. It has a very Rajneesh vibe to it. The last night in town we went to the same bar and saw a large eight-man massage train going on right when we walked in the door. Continue reading Route 69, Part Nine: Phong Nha