On the way back from the hills Rich is telling amazing stories all the way back. He’d initially spent two years in Vietnam, 69 to 71, and told us how he never allowed anyone, Vietnamese or American, in his place with a gun. He was an expert in agriculture and helped the local people with some rice-growing techniques, helping them identify and address blights using slideshows rather than pamphlets because of literacy issues. He went back stateside to work on the McGovern campaign against Nixon in 72 and was massively disappointed when Nixon won so he came back to Vietnam to keep doing what he’d been doing, then stayed until 75 when an unidentified person – likely intel of some stripe – gave him a heads-up he should catch a plane to Thailand as soon as possible. Saigon fell shortly after.
Among countless stories the one that stuck out the most was how he’d been watching a hill get shelled but he couldn’t tell if they were incoming or outgoing. A serviceman he was with explained it and said if they’re incoming just go down into a bunker, take a bottle of wine (the serviceman handed him a bottle) and if you wake up the next morning hungover, feel fortunate as hell. He had the bottle of wine with him the entire time he was there but never drank it.
Back in town we thanked Rich for the amazing day, chilled out for a bit then went out for dinner to a Russian microbrew a few doors over.
They had a selection we could really appreciate with all of the lager we’d been drinking since we landed in Asia. I grabbed a nice porter while Murphy went with the kolsch and Drisdelle went with a red ale. There were two share dishes on the menu, a hefty-looking meat board and a gigantic-looking pork shank. The pork shank looked like a shit ton of meat so we settled on the half-shit-ton of meat with the meat board, as well as a blooming onion so we could get some veggies in.
The meat board came out and it was massive, hard to finish but delicious.
On the back wall of the bar was a projector playing late 70’s era Queen. The music cut out and a three-piece band came on stage, a super-attractive Filipino-looking girl singing with one guy playing keyboards and another playing a keytar.
They begin their set with Adele and we’re afraid it’ll turn into the standard Southeast Asia Top 40 soundtrack we’ve been hearing in the all the hostels but it soon takes a turn for the unexpected straight into the 80’s hit zone with classics like Summer of 69, 4 Non Blondes’ What’s Going On, a bit of the Bon Jon, and what sounds like some Russian poppy stuff.
After a break their second set is somehow identical to that of the band we heard in Oustro in Phnom Penh – I Will Survive, YMCA, Sex Bomb, I Will Always Love You.
We power our way through the Meat Boards of Canada and struggle with the blooming onion for desert but with our guts busting we get the bill. It comes out to one million. Holy shit we’re baller. We square up, grab some blog beers and head back to the ranch to do a bit of writing.
Around 11:30 I cut out for another bag of beers and the streets don’t look great. A handful of drunk Russians roaming around looking for trouble. Garbage everywhere, at one point I step over a bag and half a dozen rats run past. Ugh. Kind of glad we took it easy and didn’t hook up with Anne for a night out.