We leave Hoi An and are driving through Da Nang. Off to our left is marble mountain. Looks cool. There are glass elevators up to a temple set against some cool rock formations up above the city.
The driver points out some old American military hangers. Not sure what they’re being used for. With things like this still around there are lots of reminders here from the Vietnam War. I don’t feel it’s thought about much back in the states anymore, unfortunately. Fighting on foreign soil, you get to leave the war remnants with them.
Above Da Nang the road winds up into some lush jungly mountains. Across a long bridge and we come to a large tunnel built by the Japanese. It takes a while to get through. Giant turbines on the roof that look like jet engines.
We emerge at Lang Co, The driver points it out. At the toll he asks if we want to stop and get a picture. Sure. He pulls into a resort. It’s totally walking dead deserted. We head down to the beach to check it out. Nice place with nobody around. We take a leak in the dark behind the kitchen. No lights on. Having a weird break in a deserted resort. I think the driver just wanted a smoke and piss break half way. Fair enough.
Another hour or so and we’re in Hue. Seems a decent sized place. The driver points out the airport but it still takes us 30-40 minutes until we get to the hostel.
Walk into Amy’s hostel and the girl behind the counter asks if I’m Jonathan. Our reputation proceeds us. She shows us some tours. Looks like a lot to do here. She’s funny and joking around, her name is Lynn. “You will stay 5 days?”, “Only one to two days”, “Ok I want you to stay 10 days. I’ll book you for 10 days. Thank you!”
With some semblance of tour planning done it was grub time. Pretty much across the street was a place called The Hub. We go over to investigate. It was a beer lounge sports bar looking place. The girl servers were all wearing referee outfits. Menu looks decent so we get a seat on the patio.
The manager rushes over to help us. We order up some plates and drinks which the manager just relays directly to the server standing beside us. He’s adjusting things on the table.
The Hub is playing terrible Vietnamese power ballads, “Their musical tastes seem 25 years behind.”
The food comes out and it’s looking really good. I got a salted pork dish that was a knockout. A lot of pig parts represented here including the hoof. It was delicious.
The manager basically stood off to the side of our table and catered to our every need. “Man, this guy is going for micro manager of the year.”
There’s another table in the corner with some ballers at it. Another manager type is catering to them, lighting cigars for them, lighting a joint for them? They’re getting tuned up over there.
In the middle of our meal the insanely bad power ballads suddenly stop and instead the music gets cranked way up and suddenly there’s a DJ spinning up crazy industrial techno. It’s actually really good. The whole vibe of the place kicked up a few notches. And the DJ has one of the referee shirts on but tied up like a belly shirt. “What the hell just happened in here?”, “The DJ looks like a porn star”, “Yeah, and she’s really good!”
The other table is going off the rails. These old guys are now monopolizing the new beer reps from Budweiser and also from Tiger that just showed up. They’ve got them sitting at their table. They look uncomfortable and somehow obligated.
The Porn Star DJ finishes up her set and hands it off to some guy and now she’s sitting at that table too. “Who are those guys?”, “No one you wanna fuck with.”
When the Pen pineapple apple pen industrial techno remix comes on we decide it’s time to split. Micro comes scurrying back, DJ good? Good. Server good? Server good. Food good? Food good. Everything good? Everything’s great. Hahaha and he claps us on the back and shakes each of our hands.
We’re back in the street looking for another bar. Zig zagging through the city and we can’t find anything. Found a club called Astra but it’s too early for that. The rain picks up and we duck into a cafe to avoid it. Decide on some drinks. Red wine, white wine and.. vodka wine? I go with the vodka wine. It ends up being just a large cup of cheap tasting vodka. Yowsa! A few hard drinks in and I mix it with the lemongrass tea they gave us. Tolerable.
We abandon the bar hunt and go back to the hostel to regroup and lock down some tours for the days we’re here.
While walking down the street dudes on scooters are constantly stopping to see if we want drugs. “You want weed, man? Coka? Ecstasy? Many beautiful ladies for you. I take you. Lady boom boom, yes? Knacka Knacka? Very good I show you.”
MacKay picks up some road soju and we’re skipping in and out of the rain back to Amy’s. We book a tour of some massive cave to the north and then a tour of the temples, tombs and the imperial citadel here in Hue for the next day. There are buses, but they all leave super early (and we’re half cut at this point) and it’s actually cheaper for the 3 of us to get a private driver. We’re all about private drivers now! Don’t have to wait for the group, do the sites at your own pace, have a comfy car with your own tunes and AC and save money? No brainer. Lynn hooks us up, “Ok, I take care of everything for you.” Lynn is great.
We hang in the front foyer for a snizzle and meet some other travelers staying in the hostel. One dude Louis is from Dubai, he’s with a friend from Serbia who we talked to about Nis, relating that time we raided a jazz festival in the fort there. We also found out Louis had worked in Turkmenistan for a bit. He was floored to find out we’d driven through there. We got excited and told him some stories for another time.
We also meet a tall lanky guy from Melbourne. Real nice fella. He is telling us about Hanoi. He’s got rave reviews of the place which is interesting because a lot of people seem to be meh about it. But Andrew here is pumped that we’re going, “Oh man, I’m looking forward to you looking forward to it!” Great dude.
I look up some places to nab some wobbly pops and lead us back out into the streets to a place called Brown Eyes. Walk in and it’s got a handful of outdoor patio spots that are cool but all occupied. Further in through the door and the place explodes into the white guy zone. The dance music is banging and every tourist in town is here, belligerent and sweaty.
A girl pushes passed me and takes my spot at the table that I’m leaning against. Her friends fill in the other spots. I’m not sure if shes flirting, being playful or just a princess. I go with the princess angle and bow and step out of the way allowing her to have my spot. Her friends are all cracking up. She’s not too thrilled, but this just makes her friends even more excited.
I try to talk to the group but it’s Marshall stacks loud in here and it doesn’t seem they speak English very well. I’m pretty sure making fun of me is half their fun but i don’t mind. I play along, mostly via charades, and manage to get princess smiling and out of butthurt land.
I’m having a decent time but MacKay is in hell. This is exactly the kind of place he hates. Pumping shitty dance tunes and crammed with stinky white douchebag drunks. After our first drink I get some fist bumps from princess and my new buddies and we’re back on the street.
Across the street we go into a small place. There’s just one table of locals, an empty table and a couple mini chairs on the patio. We take the patio. There’s a piano against the wall and the server is egging us on to play. I sit down and pound out the intro to phantom of the opera. Around the start of the vocal part I’m beginning to forget it so just improvise some shitty ending and kick the chair back.
Hmmmmm little too no reaction, that’s interesting. MacKay and Drisdelle are laughing though and we order up some cocktails (woo-hoo).
Our drinks come and a dude with curly blonde hair and glasses comes up and asks if he can join us. His name is Mikkel. He’s from Denmark. We shoot travel stories back and forth. He tells us about Ha Long Bay. Sounds fun, can’t wait.
Meanwhile, a local has sat at the piano and is jazzing it up with a girl on violin and another guy playing a drum box. It’s super smooth and chill. A great wind down place, exactly the opposite of Brown Eyes.
We kick it with Mikkel for a bit and get another round. He’s a nice fella, I tell him he can always stay with me in California if he wants to visit. He gets excited about this and next thing you know we’re Facebook friends.
The last song is played and drinks are done. We say goodbye to Mikkel and start the stumble home. Every few minutes is those damned scooter guys, “Boom boom? Shaka Shaka? You want some weed? Beautiful ladies make lady boom boom…”
Even though we got a private driver we get back to Amy’s with only 5 hours until the pick up time. Agggggh we’ve done it again! Well the caves are 4 hours away, maybe we can sleep on the way.
We wake up 5 hours later to torrential rains and a little private driver named Ha.