We give SkeLaoTor the slip and slide into Utopia. Down the entrance hallway the dance music crescendos and it opens up into a large main area. Everything is wood and bamboo. On the right is a DJ and dance floor with a couple of bars just passed it. On the left is a cool lounge area that looks like a pillow fort with bean bag chairs and seating areas made from triangle back cushions and mattresses with low sitting coffee tables. Cool place for sure, we begin the walkabout. Through the pillow fort area and to the other side we find a third section to Utopia along a bamboo walk by the river. There is a wall that acts as a dance music buffer and this area is a quiet chill out zone that overlooks the river. The view must be fabulous at sunset.
We find a candlelit table and plop down on the surrounding chairs. The bamboo floor has so much give that it feels you’ll fall right through yet it somehow holds. Pretty relaxing atmosphere here, the surrounding tables are immersed in hushed conversations. A server comes around and we peruse the drinks menu. Something called Dengue Fever catches my eye, Pedro goes for the poor man’s cocktail and the boys get some safer fare. Mine ends up being a midori heavy cocktail in a wine carafe with a straw. It was huge and potent. One sip and my dengue fever was nuked.
Drisdelle ends up running into one of our Dutch friends in the bathroom so we regroup with them in the pillow fort area by the dance floor. The gang’s back together again: Rueben and Max from the Netherlands, Robbie from Britain, Pedro from Portugal and us Canadian Adventure Detectives. The boys have picked up a bottle of cheap Lao whiskey and are levelling up their Poor Man’s drinks with it. This is gonna get them tuned up for sure. I take a sip and yazow! Is it terrible.
I lean back in my pillow fort and behind me I just hear, “Give him a rub”. Now I’m back to back with some Australian girl, chair dancing to the boots and pants. I tilt my head back to see who it is and I’m just lost in a tangle of hair. “Oh we could be hair sisters”, our curly wigs are getting intertwined. It’s a group of drunken Aussie’s who give me a cheers when I turn around. We have a drink and talk nonsensically for a moment.
The Dutch are up to dance and I look over and that crazy dude we saw at the grocery store is up there too. He’s filled with music euphoria and his hammer and sickle shirt is pumping in and out, sweat spraying in an arc around him. He looks to be on drugs and possessed by demons, what a sketchy fuck.
The place starts shutting down rapidly around 11:30. The ugly lights are on and things are getting stacked up at the pace of a Nascar pit crew. Utopia holds a huge number of drunks and now they’re all piling into the tuk tuk lined streets with only one place to go: The Bowling Alley
The tuk tuks are filling up fast with all of the drunkest fuck ups in town. Some are on top surfing them as they go down the street. Max and Rueben are hanging off the back of one waving.
I jump in another one with some random mash up of people. I have no idea what happened to Robbie, Pedro, Drisdelle and MacKay, guess I’ll just meet them at the alley. Last one to jump in our tuk tuk is that sketchy fuck with the hammer and sickle shirt. Great.
Like a good drugged out mentally unstable person, we learn all about this dudes epic life failures in the span of a few minutes. His name is Graham. He had a wife and kid but they left him. The reasons are a mystery. He’s stayed here trying to put his life back together. After 13 years it appears he’s done an amazing job. He has no income or home and is clearly on drugs and perhaps volatile. This is the kind of total wastoid that can develop here in no rules Asia if left to their own devices and unattended.
The rest of the tuk tuk is filled with friendly Brits and an Irish couple. They’re trying to round up some dough to pay, it’s only going to be about a dollar each. I fire my fare up the chain to the front. With no great surprise, Graham refuses to pay and things go from a simple request to explosive almost immediately. “Graham we need 1300 kyat”, “Go fuck yourself you fucking cunt!!”, “Whoa! What the fuck! Fuck you, you homeless piece of shit! Everyone’s paid but you”, “I said FUCK OFF! You daft cunt!” At this point the large red headed Irish boyfriend is pretty much on his feet with the guns cocked ready to pile Grahams face full of bone splinters. I pipe up to settle things down, “Alright, alright you asshole, get out then. You’ve ruined the energy here. If you’re not going to pay, get out. If you stay that Irishman is going to destroy you, so get out.”, “Fuck you, you Canadian fuck I’m not going anywhere!” Meanwhile the Irish girl has slammed on the back window and the driver is slowing to a stop.
“Your choice Graham, get the fuck out or I’m letting that guy pound your stupid face in.” He swings a leg over the back, “Bunch of fucking cowards”, the Irishman starts moving towards him and Graham hops down to the street. The Irish girlfriend gives a tap tap on the window and we’re on the move again leaving Graham stranded on the sidewalk yelling obscenities at us. One of the Brits, who pretty much stayed out of the fray, spreads a wicked grin and pipes up with a deadly exiting taunt, “Graaaaaaaaaham! Graaaaaaaaaham!” Just yelling his name long and slow. The whole tuk tuk gets in on it chanting his name in elongated unison in the worst antagonizing minor tone “Graaaaaaaaaham! Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaham!” And you can see the effects twisting his face up in disdain as it cheese grates his ego. Graham’s head is ready to explode as he’s kicking and punching the air yelling and cursing, a drug maddened fiend. He turns into a spec in the dust as we continue down the road to the bowling alley.
Descend from the tuk tuk and enter the bowling alley and it is instantly apparent that this is the largest shitshow we’ve been witness to on the trip so far. And that’s saying something with the inclusion of our Saigon and Sihanoukville benders. The lanes are quickly filling up with inebriated monsters, flailing to amped up dance music and whipping bowling balls with furious abandon. Not one person is wearing bowl shoes, of course, everyone is in flip flops.
I find our gang getting prepped in the far lane and head over to survey the scene. MacKay is happy to hear that Graham got ditched, “Fuck that sketchy fuck”. Rueben and Max have purchased another bottle of $1 Lao whiskey and are now mixing it in with their beer. Robbie and Pedro are in on this mess and things are primed to get silly. Drisdelle takes a sip and has the barf face on. We get some coke to mix some drinks of our own. The coke is more expensive than the whiskey.
A group of girls have now joined us in our lane, 3 Canadians, one Brit and one Dutch. Let the bowling mingle mess begin! We’ve started to perfect a new bowling move I’ll just call the Flanking Phantom Balls. While someone is winding up for a shot Rueben (or sometimes Pedro) and I will have 2 more balls, unbeknownst to the bowler, ready to throw from slightly behind them. They bowl their ball and then are shocked to find 2 more balls come flying passed them. There’s usually a shriek and then a strike as the odds are increased 3x. Can’t happen all the time, you know, it has to be a surprise.
On occasion our lane will mysteriously break down and not restack the pins. There seems to be only one employee able to remedy this and he is a little Laotian dude with a bowling alley shirt and bright purple lipstick on. I’m not sure if this is the laziest attempt at being a ladyboy or maybe this slides more into emo-land, but this dude is always annoyed af to come over and troubleshoot our lane. Probably doesn’t help that we’re all ramping up the cheap whiskey drunkness and bowling like crack monkeys.
On a trip to the bathroom I succeed in finding possibly the second most dangerous man in Laos (next to Graaaaaaaham). I’m at the urinal and this tall strapped dude comes flying in with gusto. Flips his wang out and busts straight into conversation, “Hey man, where you from”, deep Irish accent, “Eastern Canada”, “Eastern Canada? Lots of Irish there right?”, “Lasts name is Murphy”, “Ohhhh atta boy, you’re as good as Irish!” and he’s somehow finished before me and has his arm around my neck in a urinal half-hug. This lasts through the bathroom (I guess we’re not gonna wash our hands?) back out into the bowling alley and over to our table. He manhandles the whiskey and between his blazing attitude and intimidating fortitude, I’m slightly terrified of my new friend.
A dance jam comes on and this Irishman is pumped, he starts singing along. He then goes into a dance move that is hands down the best I’ve seen in maybe a decade. He drops right down to his ass on the bowling alley floor and then starts pretending he has a paddle and is canoeing across the floor, butt shifting forward perfectly in rhythm. Now he’s going backwards using both arms with imaginary paddles like a rowboat. Oh forward again! And the distance he’s covering is impressive. He’s scooting crazy fast across the floor and his butt pumps are all timed perfectly with the music. It looks fucking hilarious. This is definitely the cleanest the bowling alley floor has gotten this year.
These antics draw a crowd around and now there is a turnt up German in our midst and a gaggle of fresh geese for the boys to hit on. The German guy cuts right into how much he hates the Dutch. This seems odd, the Dutch? I’m trying to decipher if he’s doing a bad Austin Powers impression or really means it. He really means it, keeps going on about it. I’m just thinking hmmmm we’ve got two Dutch boys here and I like them infinitely more than you Negative Nancy, how about you just watch this rowboat display and stop talking to me.
While Murphy was trying to get out of chatting with that annoying German dude, I struck up a conversation with a seemingly-reasonable dude standing next to me; by seemingly-reasonable I mean he was visibly shocked and appalled at what was happening around him but also reveling in it. “Where ya from?” “Canada” “Yeah whereabouts?” “Nova Scotia” “No shit, whereabouts?” “Truro” “Fuck. Right. Off.” What are the chances of meeting someone from my old stomping grounds at 1 am in a Laotian bowling alley? He’s equally stunned. He introduces himself as Dan and we start having a Truro-off, exchanging landmarks, people, all that. He says he used to live near the Ben’s Bakery on Queen Street and I tell him I grew up out in Crowes Mills. I ask him “You aren’t just fucking with me are you?” “How would I know about the Ben’s Bakery on Queen Street if I wasn’t from Truro?” “Okay good point.” “You aren’t fucking with me are you?” “How would I know about Crowes Mills if I wasn’t from Truro?” With that all settled we shot the shit for a good ten minutes talking about where we’d been and where we were going before he was on his way out to grab a tuk-tuk.
Someone arrives on a scooter and leaves a helmet on the table. Bad idea pal. A split second afterwards Rueben is wearing it and MacKay and I have his arms and legs. We’re running for the lane with the intention of throwing Rueben directly into the pins. The scooter owner sees us as we’re making for the lane and runs over to stop us. Fine fine. We drop Rueben and give back the helmet. A moment later he’s got it back on and is tossing balls down the lane.
The whiskey and beers have caught up to the boys and it’s bad decision time all around. Robbie, who has the stature of a willow tree, for some reason decides to tango with the dangerously ramped Irishman. This quickly results in a suplex that almost knocks Robbie out cold, and he is now bleeding from a gash on his foot.
Meanwhile, Ferique is feeling the effects of the cheap Lao whiskey and has his head on the table. He’s harfing straight down onto his leg and it is then sliding into a bucket under the table. Poor guy. Pedro is trying to help him out while also doing double duty as a pickup artist on the Dutch girl. Max and Rueben continue to entertain ladies with ridiculous bowling antics.
The scene is devolving quickly. This most likely happens every night here, it’s crazy. In one final display of asinine debauchery, the Irishman is trying to convince us to participate in a feat of strength. In unison, we will each try to hit the ceiling with our bowling balls. This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen so MacKay and I gracefully bow out. This doesn’t deter this crazy bastard though and he launches his ball with all his might in a parabola arc that comes just shy of the ceiling. The heavy bowling ball comes crashing down loudly into the gutter of one of the lanes and absolutely shatters the clay housing in an explosion of gutter shards. Purple lipstick guy rushes over and is absolutely beside himself. Hands in the air flabbergasted, he is on his hands and knees trying to piece the carnage back together while cursing the hysterically laughing Irishman.
I’m not sure if this was the last straw or if it was legitimately closing time, but the lights flicker and come full on and there is a mass exodus of rowdy drunks back out to the tuk tuks in the parking lot. We gather our whiskey-blasted crew and stagger up into a tuk tuk on a heading back to Mano Temple House.