Jameelah and I got to Vietnam this morning after an uneventful flight with just a little turbulence. Really, the most remarkable thing that happened was the announcer, a lovely woman who interchanged her l’s and r’s. “Thank you for frying with EVA,” she said. “We hope you had a good fright.”
But wait, there was also “Tofu Boy—one of the movies we watched—an animated Japanese story about a little tofu monster who is simple and softhearted. He wears a giant hat and carries a block of tofu on a tray everywhere. His father is disappointed and all the other monsters make fun of him for being weak and unscary. “When will you toughen up?” demands his father, the Three-Eyes Monster. “I am a tofu,” Tofu Boy laments, “I will always be soft…” He runs away and tries to find his long-lost mother. Meanwhile, there are evil trickster raccoons with huge balls trying to take over the world. Tofu Boy, fortunately, has help in the form of Master Darumba, a tiny accorn monster, and Kittty, a slutty “harlot cat” monster. I am not making any of this up. Jameelah and I were cracking up at how corny and wacky the entire film was. Yet, while it was dumb and corny, if you give it a chance, it was also pretty stupid.
But at the end, can’t we all relate to Tofu Boy’s plight? He is soft, never good enough for his father, and raccoons with giant testicles are trying to steal his tofu in their quest to take over the world. Who can’t relate to that? Certainly not me. Seriously, the movie is pretty stupid.
We got to Vietnam, checked into our hotel, and immediately went in search for vegan food. It is not nearly as hot as we were fearing, but very humid. We found a little hole in the wall, where we ordered two bowls of noodles, two spring rolls, a banana blossom salad, a glass of soymilk, a limeade, and an iced tea for $3.25 total. “We’re rich!” I thought, and we ate and drank a swath around the neighborhood. We chugged several cold young coconuts on the streets, which in the heat are like pure happiness distilled into liquid form.
We just came back from a “Latin” lounge. We passed by and saw it was advertising a live band and free tapas. Who’s playing, I asked the elegantly-dressed girl in front. A Cuban band, she said. How much for the cover, I asked. Nothing, she said, just buy drinks. I was walking in when she stopped me. Older brother, she said, one minor condition: you have to wear long pants. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, my standard vacation outfit. No worries, she said, we have pants you can borrow. She guided us to another well-dressed hostess, who gave me a pair of black Adidas jogging pants, which I slipped over my shorts.
Ok, several lessons. First, beware of any establishment where the staff are too attentive. We had the door opened for us by young people wearing Mardi Gras masks. Attractive women held a flashlight for us as we looked over the menu.
Second lesson, any place with a live band that doesn’t charge a cover will inflate their prices 500 percent. They had expensive stuff like Greygoose, at $10USD a shot, or $150 for the whole bottle. Pretty, well-dressed and attentive women all around. Jameelah and I had walked into a spoiled bachelor hangout. It was still early at 9:30 p.m., so there weren’t many people there. I ordered a Corona (nine dollars!) and a fruity cocktail. “Drink slow,” I whispered. They brought the free “tapas,” which was about 30 wasabi peas.
So there we were at a Latin club, sitting at a cocktail table, while the Vietnamese Cuban band’s lead singer sang a Spanish song in Chinese. They were not bad! In front of us, a Spaniard sat down with his local guy friend. Attractive women came over with a $300 bottle of Johnny Walker. When the band stopped and Bruno Mars’s “Lazy Song” came on, we knew it was time to leave. That is one of the dumbest songs ever written.
The waitress came over with a check. I gave her several bills. She came back with the change, which she showed me. I nodded, reached out to take it, and she said, “Thanks, older brother” and walked off with it! I wanted my change! The tip was already included in the bill! Argh, I was getting bitter at the whole place, with its nice decorations and friendly but manipulative staff.
At the counter outside, I took off my Adidas pants and gave them back. Overall, the 30 minutes inside shafted us … $20. Ok, that’s not horrible when put into perspective. But $20 can buy us five meals, or 2 hour-long massages. More importantly, no one likes feeling screwed over for any amount. Out of principle, I should have demanded my 3 dollars in change. Banks are closed on Sunday, so we only had so much borrowed cash left. Now I finally knew how Tofu Boy felt. The entire place was filled with evil raccoons.
But, we are on vacation, and there is so much adventuring left to do. We laughed the whole experience off and went in search of more food with the little cash we had left. “Look,” whispered Jameelah as we walked out. “What,” I asked. She opened her hands. Wasabi peas! She had taken all the wasabi peas as we left!
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