A game of pool, a famous dog, and the city of Hoi An.

           Callum took a bus from Da Nang to Hoi An a day before Marco and I left for the same city by motorcycle. It’s only a 30 minute ride, but we waited a day, hoping that the rain would let up. It didn’t.

            On the way out of Da Nang, we stopped to pick up Marco’s visa extension, and then made our way to an electronics store where I could score a small external hard drive. My computer was beginning to run out of memory due to the drone, GoPro, and Nikon footage I’ve been taking. My credit card was rejected (!!!???) for some reason. I knew this was going to be a bigger problem that I would have to deal with later, but Marco covered the cost, and we set out on the road in the rain, again, to Hoi An.

            I don’t know how, but somehow, within that 30 – 40 minute ride, we managed to get more soaked than when we drove through the roaring typhoon. The negative effects of the rain were off-set by my new crowd-sourced playlist. It is by far the most diverse playlist I have ever put together. Major props to everyone that participated on Facebook and to those that decided to subscribe to it!

            We made it to our hostel without a hitch. It’s called “Paddy’s Hostel” in Hoi An. At first, I was a tad upset because the only beds available were $9 per night. But, the girl behind the front desk gave us a deal for $8 and said we could move to the $6-a-night room the next night. The expense includes free beer once a night, free breakfast, pool access, and some of the nicest bathrooms I have come across at any of the hostels I have visited.

            The manager of Paddy’s is Moon. She is the sweetest lady. Always smiling about everything. She definitely brightens up my day every time I see her. But… there is another star of this show.

            Polly. Polly is the mascot of Paddy’s and she is quite the celebrity. She is half English Bulldog, and half Cocker Spaniel. As one could imagine, this combination of genes has produced a dog with very interesting characteristics. I thought there was a little Bloodhound in there at first, but I was told that isn’t the case. She has the body-type of an English Bulldog when it comes to the legs, extra skin, and thickness, but she is a little longer. Her head is a mix between the two. The under-bite is pronounced and her tongue is always out. If you don’t fall in love with Polly, you may have severe issues.

            Polly may jump into your lap while you’re sitting on the couch, but she’ll scram if you try to pick her up. And there’s a reason for that. She was once kidnapped, along with her mother, and held for ransom. Her mother was never found.

            Our first night here, we didn’t go out. I entered into a pool tournament with Callum and Marco at our hostel for a small pot and a bottle of rum. Marco turned out to be the only person in the tournament that gave me a run for my money, but this isn’t what this story is about.

             When I was playing Marco, a couple of Aussies decided it was their privilege to interrupt the game by sitting on the table and posing for a picture with the “Jameson” logo painted on the wall behind the table. I know I was probably more upset about this than I should have been, but I am extremely competitive, and it’s very easy to wait until after the game for you to take your picture because you “really love Jameson.”

             After noticing that I was a little ticked, the girlfriend decided to come and put me in my place. Before I go on, you need to realize that I’m 2 beers and 2 shots in. Whatever this girl has to say to me is about to get disassembled like an angry 2 year old next to a jenga tower.

             “Are you upset?”

             “A little. That was kind of rude to interrupt our game.”

             She gets this cheeky grin. She was pretty, so I guess she’s used to getting away with being a bitch. I don’t know exactly what she’s going to say, but I know she probably thinks it’s “well thought out” and “quite a witty remark”.

             “Well, baby. You’re in a hostel. We’re in close quarters and you just need to learn to deal with it.”

              “So, if I’m in a hostel, I can omit my patience and be rude to people? They could have easily waited until we were done. Jameson is literally painted on the wall. It’s not going anywhere. You’re wrong and shut up.” She did.

              When I got to the finals, I played the guy who’s friends interrupted the game with Marco to take their picture on the pool table. He had a conversation with the rude girl before we started the game. There was obvious tension in the air, and he might be the biggest asshole I have ever played in a game of pool. After I asked Marco to get his friend away from the table because he was interrupting me while shooting, my opponent (we’ll call him Man-Purse, because he had one to match his man bun) decided to try and verbally interrupt me while I would take my shots.

              About the third time I shot and he interrupted me, I had to say something. I brought him to the side.

              Calmly, I said, “I know what you’re doing, and I would really appreciate it if you would stop.”

              “What are you talking about, mate?” he responded with a cheeky poopoo-chomping grin.

               “You’re trying to talk to me right before I take every shot.”

               “I don’t know what you’re tal-”
               “Yes you do.”

                He laughed it off in my face.

                “Look. If there is money on the line of a pool game, I treat it like a gentleman’s game. I give you the respect of staying quiet and free of detractions while you shoot. It’s a respect thing. What you’re doing is rude and childish. I’m above that. Are you telling me that you are below that?” as I gestured different levels with my hand.

                “Yes.”

                “Noted.”

The insults began to fly in my direction a lot more after that conversation. I kept my mouth shut for a while, but I noticed something. The more I fumed, the better my shooting was. I was now shooting with a chip on my shoulder. When he called me a pussy, I decided to start playing his game. It worked a little, but I didn’t do it every time he lined up to shoot.

I won the first game, with him leaving a ball on the table.

He racked the balls again like a smart-ass. The only ball with correct placement was the 8-ball.

By this time, a couple of people have told me they really need me to beat this guy to shut him up. A small crowd of 4 or 5 has made their way to the pool table to watch the drama unfold.

I broke and didn’t sink a ball. His shot. He pocketed one ball to decide that he is solids. After a miss, I found a bit of a groove.

We traded blows like a couple of prize-fighting amateur boxers, but it only lasted for a bit. I lined up behind the cue ball. The cue stick became an extension of my body. The rear thickness of the cue was welded into my hand despite my chosen handicap of the short stick. The mid section pressed against my ribs while the front half grazed my chin. My left hand formed a bridge for the tip to rest on softly but firmly. It formed a perfectly straight trajectory that my eyes could not mistake.

Man-Purse continued with his verbal mind games that got worse and worse, which did nothing but fuel my fire. I started to dismantle the Aussie like a childhood Erector Set. Deliberately. Decisively. This was my game. I dropped 3 balls with authority.

 Then the game changed a bit. When he was backed into the ropes, his immature banter gave way to a bit of silence. I missed the 4th. Boom. Man-Purse sinks one. Boom. Another one.

“GABRIEEEEEELLLLLLL,” he antagonized in his light Australian accent just as he did every time he sank a ball during the first game. A third ball falls into a pocket. The clack of it hitting a previously sunk ball echoed with a sourness that made half of the now larger crowd gag. “GABRIEEEEEELLLLLLL,” he beckoned again, laughing like a drunken adolescent. He became overconfident. He missed.

I get to the 8-ball. All I have to do is call my pocket and sink it. I missed. He has 3 balls left. He scratches. Controversy ensues.

The rules here differ from the US. I wont explain all of them, but I’ll cover one. If your opponent fouls, you get 2 shots. If you sink a ball on your first retort from being given 2 shots off of a foul, your second shot doesn’t carry over.

He argued that I only get one shot on the 8 because it’s the last ball. We referred to the manager to squash this disagreement, and I got my second shot (pssst- that means I was right ;) ). I missed again because of the amount of real-estate between the cue ball, the 8-ball, and the uneven table. But, I did put the ball into a good position.

He had 2 balls remaining between him and his first attempt on the black ball. Seconds felt like minutes. He lined up behind the cue with the cockiness of Floyd Mayweather stepping into a battered women’s shelter. But that would not equate to skill. He missed.

I knew that the cue ball would remain on the south end of the table while he shot at his solids, which is exactly why I moved the 8-ball to the north end on my previous shot. I had put it just off center of the corner pocket, but well within my range of confidence if he misjudged his shot speed. He did just that.

Marco gave me a few words of encouragement as Man-purse fired some low blows. “I cunt understand your English mate. You talk funny,” I heard him say.

“Hey, don’t let him get to you”, said Marco. “He’s only trying to piss you off. You’ve got this. Sink it and let’s drink some fucking rum.”

“Nah, homie. I realize that I shoot way better when she has me steaming mad,” I said just loud enough for Man-Purse to hear. I lined up with my non-traditional low profile form after calling my pocket. Man-Purse opened his mouth one last time with an insult that fell on deaf ears (Sorry Callum, I’m not talking about you). I made contact right in the middle of Man-Purse’s scorn. Eight ball, corner pocket. Game. Set. Match.

The guy that really wanted me to win (Justin) was as excited as I was. He grabbed the bucket of Vietnamese Dong (their currency) and dumped it on my head.

I got the money and we got the rum, despite his best efforts and exposing his lack of self-respect. I won.

USA – 1, AUS – 0 (Aussies are still some of my favorite people in the world even though this guy was a crappy ambassador of other backpackers from his country).

Due to his lack of sportsmanship, I chose not to shake his hand unless he apologized for his insults. He never apologized, so I never shook his hand. There was no need for the things he said. We weren’t trying to sell tickets to a fight, and the pot was a whopping $8. He could go fuck himself while we reveled in our cheap rum which turned out to be absolutely delicious. I know it was cheap, but I have never in my life tasted rum with that flavor. Or maybe, it was just a little sweeter because the asshole lost.

Now, on to Hoi An. If you have saved money by not buying things in Vietnam up to this point, and you plan on continuing that trend, just don’t go to Hoi An. This city has some of the most recognized tailors and leatherworkers in the world. And it’s “cheap.” I say “cheap” because it’s relative. The cost is much cheaper than the cost it would be at home, but you’re still looking at dropping over $200 on a suit. But, it’s tailored to fit perfectly and they save your measurements for 5 years!

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You choose the material. You choose the style by pointing to pictures on Pinterest and Google. You tell them what you would like to change. You go back for fittings 3 times. And boom. You have a suit. A perfectly-fitting suit. I didn’t buy one, but Marco got 2 and Callum had some custom shirts made (his blog logo).

Obviously, the more you buy, the cheaper it is and it takes about 3 days.

I decided to buy a leather bag and send it home to a friend. I got the same service Marco and Callum received in the tailor shop. I picked the material and showed them the style I wanted, and a day later, it was done. Both businesses will ship the goods home.

The market is popping with vendors selling everything from veggies, fruits, and meat  to motorcycle parts and shoes. We made our was through the spice vendors. The aromas were intoxicating. So many smells. Is this what dogs go through when they’re running around smelling everything? Because, it’s great.

We found ourselves with the butchers shortly. So many good looking cuts in every direction. But, then we saw a lady cutting up her pieces on the floor. This wouldn’t have stopped us from buying from another vendor, but we didn’t have a kitchen at our disposal in Paddy’s Hostel.

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The fruit and vegetable vendors are whet you would expect. Unfortunately, the smell of the fish being sold on the other side of them hindered the excitement of my sense of smell.

The city has delicious food, and the hostel workers in Hanoi made sure I knew this.  I have had the best Banh Mi (pronounced Bahn Me, and it’s basically a Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette) I have ever had at a place named Banh Mi Queen. It has a 4.6 rating on google. We also visited the competition a few days later. A place called Banh Mi Phuong. It seems to be a bit busier, but that’s due to the fact that it was made famous by Anthony Bourdain. I’m telling you now that Banh Mi Queen is better, and that Anthony Bourdain missed out if he didn’t eat there

At Bale Well, another restaurant, I ate some things of which I forget the name. Pork skewers wrapped in greens, a spring roll, and an egg (small omelette-style) wrapped in a rice paper. And it came with a dipping sauce. Get. In. My. Belly.

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When we left Banh Mi Queen , we headed deeper into town and saw more hostels and your typical coffee shops. Then we saw it. It’s not the first or second time I’ve seen it, but it was the first time that I knew I was going to share it when I did see it. Dog meat.

I know the idea will gross some people out and upset many others, but this is the real world. This is planet Earth. It’s their culture. It’s not everywhere in Vietnam, but it exists in every city. You don’t have to eat it, but you will see it. I know this photo may offend some people, but I have decided to post it anyway. Despite your feelings, this is going to continue to happen. Don’t worry, though. This wasn’t someone’s pet. It was farmed.

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Nightlife here is less exciting than nightlife in Hanoi. I can’t compare it to Hue or Da Nang because I didn’t get into the nightlife there. I did make it out to a bar in Hoi An, though.

The bar was called “Tiger Tiger.” If you listed everything in the world that a human being could ever do throughout their entire lifespan, visiting ‘Tiger Tiger” needs to fall after “falling into slow-moving machinery and catching AIDs.” Don’t go there. The bathroom smells like someone vomited feces into your nose. The drinks are over-priced. Aaaaaand, you have to buy a drink to gain access to their dingy dance floor that smells like a dumpster fire behind an abortion clinic. Just don’t go.

The next night, we went to the older part of town and did some exploring sans bars and nightclubs.

We approached the river, which was overflowed when we arrived. Everything was lit up along the way. Lanterns hung between every building. One of the foot bridges was lit up and covered with tourists. The smell of the food from the street food and restaurants flowed into the street and enlightened the senses. The city was sprawling but not over-crowded.

Small cigar-shaped boats with points on both ends transported eager visitors up and down the river. The businesses across the water were alit with different colored lights while paper boats shaped like opened Chinese take-out boxes with designs cut into them floated by lazily. It was loud and quiet at the same time.

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The night market was great. You can walk around with a beer in your hand. The vendors are a little pushy, but the deals are great. I bought a handmade cognac leather wallet with a built-in money clip. Cost? $4.40. No brainer, right? I bought a few other gifts for friend at home and then we did some more exploring.

The last place we visited that night was next-level incredible. Rehahn Photography. Rehahn is one of the world’s most famous photographers. He works with all of the major brands. From National Geographic to the BBC. This man is a legend. His photos are in the Women’s Museum in Hanoi. They plaster the internet and the world’s most renowned photography magazines… and we were in his studio.

Occasionally, you can catch him at one of his two studios for an autograph. The saleslady at our stop, that was very helpful and informative, told us that he’s very friendly. Do yourself a favor and google this man.

I’ll be adding a small ad to certain areas of the site soon as well as an area to donate. I have considered blatantly asking for donations on social media to fund a visit to Son Doong, but I’ve decided against that. I plan on eventually having t-shirts for sale. That will be my revenue to fund my venture to the cave. I will, however, ask for you to click the ad whenever you see it. I only get a couple of pennies per click, but that might buy me a meal one day.

I’m going to enjoy my meal at Paddy’s now. Btw, the food here is the best I’ve had at any hostel so far. Have a wonderful week. I love all of you.

Current mood... OASiK - BROHKE

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