Sure, all signs indicate that Vietnamese police routinely beat and torture confessions out of suspects. But..then again…you know…
Saigon’s the kinda town where they let you feed the giraffes.
In the same vein, my job’s the kinda job that lets me take the odd giraffe break.
They weren’t all bad choices mom.
This summer, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole on a story about how good coffee got in Vietnam.
If you want to find out, quickly—get yourself to Workshop coffee at 27 Ngo Duc Ke and just order everything.
I have literally lost my mind in this place, which I treat as some bizarro-world opium den. I’ll come in and just spend my entire day loading up on wonderful Red Bourbon and Lao Typica and Indian Peaberry.
Some days, I seem to drink gallons of the stuff and disappear into what I have no doubt are the borderline stages of Caffeine-Induced Psychosis.
On Saturday, I celebrated the return of one Will Frith with a coffee bender that included a single-origin ristretto, an espresso, a cappuccino and what probably amounted to a liter and a half of assorted filter coffee (Kenya, Laos, Vietnam).
Here, Mr. Frith poured me an El Salvadoran bean roasted by some Singaporean muckity mucks. The names are all gone—along with most of the specific memories of the day.
I hope I never forget how goddamned good this cup tasted.
The words “plum,” “cloves” “vanilla bean” and “maple sweetness” were printed on the label.
But none of those really suffice to describe the flavor.
I think I’d have to slather my body in purple paint and roll around on a 10 x 10 canvas for a few hours. Then you might get it.
Going to the Ho Chi Minh City Starbucks is a lot like going on safari, except instead of exotic animals you see Uncle Ho’s wet fever nightmares.
This night began with my favorite drinking partner.
I can’t say his name, because he essentially came here to escape litigation.
His vicious alt-weekly was a terror in the capitol of one of the most horrendous pig-fuck states in the Union.
That may sound a little rough on the ear, but I chose the phrase because he once ran a photoshopped image of the governor fucking a pig as his cover.
Not surprisingly, he was run out of town by a series of libel and anti-defamation suits designed to bankrupt him.
When I met him, he was remotely publishing his paper with the help of a series of college interns while drinking his way through asia in the company of his lawyer.
A picture of him holding a scepter astride a water buffalo in the central highlands ran on the inside cover.
We met at Bia 2F—where I always sit at the same table to make sure the same heartbreakingly pretty waitress fills my glass with bia đỏ.
The rest of the night would have been forgotten, if not for pictures.
I burned my mouth at a late-night wonton cart on Ba Tháng Hai that I haven’t visited since I first moved to town. Her daughter has since learned to speak perfect English.
I munched some grilled rice paper with some rowdy revelers at Turtle Circle.
At various points I chatted with street sweepers, ice deliverymen, ditch diggers and yet another awesome owl.
I woke up crapulent as could be.
But, as we all know, nothing in this life is free.
While first-time visitors to Vietnam typically describe the place as “chaotic” or seemingly lawless—it is a country that’s as full of do’s and don’ts as any other.
Try getting anything done here without the requisite piece of paper and red stamp.
That said, Vietnam’s scofflaws have a certain dramatic flare for flouting pedestrian rules.
Check out homeboy, here, who hung his hammock on a sign enumerating the bylaws of the under-bridge zone and then built an inexplicable campfire in the balmy pre-dawn weather.
One person guessed he’s melting plastic off computer parts to sell the pricey metal inside
I’d like to think he’s just making himself comfortable.
*I’d like to add, as an addendum, that I arrived at this man driving the wrong way on a one-way street after getting off the bridge over the Lo Gom Canal. I take this illegal route all of the time…
Saigon isn’t a pretty city. Most of it, I guess, is downright ugly.
Somehow, when you can’t take it any more, these heartbreakingly beautiful crevices—these perfect little shafts of color and quiet that stick in your brain like a brilliantly written song—fall out of nowhere, like a ceiling collapsing on an international badminton competition.
Max at Fuzzy Logic had a kid and I was called in as a kind of pinch pinche to Colin’s Sunday brew.
Max was kind enough to stop in to write the hop schedule and make sure we didn’t set anything on fire.
That said, Colin directed a full day of grain grindin’, mash tunnin’, keg washin’, hop pitchin’ burger eatin’, hydromatin’ and straight up counter-flow chillin.
I went home vaguely drunk from equal parts exhaustion and uncarbonated beer.
Cá trứng (literally “egg fish”) or Capelins were once considered a luxury food in Vietnam.
The arctic plankton eaters once costed 75 cents a pop at Big Man Beer, Mrs. V says. Now you can get a frozen, pre-panko-battered box of ‘em for $1.50 at the supermarket.
Somehow, 80 percent of each Cá trứng is made up of tiny eggs that begin at their head and go all the way down to their tails.
They’re best eaten fried, wrapped in greens, and dunked in fish sauce.
"I bet they’d be good in a sandwich," Mrs. V said today at lunch.
"No they wouldn’t," Mr. V grumbled.
Yes they would.