Nestled in the chaos of Bangkok literally lies Wat Pho or in English, the reclining Buddha. Surrounding his temple resides hundreds of Buddhas, causing the perplexed tourist to become numb to the sacred gleam of these golden beacons. Will the real Buddha please stand up? I believe he will remain reclining.
In the Grand Palace of Thai Royalty, dress code applies. Hence the German tourists whose chunky thighs blubber bare in the humid atmosphere, elaborate pants are enforced to cage the overexposed portions of meaty flesh. Serenity and sacredness clash with the gawking of bewildered westerners in such a venerated place.
When wading through the mire of less than genuine human characters, fate can introduce you to the purest of souls. Meet Mr. and Mrs. Lòi. These kind, caring and hardworking optimists, forgo the common practice of the skin tax, and set an equal price for both local Vietnamese and foreigners. Their open, honest, and diligent demeanor have made them the best kept secret of the expatriates of Da Nang.
With nimble fingers and the dexterity of a practiced surgeon, Mr. and Mrs. Loi transform ordinary pieces of cloth into well-fitted elegant attire. Interested in the backstory behind a couple who have graciously gifted me with being their first customer of the Lunar New Year, I sought answers for the process that resulted in the composition of two such amazing human beings.
A brilliant student, Mr. Lòi, became a teacher, an offshore oilrig engineer, a tailor, and a husband. After graduating university with a degree in mechanical engineering, education became the business of our tailor. Insignificant pay eventually resulted in a strange journey to the dark waters of the North Sea–an offshore oilrig had beckoned his name. Nine months in freezing weather and a diet of flavorless salmon had Mr. Lòi clamoring to get back to the beautiful, and most definitely, flavorful Vietnam.
Becoming an apprentice to his tailor uncle, Mr. Lòi took two years to master the needle and thread. Following his apprenticeship, Mr. Lòi transitioned to Da Nang, where he and his brother ran a tailor shop. Eventually they parted ways, and our man of many talents opened his first solo business. It was here were he gained not only a new apprentice but partner for life. Enter Mrs. Lòi, two kids, and an amazing business.
Nowadays, Mr. and Mrs. Lòi can be seen producing beautiful garments that support his daughter’s recently achieved dream of gaining a philosopher’s doctorate in chemistry at the University of Texas A and M.
If you’re ever in Da Nang, and you need clothes, or perhaps a renewed faith in the kindness of humanity, stop by 39 Tran Cao Van Street.
In the old town of Zurich lies the most fantastic chocolate shop–Schober’s. A perfect example of Europe’s traditional motto of “more is more,” the sumptuous smell as well as tantalizing displays of Schober’s would cause Willy Wonka himself to render an early death in his chocolate river. A true landmark, Schober’s is my personal fat kid haven.
Since being in Vietnam I have had the pleasure of meeting the most interesting people; people that I would have never been exposed to, and consequently people I never would have become friends with. On my weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh, the expats of Vietnam decided to congregrate for the ultimate Christmas party. These people, beautiful, successful, individual characters, have the biggest hearts and the biggest appetite for a good party. Merry Christmas!
Perhaps one of the most wonderful and interesting meetings of my journey so far-meet the Berliners Ms. Hannah and Ms. Sofia. A chance encounter on the streets of Da Nang resulted in the elusive hunt for a Vietnamese hipster bar. However, a thirst for alcohol led us to the very incongruous with Da Nang nightlife, chic Luna Pub.
Vodka infused coconut cream, mojitos, and caipirinhas brought forth a wonderful night of tales, both tall and short. It went a little something like this…
Ms. Hannah and Ms. Sofia are both beautiful young free spirited non-traditionalists, pursuing careers in philosophy, journalism and art (the most difficult, yet most rewarding of careers). Being the paradigm of beauty and youth in Vietnam, Hannah and Sofia have encountered their fair share of run-ins, including unwanted advances on Sofia’s butt while receiving a massage. There seems to be an overabundance of complete body massages in Vietnam. Someone should monitor this. Regardless, out of such rugged experiences, the alter egos Max and Marvin were born.
Max and Marvin are cigarette smoking bad asses, capable of pessimism and optimism simultaneously. They take a flat white and a cigarette for breakfast after a rough night of sex….with four or five women. When not surpassing Freud in philosophical thought, Max and Marvin can be seen battling cockroaches, petting dolphins, and drinking copious amounts of alcohol in Southeast Asia.
However, both Max and Marvin met their most ferocious experience in Hanoi. Max and Marvin began a night sitting in a traditional Vietnamese restaurant. Thanks to an overly infatuated bartender, the two young travelers became quickly intoxicated from complimentary local rice wine.
As we all know, when we drink, we get hungry. Hence Max and Marvin order some food. Local dishes from the region were brought out. Typical of Vietnam, the dish was flavorful yet harbored the usual mystery meat. Is it chicken? It is beef? Is it goat? Just eat. Satiated, Max and Marvin pay a rather expensive bill and return to their hotel in a drunken stupor and sleep.
The following morning, in a haze of unusual nausea, Max and Marvin take their flat white and cigarette, pack their bags and venture through the neighborhood they had debased the night before.
HOLY SHIT! There are dog heads everywhere. AND HOLY FUCK! “We fucking ate dog meat last night.” Vomit and three days of no eating ensues.
The months of November and December generally are considered the rainy season, but with the advent of the apocalypse, Lady Buddha has decided to grace us with weather that is unreal. I find it interesting that the majority of the planet has no concern for the trivial notion of 2012 that clearly has been overindulged by the general population as a result of Hollywood magic.