Every Christmas should begin with a full body massage. The person massaging you should meet the following criteria. Cute, friendly and female. The massage should be no less than an hour. Warm body oil should be generously applied. Afterwards, you’ll be relaxed and ready for any adventure. That’s how my 2013 Christmas Day began. I got a one hour massage by a cute, friendly female.
Accompanying me on this adventure was my friend Stephan. Both of us are English teachers in Vinh City, Vietnam.
A Christmas meal was next on our agenda. What should we eat on Christmas Day in Vietnam? Sushi of course. Our meal began with edamame (a first for Stephan). Next was Japanese okonomiyaki. It’s like a Japanese pizza with fried egg instead of dough. It’s filled with tiny bits of seafood and scallions. It has a flaky crust, seaweed shavings, and a creamy sauce on top. What do you drink with your Christmas meal? Hot sake of course. We didn’t have to pour our sake once. Our waitress poured it with a smile every time.
Bia Hoi is a kind of draft beer that’s popular in Vietnam. The places that serve it are everywhere. You sit outside on a plastic chair and drink. We met Alex at a Bia Hoi place. He’s an English teacher too. An old woman was selling grilled chicken feet. She pointed to them with a big toothless grin. I decided to pass on trying one on Christmas day. Would you try one?
Coffee shops are everywhere too. Drinking Vietnamese coffee is like getting kicked in the teeth by a horse. It’s very strong and has a thick consistency. My friend Thuy invited us to drink coffee with her friends at Goong Coffee. We didn’t order any coffee. We ordered a B52. It’s a shot made with Kahlua, Irish Cream, and Cointreau that’s on fire. Women usually don’t drink (or smoke) in Vietnam. Thuy and her friend Mai broke that rule for Christmas. They both tried a fiery B52. The look on Thuy’s face was a mixture of surprise and disgust when she finished her shot. I think that will be her last B52.
People really like to sing here. Sometimes they sing with a karaoke machine, sometimes without. Caligo is a new bar with live music. Singers belt out Vietnamese love songs surrounded in smoke and neon. My friend Miao was there. She runs a pizza restaurant on Kim Dong Street. I was surprised when she got up on stage and sang. Even Stephan was asked to sing. He said the only way he’d do it was if he had the lyrics. A piece of paper magically appeared out of nowhere with the lyrics to Bèo Dạt Mây Trôi (a Vietnamese folk song). After everyone left the band still wanted to play. Stephan, Alex and I took turns singing. Alex and I sang a duo; “Imagine” by John Lennon. Stephan couldn’t resist signing another song; “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. All of us joined in and six drunken guys sang the song in drunken harmony.
The final stop was the outdoor night market. It’s where everyone goes after a long night of drinking. There are long metal tables where you sit side-by-side with your drunken neighbor. The food is a smörgåsbord of boiled chicken, spicy grilled meats, and corn on the cob. Drunken men in suits offer you shots of “wine” (homemade Vietnamese alcohol). Women want to take their picture with you. You never know who you’ll meet or what will happen at the night market.
To make friends with someone in Vietnam you must drink with them. You don’t just shake hands and say “nice to meet you”. You must finish your entire beer while your new friend finishes his. Everyone wanted to make friends with Stephan, Alex, and I. Every two minutes someone new would come over. You chug your beer, shake hands, smile, and voila! You’ve got a new friend. It felt like everyone at the night market wanted to be my new friend. My 2013 Christmas Day adventure ended with a full belly, a taxi ride home, and a spinning head.