Reflections and stories on six months of life, culture, food and friendship in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Apocalypse Now!

It's not what you think! It's a gay club, not a war movie. Well, not entirely gay, maybe 3/4 and it depends on where you are standing in the club. It looked and sounded like any North American club, except for the 95% Viet crowd and the very stern looking green uniformed cops posted around the club.

I had a blast! By law all clubs are supposed to close at midnight, but I guess the club has "connections" so the music winds down around 1 (yeah, okay so it's not Fly). I'm starting to notice a strange trend though: like any scene it has its cliques, but these groups tend to be keep entirely apart. The guys recognize each other and may even know a lot about each other (through gossip?), but there is little mixing. I know guys in two different circles, and when I tried to introduce them, I was told "It's really not necessary." It's as if people are scared to have too many gay connections; it's like an allergy to community.

The after-hours scene seems to be pho bo at the night market. The streets at 1am are devoid of activity, but when Apo (as it's called for short) lets out, an gay armada of motorbikes sweeps the streets - about 40 motos travelling as a clump towards the city centre, bikes gradually peeling off. Eventually a small group of us arrived at the Dong Xuan Market in the Old Quarter, established ourselves on little plastic stools and ordered beef noodle soup. I'm totally into this and would like to suggest 60 cent bowls of pho be served on little squat benches at Timothy's after the clubs let out in TO. Unfortunately late night rice noodles might not go over on carb-phobic Church St.

It looks like I'm back to food, so while I'm at it let me describe a late breakfast (brunch?) I had with Viet this morning. The Globe and Mail just came out with an article (which I should link to from my main blog page) about Hanoi cuisine. It was called something like "Down the rabbit hole of Hanoi cuisine". Well, it truly feels like a kind of secret world sometimes. The rabbit hole this morning was a den of sidestreets and alleyways which Viet squeezed his bike down with me on the back to this tiny room packed with locals eating bun oc (snail noodle soup). Damn! 50 or 60 cents for this delicious bowl of slightly sour broth with herbs, round rice noodles, a few tomatoes and these little delicate snails of varying sizes. It's got to be about a 5 min. walk from here, but I can't imagine I'd ever find it again.

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Anonymous Jeff said...

Hi Mark.

Wonderful stories. By the way, it's 11 PM in Vancouver right now, and I'm craving a bowl of noodles--thanks to all your talk about phood, phood and more phood :-)

Will check-in regularly. In the meantime, keep on bloggin'!

2:06 AM

Anonymous Kyle said...

Wow, never knew the clubbing scene is so developed in hanoi! Very interesting. Sounds like it was a blend of P-town (in terms of timing/scheduling and to do's - ie. clubs close at 2 in P-town and then people move over to Spirits for Pizza and sit around the block...I wonder if they have tea-dances, hehe), and college town Ann Arbor. Haha, that may sound bizarre, but Ann Arbor was a truly diverse college town with people from all over the world. It's funny because even w/in the Asian communities, there were sub-communities. We learned the hard way that Koreans for example, are EXTREMELY close-knit, and if you are dating one of them, you might as well be dating all of them as they not only know each other by name/face, but also all the details around you. I wonder if the Vietnamese people are the same way.

Sounds like an evently weekend :) I meant to ask, how's the weather? Is it hot and humid or is it like Spring here, hotter?

1:21 PM

Blogger Preya said...

Oh, that's so sad. Apocalypse Now used to rock back in 90's when I lived in Hanoi. There were never any cops and it would stay open until...well whenever people left, 4 in morning usually. It was THE expat hangout, and there weren't that many gays (not that that's bad!). I guess they're serious about cracking down on "social vices" this time around.

8:54 PM


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