Two Illegal border Crossings, A Wild Ride, and Crazy People

New Friends - Flat tire Repair Shop - Central Highlands, Vietnam

New Friends – Flat tire Repair Shop – Central Highlands, Vietnam

Crazy People:

Upon arrival at the shop, the family that was sitting out front eating dinner leaps up to help. One man grabs my bike, the others grab me and make me sit with them. Then out comes the whiskey.   Then someone runs next door and gets some beer and chips. Them momma, who’d disappeared a minute ago, returns with some kind of freshly made spring rolls. I am fed and drank to contentment.

The bike is done in ten minutes and the man doing the repairs now wants a drink. I can’t leave until I drink with him too. Then the town drunk shows up……barely able to stand drunk. He sits next to me and talks rapid fire to me, completely unaware of my lack of understanding. So, like with the immigration official earlier today, I talk back to him in rapid-fire English. I laugh at myself, make wild gestures, and discuss topics like politics, global warming, and my favorite cartoons as a kid….literally anything I could think of to keep me rambling at top speed.  The more I talked, the less he did.

Town Drunk at Tire Repair Shop

Town Drunk at Tire Repair Shop

Everyone is laughing at me, and telling me that the down drunk is, in fact, crazy. I’m getting creeped out by this guy. The family is warm and friendly, but this dude is unpredictable. So I decide to leave. I pay 50,000 Dong ($2.50US) for the repairs and hit the road. The little bit of food, the whiskey and beer have all conspired to make me hungry.  I’ll have to find some food somewhere.

In what passes for a town, really just a collections of businesses/homes at a junction of two roads, I cannot find the purported hotel. I drive back and forth a couple times. Each time through the intersection, I am yelled at and waved over by a group of men sitting in front of a hardware store drinking beers and eating. I wave hello and keep on going. It’s all too common for a foreigner to be yelled at and beckoned. You get used to it quickly and it loses it’s appeal somewhat.

Hai, Viet, Hoi, Nam, Linh, and "you know" at Hardware Store

Hai, Viet, Hoi, Nam, Linh, and “you know” at Hardware Store

But after trip number four through town, I decide to go over to them and ask directions. “Khach san,” I ask? “No hotel,” one says to me. “Come drink beer.” Ok. So I sit and drink beer and am fed some of what they are eating, which turns out to be spicy chicken livers and hearts in a hot pot. It’s really good as is the beer. Then out comes the whiskey.

Boiled Chicken Parts at the Hardware Store Impromptu Dinner

Boiled Chicken Parts at the Hardware Store Impromptu Dinner

One of the guys leaves and goes to the right. Another leaves and goes to the left. They return with some boiled chicken parts, a BBQ, and some pork and rice. They want to make a meal for me. I’m not going anywhere at this point, it would be impossible and too rude. They bought all this food (and more beer) for me. And won’t accept any money or allow me to buy anything.

BBQ Pork Dinner Made Especially for the Foreigner

BBQ Pork Dinner Made Especially for the Foreigner

I’ve had this experience several times before. Sometimes it is true-hearted, good-nature. Sometimes it’s to practice their English skills. And sometimes it is simply because it makes them cool to have a western friend. This is a sincere effort. The boys (Hai – shop owner, Hoi, Nam, Minh, ‘You Know’, and Ling – father ) are all family. One speaks a very little English, the rest none.  So one gets his computer and we communicate through The Google Translate. It’s awkward, but provides a lot of laughs.

Stoking the Coals with an Air Compressor

Stoking the Coals with an Air Compressor

The BBQ coals are stoked with an air compressor – one of the advantages of barbecuing in a hardware store, I suppose. The whiskey continues to flow. And I have a fresh beer in front of me before I’ve drank more than half of the last.

The food is great. Hoi and Linh take turns cooking the pork. They’ve also brought various condiments including pickled roots, chilies, cilantro, spring onions, and others. Linh, apparently displeased with the way I am eating, takes control of my spoon and hand-makes each bite for me…..the perfect combination of rice, meat, and condiments each time.

Linh Handmade Each Bite for Me with the Perfect Mix of Tastes

Linh Handmade Each Bite for Me with the Perfect Mix of Tastes

When I indicate I’ve had enough, the others eat what’s left. They’ve patiently been only picking at the food on the sidelines until I am full. And I am full. Full of really good food. I ask again, where is a hotel. No hotel. But……..

Bed Clothes in my "Hotel"

Bed Clothes in my “Hotel”

They take me to a house not far away that occasionally has guests from what I can discern. I take my bags to a room that is clearly the room of one of the family children.   Great, now I’ve displaced a kid. Oh well, I’m good and drunk and need to sleep

Drinks with the Family at the "Hotel"

Drinks with the Family at the “Hotel”

But I can’t sleep, because the family (and two of the hardware store boys) demand I come downstairs and drink beer with them. Thankfully there was no whiskey at this stop. I have two and excuse myself for a well-deserved sleep.

It has been an incredible day full of bad roads, borders, and booze.

And I am as dusty as i’ve been in years.  I’ll be cleaning dirt out of my ears for months.images

The Central Highlands.