So after downing another fabulous mystery meat sandwich and a properly aged jelly cake, I landed safely in Hanoi, met my driver…

and checked into my hotel with the crazy ass view of Hoan Kiem Lake.

Fuck yes! I love this city.

And I’d tell you all the reasons why, but then of course you’d have to read them all.

So let’s do it this way… If you were looking for search terms to enter into my brain to extract an explanation, here are a few that might strike gold: bun cha, Xiao mian, pho ga, pho tai boo vien, pork ribs, steamed chicken with lemon grass, unidentifiable genius, doughnut, beefsteak, seafood, fruit, pastry, coffee, coffee street, deconstructed fruit smoothie street, gravestone street, silk street, lacquer street, ice cream parlor, analog electronics, makeshift business, street life, carbon monoxide, chaos, propaganda, ho chi minh, hoan kiem lake, cruising, $6 massage, $30 room, scooter fashion, scooter physics, elderly women thwart scooter thief, death ride, child vs. truck, French colonial, art of the hustle, honor, pride, resilience, resourcefulness, revenge, war, forgiveness, art copyists, construction, shirtless old dudes, elderly pickpockets, mystery streets, labyrinth alleyways, feral light, soul.

onward ho…

so as I let on before, I hit up the Hanoi Fine Art Museum which was impressive, not because the collection was housed in this gorgeous french colonial mansion that was built in the 30s for the daughters of French colonial rulers’ throughout Indochina who came to Hanoi to study

or that the art itself was necessarily groundbreaking or stunning, (some of it was of course) but because most of it, aside from this nazi Buddha

this rural business

and “this guy”

was just dolled up war propaganda. Peasant farmers and guns. Flowers and guns. Babies and guns. Uncle Ho beaming knowledge with wise eyes into the minds of possessed, frolicking children… and guns.

Much of the “modern art” collection, in fact, is dedicated to the revolution, the Vietnam war, random battles that I’ve never even heard of, or of Uncle Ho himself. And I would’ve taken more photos, but I was escorted a female security guard throughout the museum after getting busted by the electric eye snapping (non-flash) shots of this piece…

The remainder of the “modern art” collection isn’t very modern at all. In fact, every 20th century art movement appears 20 to 50 years behind its western equivalent. For Vietnamese artists, cutoff from the influence of the western art world, cubism appears to have started in the 70’s, abstract expressionism and surrealism in the 80’s, and so on.

What’s even weirder are the Vietnamese artists who chose to build an entire career on biting a legendary western artist’s style. Looking across the gallery, I swore I’d spotted a blue period Picasso, but upon closer inspection found that some Vietnamese dude had actually painted it. There was an early Magritte, an imposter Klee, all doing original stuff, but painting it in somebody else’s style decades later.


In the afternoon i dropped through a wormhole to the innocence of the 50’s and landed in this the very Lynchian ice cream shop.

The streets here are a tangle of tires and flesh. Thin bodies darting between whizzing scooters, and street vendors hawking anything and everything you could ever want. Like fake art…


killer vintage analog stereo gear

Hanoi, Vietnam // “Musics Before” from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

strange beasts dropped from the bellies of alien space ships

Scooters or mannequins or ladders

the best food on the planet

and other stuff (when somebody’s awake to sell it to you)

This dude was posted outside my first hotel. Didn’t see a press pass, but I’m pretty sure he’s still shooting a war, maybe not “the war,” but some war.

Rented a scooter and headed over to Hoa Lo Prison aka “Maison Centrale” aka “Fiery Furnace” aka “Hell’s Hole” aka “Stove” aka “The Hanoi Hilton.” Unlike the scooter thief who attempted to steal my rental while I was showing off my ball stash money belt over a bowl of pho to a professional pickpocket, the ones stationed outside the prison were nice enough to tell me they’d snatch my shit if I didn’t park it inside the gates. So I did, right here, in the scooter parking hall of the prison.

Inside, you can see models of actual cells where, during the 30s and 40s, many of the future leading figures in Communist North Vietnam were imprisoned,

tortured with bottles and electrical generators, beaten with canes,

and killed by the french.

Conditions were so bad at Hoa Lo in fact that 100 of them somehow escaped down this sewer in the prison yard between March 11 and March 16, 1945.

I was starting to feel bad for them until I saw that the prison bathrooms were actually nicer than those at my regular coffee spot

You can also see how, in the very same prison, American imperialist invader prisoners of war, including the bitter and crazed failed John Mccain (flight suit picture here)

were treated like visitors to Club Med.

Here they played chess, volleyball, basketball, pool and guitar

and provided only the absolute best medical care the North Vietnamese Army had to offer.

Ho Chi Minh even sent them a handmade New Year’s card!

Don’t believe me? Just read the sign. It’s in a museum, so it must be true.

After my visit to hell on earth, I took a stroll through the gift shop where I found a wide variety of collectible items for sale, including creepy buddhas and “Good Morning Vietnam” beer cozies.

The Hanoi nights are magical. Just take a look for yourself…

So as I did in Hong Kong, and in my casket bunk on the Chinese train, I set up a portastudio on the roof of the City Cafe, channeled Aaron Miller and the Gods of thunder and war and composed some new jams for NIGHTSlikeKNIVES which you will soon hear…

Back at my room, though it was comfortable enough (for $30 a night)…

sleep did not come easy. This is the construction crew that kept me awake as they poured cement and drilled rebar into my bedroom wall all night for four fucking nights straight.

No, like into my bedroom wall, for serious…

Every night (b/c it’s hotter than a motherfucker during the day) at 10 or 11pm they’d begin their assault, and drill and smash and bang and chisel directly into my brain until morning. And every morning, I’d come down with bloodshot eyes, politely interrogate my hotel manager (the Vietnamese one with the fake French accent. huh?) as to when the construction would stop. And everyday he would lie to me.

He’d dissuade me from checking out and say something like “no, not tonight. Tonight it quiet” or “They stop early.” So knowing Katie was checking in and we were checking out shortly after that, I powered through and went to check out the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra at the Hanoi Opera house…

This wicked violist played straight up Yngwie Malmsteen shit while the ancient gin-nose Brit conductor whipped up a flurry of classical delights…

Hanoi, Vietnam // National Symphony Orchestra from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

The sounds were inspiring to say this least. This dude even did some calisthenics during intermission.

I’ve actually been obsessed with static furniture and moving bodies lately…

But I’m not sure why you’d care.

Morning started with a cup of Joe at my usual place.

My peeps asked where I was going and when I told them to see Uncle Ho and they replied “gangsta!”

I dropped “Al Capone.” They rolled “Lucky Luciano,” and let me know in broken English that they thought Uncle Ho nothing more than a corrupt piece of shit.

As in most countries led by charismatic cult figures, it seems the least educated with the most to gain (though they rarely do once their hallowed leader takes power) are the most apt to believe the hype, while the educated city folk with decent lives going into said revolution, tend to lose the most, including (in many cases) their lives.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to the weirdness and my expectations were gladly met.

We arrived just moments before they closed for the day and locked us into the mausoleum grounds.

Old farmer ladies pushed their way towards the front of the line like cougars at a Josh Groban concert as soldiers herded us into a single file line full of believers, tourists and weirdos. We were relieved of our cameras and I watched as a young Vietnamese soldier abruptly silenced some guy’s three-year old son and jerked him into line by the arm as we headed inside.

Now that’s some shit that would never happen in America. Can you imagine if some random rookie soldier at the Lincoln Memorial manhandled some vacationing Pennsylvania Millworker’s son and told him to shut his trap? All hell would break loose. There’d be a fracas. The press would pounce. There’d be lawsuits. It would never happen.

Apparently Uncle Ho’s wishes were to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered around Vietnam, but thankfully the agenda of the party outweighed that of it’s leader and so I had the morbid luck of being able to stroll into the dark, marble, air conditioned chamber past a four count of rifle-armed, statue-still soldiers to check out the psychopathic revolutionary legend who’s been col’ chilling in a glass box for forty fucking years! How awesome is that?!

Dude looked like a porcelain figurine, smooth, white, like one of those Hummel collectibles gathering dust in your grandmother’s China cabinet. Would be pretty cool to have a set of communist leader porcelain collectibles actually…

But even cooler to have Uncle Ho himself standing guard at the entry of your house, like a gargoyle or something, or in the corner of your rec room next to the pool table. What a conversation piece that would be…

“Oh, Bill, I just looooove what you’ve done with the basement. What’s that in the corner?”

“Oh, just Ho Chi Minh?”


“You betcha.”

“Where’d ya get him?”

“Auction at Christies.”


“Stalin’s coming next week along with a case of ‘53 Clos de Vougeot.”

After checking out the corpse, we headed over to the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

The first floor was standard shit, a big Ho statue, war propaganda, archival photos, Ho’s wax collection…

but upstairs looked like it was set-designed by a member of some fringe communist contingent of Cirque de Soleil.

There was this red tent room

and another dedicated to Guernica, or modern art, or the modern artists he was into or something.

And then there was this crazy ass installation that was supposed to be Coc Bo Cave aka President Ho Chi Minh’s revolution headquarters “presented in the form of a human brain.” WTF?

The guards started shutting the museum down (with us inside) before I could get a handle on what the fuck they were actually trying to say with the whole mess. And “weird” as a word is generally a cop out, but I’m feeling fairly typical today, so let’s just say floor number two was just plain fucking weird.

Outside we saw a real life character from Aeon Flux (though I thought that was Korean American thing)

We shopped for Caucasian Barbie dolls at the gift shop…

and picked up some frozen novelty treats.

Frozen novelty treats. They’re everywhere. The Vietnamese gather on the street to eat them. In crowds to savor and lick them. The whole thing’s very 1981. The yogurt place is dead, but who wants yogurt when there’s no chance of you getting fat.

Only saw one American-style, super-size girl in all of Hanoi, on a scooter no less, and was mesmerized, like “how did that happen?” not b/c I’m plumpphobic, but just b/c she was like a fucking unicorn or something in a country that weighs an average of a buck twenty soaking wet.


After downing my creamy pistachio or coconut somethingother I was mobbed by teenage girls.

No, really. I was full on mobbed “Twilight” style.

Here’s Katie trying to act like she’s not totally jealous of the rowdy group of Vietnamese teens’ incredible interest in me. (But why shouldn’t she be?)

Look at them! Dazed by my luminous presence. (Is it me or does the one on the right look like she’s about to faint?!)

Maybe I should start a religion? Or a revolution of my own? Maybe I should be president? Or king of the fucking world?! Who knows…

Hanoi // Kostrzak Mobbed by Teenage Girls at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

Whatever the case, it was obvious to me that I would have to start some shit in a big way to take power of whatever, so I went to the Military History Museum to do some research where I saw some guns

a movie about how violent and generally fucked up America was during the Vietnam war

this iron bowl that “army hero” Chu Van Mui drank his own urine out of so he could “refresh himself” and “keep on fighting.”

and a stone some gun-deficient soldier captured an American imperialist invader with.

Outside I met some future recruits…

Does this feel kind of pervy to you?

No. well then how about this?

I picked a place to raise my flag.

and took in the view of the museum yard from my new stronghold.

The place already has a crazy modern sculpture collection

and a salon right down the street

The following morning we got up at the crack and boarded a bus bound for Halong Bay, an easy three hour drive from Hanoi through rice and fog

past factories

and graves

through old vietnam and new…

Our bus arrived at the bay and we boarded a feaux junk for our first of what would be many boat rides

Guess I should preface this Halong bit with by saying I wasn’t super gassed to go there. From what I could gather off the world wide internets and information I’d gotten from peeps who’d been there, the place is a total tourist trap.

I’m not really interested in scenic beauty for the scenic beauty’s sake. if I wanted to hang out on a beach and go swimming, I would’ve just stayed home.

I want soul, but Katie REALLY wanted to see the world famous “Descending Dragon Bay.”

And so, being the altruist that I am, I sucked it up and opened my mind to embarking on what I knew would be a completely fabricated adventure.

This is our tour guide. He told us to call him “The Rooster,” but I prefer to call him “The Cock.”

Here’s another boat!

A floating AM/PM!

And here’s Katie drinking it in.

She really loves the beauty…

Some lunch squid, straight from the polluted bay!

No really. The water’s straight up Gulf-style shit.

And look! There it is! The bay!

Stunning… Just stunning. Isnt’ it?

So we parked, boarded another boat and boated over to a fishing dock, kayaked for twenty minutes in the blazing sun, returned to the fishing dock and then boated over to a large rock where we visited a really big cave.

Here I am in the cave under hot golden shower lights looking like a distended belly monster from a lost episode of Star Trek. Tapeworm? Who knows… (Apparently everybody on the boat got food poisoning a day prior so I wouldn’t rule it out.)

This blurry South African guy’s a jockey in Dubai. He was super cool and one of the most interesting features of Halong Bay for sure.

This Anthony Bourdain-type on the right asked me for hash.

Another boat, some more trees and a mountain-type thing coming out of the water!

And here we are happily splashing about in the green death.

I won’t lie. After being subjected to kayaking and hiking and frying on the top deck of the boat in the blazing sun and 95 degree heat, diving into the luke warm toilet water was actually one of the highlights of the Halong trip.

Halong Bay, Vietnam // Kostrzak Boat Jump from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

The other highlight was confronting death, which Katie and I did when we arrived at the Cat Ba Island docks bound for “Monkey Island.”

Most tourists on our trip opted to stay the night on the boat. Some decided to stay on Cat Ba Island. Knowing we only had one night to really take in all Halong Bay had to offer, Katie decided that it would be a better idea to take a hell bus over crumbling mountain passes, across the length of Cat Ba Island to the opposite end where we could then (well after dark so we could truly enjoy the subtle nighttime beauty of the place) take another boat to Monkey Island where we could make out, and make sex, and do all that stuff couples are supposed to do when they go on a romantic island getaway.

When we arrived at port in pitch black, Mr. Phuk (Fook), the owner of our hotel, met us at the “boat.” After telling us how luxurious our “special” room would be, he presented us a 10’ X 5’ tin flat boat with no lights, no seats and loose 2X4’s for a floor, and instructed the non-English-speaking “captain” to take on our 20 minute journey across the pitch black bay between limestone cliffs to our luxury hotel room on Monkey Island. Mr. Phuk courteously explained that normally he’d be heading back with us to the island, but he had some business to take care of in town, so we were on our own.

The engine wouldn’t start and the captain shooed my leg back so he could lift up the floor and choke the engine. After a few angry pulls we were ready to go and we set out across the choppy black water for Monkey Island, waves lapping up over the lip of the death vessel.

All we could see was seen by moonlight alone, which wasn’t much. And Katie and I were unable to openly discuss the depths of our peril as it appeared before us as the engine was too loud. So we were left to enjoy the rising terror in our skulls autonomously…

First thought. Life jackets…

No dice. They were sailor-knotted to a metal pole supporting the plastic roof tarp.

Second thought.

Untie my boots. Surely they’ll be the death of me.

Third thought. Think positive.

Thought four, survey the tides and shore and attempt to guesstimate the safest landfall.

Big waves = bad. Sharp rocks = bad. Slippery rocks = bad.

Sinking here = bad.

Here Katie and I are silently considering what’s truly important in life.

And here we are finally arriving at Monkey Island. Awesome.

Halong Bay, Vietnam // Welcome to Monkey Island from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

After being treated to a buffet of cold food, we were led to our room where Katie passed out from exhaustion and I read a book about the siege of Khe Sanh.

How romantic.

Morning came monkeyless…

So I entertained myself by snapping surveillance photos of the main generator shed

and a resupply op that was taking place outside our room.

Shortly thereafter, we boarded the supply boat.

and then another bus and another boat and another boat and then I worked on some more music to distract me from the mild case of sun stroke and malaria pill poisoning that was gradually robbing me of my sanity.

Back at the bus, some visitors to Monkey Island the night previous told us a story about how Mr. Phuk threatened to hold a couple hostage on the island over an unpaid $6 bar bill and then stole some girl’s ipod and camera. Apparently some sort of dust up occurred and a crazed Scot, one of the ipod girl’s friends, ended up somehow punching Phuk in the face through the window of his cabana.

The following day the camera and ipod magically appeared in the theft victim’s room. But before leaving the island, Mr. Phuk’s henchmen forced the Scot to pay for the window and attempted to make him sign a letter of apology to Mr. Phuk for dishonoring him.

How “old school” is that shit? Wonder if it was written in calligraphy?

Anyway, the Scot (being true to his nature) refused to sign the letter, and the whole thing ended in some sort of armistice.

All I can say is I’m happy I made it back from Monkey Island with my Ipod and honor in tact.

Back in Hanoi we checked into our new room…

with a new view

We strolled around the lake and took glamour shots

of artists making shit happen
fearless babies

hot imports

white mannequins

basket heads

half shirts

and more scooters breaking the sound barrier.

The next day we were treated to our very first motorcycle vs. cow crash on our way to the airport

where we passed over some construction on the runway…
through a tube like a paraplegic’s food…

and boarded a smoking plane bound for Da Nang.


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