Tag Archive for 'ho chi minh'


Some Vietnamese dude I met in the North told me HCMC was like the LA of Vietnam which scared me because I know the LA people that aren’t from LA think they know and it’s the one that sucks: a vapid chasm populated by narcissistic, greedy bastards, nouveau riche, wasted youth and dying dreamers.

And if one chose to look no further than the surface of the city formerly known as Saigon, with it’s high rises, bottle service clubs and fancy restaurants packed with young ballers, it’s designer boutiques and the penchant of many of its dwellers for western music and high fashion, you could very well come away thinking that.

But I also heard good things.

I heard that the North Vietnamese were more conservative and kept their doors closed at night while the south loved Americans and “made the street their home,” many coming together nightly for dinner, conversation or an afternoon workout in the park

Ho Chi Minh City Workout from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

and others quite literally…

I heard the food was spectacular

and that if you’re a white guy with a little money it’s pretty easy to find a companion for dinner and breakfast.

Some some streets felt like those you could find in any major city in vietnam. Where you could find a bowl of pho…

a happy water filtration pitcher

a decent safe

karaoke, massage,

a friendly game of Hackyminton

Ho Chi Minh City // Hackyminton from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

an old lady in a crazy hat selling fruit,

or playing with her cock

While others are purely that of a western-influenced (or infected) Saigon. I mean where else in this pseudo-communist country where you can find “crazy bar,” “crazy chillout” and “crazy night club” all in one place?

or a Vietnamese Eddie Vedder impersonator?

or the Vietnamese doppleganger of Michael McDonald just chilling on a street corner?

I checked into the Cat Huey, a hip little boutique hotel down this dark alley

At first they showed us into the freaky first floor room off the entrance, a completely windowless mock-up of a CSI lab set complete with exposed fluorescent ceiling lights. I immediately had a panic attack and requested an upgrade. And for an extra $5 and they led me to a room decked out like a suite at the W.

Running water – check. Electricity – check. Flat screen - check. Wi Fi – check. Unparalleled view – check.

Shower cap – check.

At dawn the alley in front of our hotel turned into a bustling market.

where you could buy unidentifiable vegetables

or odd-eyed fish. The only strange part of the scene being that I did not see one cockroach be it night or day, market closed or open.

In the afternoon we hit up the Ngô Viết Thụ-designed Reunification Palace.

There’s the front gate the North Vietnamese came crashing through in tanks on April 30, 1975 during the Fall of Saigon.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the bee girl from the Blind Melon “Rain” video

and there she is again, in the front hall by the stairs

The architecture is pretty stunning

and the décor funkadelic. The whole place has a sort of Wilt Chamberlin space pad/Graceland meets Stanley Kubrick 70’s fuck palace sort of vibe.

We checked out the palace dining room,

the grand puba’s secret meeting quarters

and a room where important members of the South Vietnamese puppet regime met to discuss important topics like where and when to kill more communists, how many of them they should try to kill, and who their favorite Brady was.

But no party pad is complete without a shooting gallery…

a screening room

and a helipad!

This feisty old VC lady’s been here since 1973, tending to the Miyagi in the palace garden.

And there’s that kooky kid again! WTF?!

Upstairs there’s a sort of mini museum chock full of giant lies. You can take photos of the pictures, but not of the copies of supposed authentic documents, interoffice memos and letters sent between US, South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese forces during the course of the war. After a lengthy peruse, for instance, I noticed that a certain US diplomat sent various “official” letters to various members of the South Vietnamese government in the same year, but listed himself as having a different official title on each salutation. Interesting.

Some of the supposed US communications even read like they were written in broken English. Awesome.

Downstairs, you can live out your darkest warmonger fantasies, no matter how latent, take a seat at a general’s desk and lead thousands of troops to their deaths! Just for the fuck of it — Or I mean as a strategy! (Can somebody say Khe San?)

General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, you’ve got a call on the green phone.

I said green phone! Next to the fucking yellow phone! You know. In the tiny room with the single file cabinet and the pointless hole in the wall!

One thing not many people no about the Vietnam war is the part one young robot took in losing it to the North.

And just as I thought.

Nobody flipped the “Excitation” switch. No wonder shit went south…

They were probably too busy dropping beats to recognize.

This is where my friend Scott will be sitting one day.

He used to make cartoons, but is currently learning Pig Latin to help fight terrorists in space. No shit.

Apparently the key to keeping shit “top secret” is to make sure the door to the “top secret” room makes no fucking sense.

Plans for “top secret” room door: 1) Build step exactly 12 inches up from basement floor 2) Construct door ¾ the size of a normal door. 3) Cover 2/3 of the odd-sized door with opaque glass. 4) Cut hole and insert doorknob exactly 12 inches above previously constructed 12 inch step (far too low for enemy hands to reach and twist in the event of a Palace siege).

Here’s where people listened to things.

and here’s where they typed stuff.

And this where the general slept when shit got hairy (aka when his wife caught him tossing to Swedish Erotica reel-to-reels in the projection room).

We were downstairs during lunchtime, when the basement is supposed to be closed and this guy appeared at the end of our walk through the basement. He began following me from room to room, tidying up in my wake.

I think he’s another original, down there since the sixties, probably thought I was some visiting dignitary after he witnessed the expertise and courage with which I commanded my imaginary army from the general’s desk.

after your palace visit you can relax by the super crazy wicked tree out back

have a picnic

take a nap in the garden

let your children frolic on the grand lawn

check out US planes that have been captured, repainted and misidentified.

Or play on tanks responsible for shelling hundreds of enemy soldiers!

Probably a good idea to let them get their childhood angst out the healthy way rather than unleashing them on the street with a feral head full of fuckshitup, like this kid, who attacked me with a stick as I passed him on the street on my way into the War Remnants Museum.

A great place for any history buff or lover of the macabre.

Outside you can see real life helicopters

and planes used in the Vietnam War.

and this guy (the one on the left with the missing arm) who tried to freak me out by greeting me with his napalm stump. When I didn’t blink and, instead, took it and shook it like a hand, he tried to sell me some books. When I told him I didn’t have any dong on me to buy the books he went off, telling me how he’s not a beggar, how he’s selling me something, how I’m an American somethingorother.

It 180’d my day to say the least. Here Napalm guy is (Napalm Guy representing all of Vietnam of course) acting like shit’s all copasetic, welcoming “BJ” Bill Clinton back in 2000 and saying you know what, the war was totally fucked up, but we’re going to move forward.

And here I am, a generation later, a diplomat of good will, Facebook and I-phones, coming over to set things right in a not so obvious way. Here I am coming over to eat their pho, shoot machine guns, ogle their prostitutes, and this guy has the nerve to accuse me of being an American somethingorther!

Fuck him! Fuck you! I was crazy pissed! I nearly called it there and turned around before I even got to see the dead babies they keep in a fish tank to let everybody know how over the war they are. Hold up – first things second – I digress. We haven’t even gone in yet.

Inside the museum, we perused the collection of tiger cages and

guillotines used by the French against Vietnamese rebels, and then supposedly recycled by the U.S. to use against the North and Vietcong!

We checked out the collection of oil paintings by local artists depicting, oddly enough, Bush-era Guantanamo interrogation tactics…

like the old snake up the vagina trick.

It’s odd, you know, because by looking at these, one might think the conflict in Vietnam was more like a key party at Sasha Grey’s house than an actual war or whatever.

That is aside from the guns…

and bombs…

and mines…

and bombs…

and more bombs of course.

Here’s a photo exhibit depicting the “Thanh Phong Massacre,” the February 25, 1969 slaughter, by Navy Seals, of twenty unarmed civilian Vietnamese women, children and old people in an isolated Vietnamese peasant hamlet led by America’s own (former Senator) Bob Kerrey.

And here they are, the Hope diamonds of the war museum collection, the world famous Dioxon Twins! Nothing says you’re ready to forgive and move on like displaying your dead in tanks of formaldehyde.

After checking out the dead babies, you can drop your live ones off at the playroom to think about how good they have it.

After wading through the “Sea of Bullshit Propaganda” section, I was relieved to find the “Historic Truths” section.

Where we quickly found a bunch of really dope bullshit propaganda painters and posters (an obvious oversight by the Historic Truths staff).

Did I mention that there’s no air conditioning in most of the museum and that it just was about 132 degrees inside? I’m really dying here, about to give up on heading up to the 3rd floor. But something in me told me to soldier on, so I did.

And boy was I glad, because a floor above there was a photo exhibit (w/AC) featuring the work of Katie’s godfather’s father, Larry Burrows!

Who’s only like the best war photographer in history or whatever.

I shit you not. Even the Vietnamese apparently think so, as 2/3 of the entire photo section was plastered either with pictures he took during the war, or with photos of him.

There were displays on the wall praising his work. Even a copy of the last photo ever taken of Larry, and fellow photojournalists Henri Huet, Kent Potter and Keisaburo Shimamoto, boarding a helicopter headed for Laos on February 10, 1971. Larry disappeared later that day over Laos when the copter got lost in fog and was shot down by the North Vietnamese.

On April 3–4, 2008, the remains Burrows and his fellow photographers were honoured and interred at the Newseum in Washington, D.C..

Our taste for violence and misery still not satiated, Katie and I decided to take a trip the next day with our trusty guide “John Wayne”…

to the infamous Củ Chi tunnels which were used by Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots, communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters during the war, and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.

On the way we stopped at a factory where adults crippled by guns and bombs and mines and Napalm and Agent Orange and Dioxin as children now make lacquer goods which they sell for literally seven times the price as they go for at a typical shop in Hanoi. Good idea.

We arrived at the Củ Chi Tunnels and John Wayne, our Pied Piper of Death, led us with a crazed grin through the blood of young soldier fertilized forests.

Where he showed us boobie traps

and trap doors that led to the tunnel systems below ground.

John Wayne implored a volunteer to climb down and show the rest of us how tight the door really was. Being claustrophobic I said no fucking way. But this tiny Asian fellah was more than happy to accommodate John Wayne’s request.

The crowd was wowed, but John Wayne wasn’t impressed. And after telling us how a fat American woman had gotten stuck in one of the holes just last week, he beckoned a Westerner to take the challenge. And so this trustafarian backpacker took a shot. The dreads were a squeeze of course, but the hippy made it in without incident.

After breaking us in on the trap door, John Wayne encouraged us to climb down this hell hole

and climb 50 feet or so down a body size tunnel on our stomachs to the next tunnel exit, or even farther on down the system, if our panicking hearts were so inclined. I started hyperventilating just thinking about it. But Katie was stoked. Here she is climbing out of the abyss like it’s no big thang.

And here I am making sexy in the soldier’s sleep away camp.

One of my female robot soldier comrades wasn’t convinced that tunnels were a place for sexy. In fact she’d gone so far as to list the reasons why they were in reality, the very last place for sexy.

So I climbed on a tank a gave a pep talk.

Word got back to the other robot soldiers and productivity of recycled weaponry and flavored lube went up 36% for the day.

Even the real live soldier’s were inspired. Here one proudly displays the functions of a variety of booby traps.

Some are for bloodletting. Other for maming. And some are specifically designed to tear your motherfucking nuts off.

Just looking at them makes you want to kill. So I picked myself up an AK-47…

bought some lead…

And let her rip!

Kostrzak Shoots AK-47 at Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from Sleep Never on Vimeo.

We are all warriors at heart. The gene may be dormant, but if I needed to kill a motherfucker for the very last Orangina on earth, it would come naturally. I’m sure of it. Don’t think you’ve got it inside you? Try shooting an AK someday and tell me after 10 rounds or so (enough to get over the healthy fear hump), that you don’t have a hard on. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s a thing. A scary scary thing.

Our day at Củ Chi closed with a screening of another North Vietnamese propaganda film in one of the underground bunkers

where I was joined by this gigantic millipede.

After, we opted to take a boat back to HCMC, not knowing that the drivers would be downing beers the whole way.

But I tried to ignore the danger and enjoy the ride anyway, the one that took us down the Saigon River and through through nearly every strata of Vietnamese society along the way. From those who live in tin shanties…

and huts.

to those that dwell in high rises

strange subdivisions

and McMansions

Unfortunately Katie passed out

and missed the Gilligan’s Ark sighting.

And here we are not drowned, or dying from booby trap spike or gun shot wounds!

After our journey into the heart of darkness, we had some pho

with a French expat. I asked him where one might go hooker-watching and he suggested any of the local billiards halls near the opera house.

Right across from the world famous Continental Hotel where Graham Greene lived while writing “The Quiet American.”

Frenchy told us if you meet a hot Vietnamese girl in Saigon, and she’s really good at pool, then she’s probably a hooker. So we put his theory to the test and found a number of spots just around the corner from Coca Suki, where you can play a gentleman’s game of billiards and get your Cocka Sucky at a reasonably price. Bachelors, that one’s on me.

After dipping our toes in the wading pool of sin, we paid a visit to a crazy Jesus fest being held in the middle of Dong Khoi Road.

and then hit up the world famous Fannys for some epic ice cream

where Katie and I watched these young fashionista chicks as they picked at a giant banana split with their Asian Andy Warhol buddy, then strapped on their best camera faces and took pictures of themselves. And not together as a group, consulting each other on the shots, or showing off, but separately, each spending a good forty minutes pouting and making sexy faces for their own I-Phone. So determined they were, filling gigs with the same mugs they were stuffing hot fudge into, like Lindsey Hilton after a hash binge.

Wondering if her own face could possess her the way theirs did them, Katie took a stab at a Blue Steel. Not bad for a first try.

The vanity was spreading like the trend of leggings or plaid, like a virus, like herpes backstage at a Van Halen concert in 1984. I would’ve liked to try my hand at some poses, but I had to get bed early. I had to make a bus at dawn

to a magical place where for a handful of American greenbacks you can pay to shoot a live cow with an RPG.

And no, homie, I’m not talking about Cleveland.


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.