Had a great time last night. Went out with a few Vietnamese friends to a local "bifsteak" joint serving simple beef dishes. Think Denny's, but Vietnam-style. Then we went to Yoko's, an intimate local cafe with live music on weekends. Yes, it is named for Yoko Ono, the former wife of Beetle John Lennon.
We got there at 8pm but the music didn't start until 9pm. I used the time to practice some tieng viet with my friends Phuong and Pha Le. They are hilarious. It was great because I'm now getting to a point where I can have decent, albeit simple, conversations with Vietnamese. The other day I was in the elevator and I even understood a joke someone told to his friend. It was like, "light bulb!" It was funny too.
The first performer was an older woman, probably around 55-60. She belted (and I mean belted) out some Motown and other old hits. In my minds eye I envisioned her in a smoky, boisterous Saigon club 35 years ago. I'd put money on it. She was great. The next singer was Phuong (different Phuong from my friend -- Phuong is a very common name here), a young woman in her 20s who sings contemporary covers with great passion. Most of the time she sings with her eyes closed, and the emotion of each song plays out across her expressive features. We had front row seats in this tiny venue. Great stuff.
Phuong and Pha Le went home around 9:30. I went to La Habana for the second half of Swing Night to meet my friend Jon and few other regulars. A Canadian guy, Michel, and a French Vietnamese girl, Catherine, started teaching swing classes for free a few months ago. It's lots of fun. I got pretty into swing about 10 years ago when I lived in DC. It's fun to pick it up again. If you're in Saigon, check out Michel's website, Saigon Swing.
Around 11pm Jon and I went to a Japanese bar, Sanho, for saki. Sanho's gimmick is fish tanks scattered throughout the bar filled with exotic species. One fish looked like a rat, I swear, face and all. The highlight of Sanho in my opinion though is a juvenile crocodile in an aquarium. He's about 2.5 feet long. There's a magnet sheathed in floating plastic on the inside of the tank, and a sister magnet on the outside. You can manipulate the magnet on the inside using the one on the outside. The whole objective is to fool around with the croc. At first I thought this was cruel and unusual for the croc. After a while, though, I came to realize that the croc loves playing with the magnet. I moved it around the tank a little far from him and he rushed over to check it out and attack. I didn't even touch him, but he tracked it closely and lunged at it when it got close. I concluded that he likes it. He's gotta be bored out of his mind in that tank so drunk people manipulating a magnet in his tank must be a welcome diversion. Now, before you judge, just consider that I may be right (I am). It's great fun for both sides.