Part Two of Brian’s Karaoke World Tour takes you to Vietnam – although it does seem to have much the same storyline as Part One (ie: lots of drinking and singing). I promise that not ALL my Karaoke World Tour stories involve me getting drunk.
I was in Hue in January 2003 as part of the research for the Tet celebrations (Vietnamese New Year) for my book The Naked Man Festival. I was on one my usual aimless wanders down side streets looking for the ‘real’ Hue where I found Tet celebrations in full swing as I peeped into people’s houses and saw lots of card games going on and plenty of drinking. I was squeezing down one impossibly narrow lane when I heard loud music and even louder out-of-tune singing. I peered through a small window into a tiny, dark and smoky room. A bunch of twenty-somethings were crammed into the corner watching a large-screen TV and belting out a bit of karaoke (another favourite Tet activity).
Before I knew it, the door was pulled open and I was dragged inside. A glass of beer was shoved into one hand and a piece of dried squid dipped in hot chilli paste into the other. The lads were well and truly drunk. Two large crates full of empty ‘Huda’ beer bottles were ample proof of their consumption. ‘You drink!’ said the only fellow who seemed to speak a little English. I took a sip. ‘No, no,’ they chorused. They wanted me to skol. As soon as I downed the glass they handed me another. ‘Drink!’ they chorused. After skolling three beers, I was handed the microphone. At least that gave me an excuse to put down the squid. It had the consistency of old shoes and tasted only slightly better.
The list of songs to choose from was really quite incredible. Particularly for such a back-alley, toilet-sized operation. In fact, the song list was the biggest I’d ever seen in any karaoke bar. I sang ‘I come from a land downunder’ while the boys hollered and screamed along with no idea what they were singing. I sang song after song, and skolled beer after beer. I even had a go at a Vietnamese song—which made me sound like a chicken on heat. At one point I had a beer, a chunk of squid, the microphone and a copy of Playboy in my hands all at the same time. Before I couldn’t stand up any longer, I made motions to leave. After much protest, I was sent on my way with a handful of dried squid and hugs all round.
Next time on Brian’s Karaoke World Tour: Kyrgyzstan