Brooke and I liked to play this game where we came up with tourism slogans for
Anyway, it turns out
So after three days of meandering through windy alleys in
Our driver is ten minutes late, and Brooke and I are pissed. There's two good reasons for this: 1. Clocking in at $180, this is the most expensive thing we've paid for yet (hotel rooms included).
When our driver finally does show up, the tour guide with him apologizes profusely. "Traffic," he explains in what is probably the best English I have heard a Vietnamese person speak the entire time we've been there, which is still just like being the thinnest kid at fat camp.
Immediately it is made clear that the driver doesn't speak English – perhaps doesn't speak at all. The tour guide though (a Vietnamese guy who is 25-going-on-16-year-old-girl) is clearly very excited for the ride. He introduces himself as Quay, but tells us to use his nickname, Buffalo Joe. When Brooke asks how he got his nickname, he says, "Because I was born on the back of a buffalo while my family was escaping the flood," without a hint of excitement, as though she had asked Fat Albert how he got his nickname and he replied, "Because I'm fat." Skirting the obvious follow-up questions ("Was it at least your buffalo?"), Joe starts inquiring about us.
Joe: "What is your profession?"
Me: "We are writers."
Joe: (genuinely shocked) "No! I think actors. Or FBI agents."
It's about here where I start thinking that Joe should be the best man at my future wedding. I mean, I really can't explain the rush you get when a Vietnamese person assumes you are an FBI agent, but I have to imagine it's akin to the way George Clooney feels every time he looks in the mirror.
My excitement is short-lived though, because the more I chat with Joe, the more I come to understand just how out of touch he is with American life. For example, he mentions going to askmen.com for all his dating advice – and not in the sarcastic way. And after seeing the Steve Carell/Anne Hathaway film Get Smart, he assumed that everyone in
This leads to a long conversation about some of the hardships Brooke and I have faced in trying to find something undisgusting to eat in
A bashful look comes across Joe's face as he answers that yes, he does eat dogs. Everyone eats dog. Remaining true to my non-judgmental attitude, I kind of just nod my head, the way you might while looking at a particularly well-trimmed hedge. Brooke, however, presses on. "But they're so cute! What do they taste like?"
"All different," Joe replies.
"We have a dog as a pet. But you wouldn't like him," Brooke says, showing Joe a picture of Puppy on her iPhone. "He's one of the little fluffy ones."
"Oh!" Joe shouts excitedly before catching himself and continuing more slowly. "Those are the most delicious kind."
And with that – Joe's confirmation that Puppy would be a hit delicacy in
We arrive at the dock in
For the next five hours, we have the entire boat to ourselves. Brooke and I have a few beers, and before you know it the two of us and Joe are like old friends. We're laughing, swapping stories about communism and Mad Men, and having a grand old time. When the boat moors at one of the limestone islands so we can go explore a cave, Joe makes an entirely too loud comment about the attractiveness of two late-teen blond girls there with their father. We all laugh – except the father. No matter, we're having a blast. For the first time, Brooke and I can honestly say that unlike most soldiers in the 70's, we are having a terrific time in
Note to hidden charm: You've been Westernized™.