Tuat and Wang’s Children Play Place and Bar
Only in Asia. Making fun of mistranslations is a game that never gets old. What’s even better is when there’s a childlike duck painted on the wall next to the cocktail special and a swing set that can also be used as set up space for the Friday night band. Welcome to my friend’s new bar. His name is Tuat. His brother, Wang. Together they wanted a place where families could enjoy a night out together. The result is in the title. Vietnam, how I love thee.
Much like the original Wayne and Garth, Tuat and Wang are merely a short SNL skit in the feature length film of living in Southeast Asia. Here the Weird crashes with Odd so often that I can’t quite remember if there were ever a Normal. At least if there were a Midwest American Normal in Da Nang.
Here a slap on the arm, a push into a wall or a grab and jiggle of love handles means (respectively) “Please stay out of the sun, sweetie!” “Excuse me, please could you step out of my way?” and “You look lovely today!” Here the beach and coffee bars are for when the sun goes down. Blasting house music is a calming morning wake up. Children learn to eat solid food only when chased by squatting old women wagging spoons of mush at them. High chairs need not apply. Here the house may remain dirty but the street demands a sweep five times daily. Bread should be sweetened, meat should be jellied and all dairy should be regarded with great suspicion. Pajama sets are conveniently matched day wear and curlers are synonymous with hair ties for a nice evening out. Chicken bones and beer cans should be thrown on the floor of restaurants, but your purse needs its own chair. Women wear sky high heels to walk in the sand or climb Marble Mountain and flower patterned burkas to avoid a tan. And driving…video game creators would be inspired; until they remembered that a daily Vietnamese commute to work would be too far-fetched for American audiences to believe could happen in Grand Theft Auto. What should offend doesn’t and what shouldn’t does. It is standard introduction etiquette to ask someone how old they are, how much they weigh and how much money they make. It is rude to show your shoulders. Karaoke separates the boys from the men and flowered sun hats are unisex.
Of course there is method to the madness. There is a rhythm somewhere deep in the soul of this Asian jazz symphony. But isn’t it also fun to take it, play with it and just enjoy it at the un-analytical, unapologetically simple level of how it appears? To put PC aside and embrace the beautiful human oddities on a purely surface level?
Three and a half years on and I’m still having way too much fun.