Tokyo. Shanghai. Kuala Lumpur. Ho Chi Minh City. Oakland.
(Oakland? Yes, Oakland. Bear with me.)
Over the course of 18 mind altering days, I traveled from the sunny shores of Honolulu to Tokyo, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, and Ho Chi Minh City as part of the Asian Field Study for the University of Hawaii Executive MBA program. I returned home for two delirious days, before hopping on a red eye with the Wine Pixie to attend a wedding in Oakland, where we spent a grand total of 27 hours on the ground in the Bay Area.
Needless to say, I am exhausted. Scratch that. I have trenscended exhaustion. I am in a bizarre state of hyper-tired delirium, fueled exclusively by adrenaline, caffine, alcohol, and one perfectly timed McDonald’s Sausage Biscuit.
The first morning I woke up after returning from Asia, I nearly had a heart attack, because I thought I was still in Vietnam. I dove under my covers for safety and tried to recall how I could have possible gotten drunk enough to wind up in a strange room with a naked Asian lady and a small Vietnamese child crawling on my bed. I tried to act calm as the little Vietnamese girl crawled on top of me and said bizarre things in English like “Good morning, Dad.” and “Daddy, why do you look scared?” I couldn’t figure out why the naked woman in bed with me didn’t find anything strange about this scenario. She just lay there like this happened all the time. I reasoned that after you’ve lived in Saigon for a few years, the bizarre becomes commonplace.
I did a brief scan of the room, looking for my wallet, so I could slip the child some money and make a quick exit. No luck. I couldn’t find my clothes anywhere either, just a computer and some pictures of white people I couldn’t identify. Were we in someone else’s house? I was about to bolt out of bed and make a run for it, nudity be damned, when I realized that the small Vietnamese child was, in fact, my daughter, and the naked Asian woman was, in fact, the Wine Pixie.
As I was saying, exhausted. Exhausted, yet exhilarated after a series of mind-altering adventures.
Each city offered a host of new people, new experiences, new sensations and, of course, new drinks. I dove headfirst – quite literally in Malaysia, but that’s a story for another time – into the drinking customs of each city in an attempt to learn what I could about each culture through their enjoyment and imbibement of alcohol.
I learned alot.
I learned about the Japanese art of bartending from one of the oldest and most respected barmen in Tokyo; (I also learned how to navigate the streets of Ginza during a Typhoon to find his bar, but again, that’s a story for another time.)
I learned about the up and coming cocktail scene in Shanghai;
I learned how to buy alcohol in an Islamic country after midnight in Kuala Lumpur;
And I learned about the importance of lasers, big bottles of hard alcohol, and fruit plates in Ho Chi Minh City.
But we didn’t just learn in Asia. We shared our love and knoweledge of drinking wherever we went. We left a dent in every country we visited.
We taught Tokyo the majesty of the high five.
We taught Shanghai how to make Mind Erasers and Adios Motherfuckers.
We taught the members of an all-male Indian night club in Kuala Lumpur how to dance with women.
And we taught Ho Chi Minh City how to play flip-cup and fist pump. (BTW – Ho Chi Minh City loves fist pumping. If you go clubbing in Vietnam in two years and everyone is pounding their fist in the air like an Asian version of Jersey Shore – only with bigger bottles, more fruit plates, and lots and lots of hookers – you know who to blame.)
During the trip, our constantly busy schedules prevented me from writing about these experiences as they happened. (The near constant drinking and socializing may have had a slight impact on this as well, but I’m not here to point fingers.)
Over the ensuring weeks, I will do my best to recount the myriad of alcohol infused adventures we had on our whirlwind Asian excursion.
I will tell the story of…
… how a ninja taught me how to drink in Tokyo.
… how we talked our way into (and I nearly talked my way out of) a club with a $1000 cover charge.
… the power and glory of the Ice KaChong.
… the foot massues who climbed me like Mount Everest.
… the world’s worst shot of Tequila (and, frankly, it’s not close).
… how I survived an hour walking the streets during a typhoon to find the best cocktail in Tokyo.
… winning a dance battle against a Vietnamese gangster.
… and how we drank an ungodly amount of beer, wine, bourbon, vodka, gin, rum, scotch, Chinese schnapps, sake, shochu, un-pastuerized beer, banana wine, rice wine, snake wine, Hennessy, and Remy Martin in four different countries and lived to tell the tale.
I will weave these stories (and more) into a general discussion of the drinking customs in each culture and what insights they provide about the country, their people, and their way of life. More importantly, I will use these experiences to discuss the unifying power of alcohol and how these drinking customs help to bridge the culture gap and bring the world closer together.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to sleep for the next 72 hours. Hopefully, when I wake up, I won’t be under siege by a small South East Asian child. (Now, the naked Asia woman, that’s a different story.)