If you were expecting a peaceful dinner with a few of our closest friends, then you would've been thinking the same as I was at 5:45pm 9 days ago when I was driving to a respectable party hotpot party venue in district 3. However, 2 hours later we were wondering what we'd just walked into. Fortunately it didn't end in tears or shattered relationships, but things were certainly dicey, but all in good time my friends.
It had all started so promisingly. Hanh and I arrived at about 6, knowing full well that our guests would be at least 30 minutes late to arrive. We sat down, ordered a couple of pepsis (we wanted to have something to eat before tucking into Saigon Redd) and waited for our invitees to arrive. We weren't sure how many people would show up as I have a horrible habit of not keeping tabs on exactly who I'd spoken too. After an hour, most of our guests had arrived, we'd started on a few beers and the food was being ordered and promptly demolished by hungry bellies!
So what happened next? Well, the hotpots arrived, which was the beginning of the end at this particular venue. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that someone (obviously after a few Saigon Reds too many) was having an increasingly heated argument with one of the staff. This quickly escalated into a full on brawl. Now for those of you not used to Vietnamese style drunken 'bar room' brawls take note. It makes England seem positively tame! Please bare in mind that non of our party where involved in anyway in the resulting melee.
Before we knew it, our table was overturned, the staff had run into the back to pick up table legs and chairs as weapons, glass bottles were taken from our table and things kicked off. Now, we have no idea what triggered the incident in the first place, but what ensued wasn't pleasant and will stay in my memory for a long time. The drunk guy who I will label as the instigator, wasn't alone and had a few friends. The two lines drew up against each other and some over exuberant thug threw the first punch.
From then on it's a blur. Glass bottles were smashed and thrown, chairs and table legs wrapped around people's heads and terrified customers running into the back, ducking and running for cover. Unfortunately, there was no where really safe to run. Inside the 'restaurant' was safe as the staff were as much to blame for the violence as anyone else and glass bottles were being launched inside. Running outside wasn't really an option either as you'd have had to go through the fight to get outside. So we just had to wait it out, hope things died down quickly and pray that one got hurt.
Fortunately, things died down relatively quickly. I have no idea how long things lasted for or why/how they came to such an abrupt end. We were lucky that no one got hurt and amazingly, sauf a few bloodied faces, no one seemed to be seriously wounded or injured during the battle royal. Needless to say the wreckage and debris was alarming and wasn't really fitting of the evening we had envisaged. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures to show you. However, it didn't finish without a couple of notes of comedy. Firstly, one of my friends Vo, casually walked to the only upright table at the end of the brawl, sat down and continued to eat. Additionally, another said to me that we should leave immediately without paying. I completely agreed with the first part of this statement but after seeing the staff so armed and ready to use such implements I wasn't willing to take any chances, so I got the bill, paid and we went to karaoke.
Karaoke is where I think we'll try to remember the party from. Following the conclusion of the meal, several of our guest had decided to call it a night. I can't say I blame them either. I was a real shame as the party had only really just got going. We had 3 groups of people who didn't know each other so it started a little slowly but by the time the fight had broken out, the ice had just about been broken which made the interlude even more upsetting. Anyhows, we arrived at karaoke and quickly got into the swing of things. I sang Elton John's 'can you feel the love', we ordered a crate of beers and some food and away we went!
A good time was had by all after that. Lots of 'Mot, Hai, Ba, Yo!' (1,2,3 Cheers), '100%!' and '50%' toasts were made. The singing varied in quality from the terrible to the vaguely audible but no one seemed to care about that! Obviously the more drunk we became, the more ambitious we would become in our song selection, just at the time when we should've realised we were not professional performers after all! Finally, common in all karaoke sessions, the dancing came out and we knew the party had been a success!
After Karaoke, we moved to district one. A few brave soldiers decided we'd have a few more at a bar and Vietnamese nightclub. It was fun and relaxed which was a fitting end to a night full of drama! I'm sure it's one we'll never forget, I've got this blog entry to make sure of that and I hope that next year will be just as eventful, but obviously in a less violent way! Married (in the eyes of the family) for 1 year, 1 week and 1 day, who'd of thought!!!