Societies Change, but the Beer Remains the Same

“Societies Change, but the Beer Remains the Same”, published in Roads and Kingdoms on October 28, 2015

333 Beer in Saigon

Food vendors pushed three-wheeled carts down the street. Motorcyclists slowed and swerved around pedestrians who couldn’t use the sidewalk because it was filled with plastic stools and people drinking. As I walked along, drinking a can of 333 Beer, a massage girl handed me a brochure.

I sat down and ordered spring rolls outside a restaurant. Two more foreigners were stopped by the massage girl, and I could hear the tall one with a wooden cane trying to flirt with her. “Looking good,” he said. “Is the massage sexy?” When informed that it wasn’t, he said, “Then it’s not worth it.” Massage Girl slapped him with the brochure before he walked away.

That’s what Bui Vien Street, in the tourist district of Saigon in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, looks like every night. I was there to find out what Vietnam looks like 40 years after the fall of Saigon and the final conclusion of the war. I had my beer and my notebook with me.

“Back in the day, they killed and confiscated the land from the landlords,” Quan said, referring to the Viet Cong. He had invited me to sit at a table with him and his other friend, also named Quan, and he was telling me about how his grandmother suffered during the war. “They buried my grandmother in the ground up to her neck. By the time peasants rescued her, she was paralyzed.”

Read full article: Societies Change, but the Beer Remains the Same

Photo by Mitchell Blatt.