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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hanoi Hash -- Running and Beer through rice paddies

It has been a while since I have had time to add to this blog. I have pictures, stories, and some brief video to share. I will try get to much of it this week and get you all caught up.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, preparation, and work. Two weeks ago, on Saturday, we all participated in a Hanoi Hash outing. The Hash is a running/hiking club that started in Kuala Lumpur in 1938, spread throughout SE Asia in the 1960s and 70s and then exploded in the 90s and has almost 2000 chapters, and is on every continent (even Antarctica). The leadership is voluntary. They organize runs every Saturday (and some getaway weekends as well). They hire a bus and a beer/soda truck and head out to the countryside. Some members have scouted out a route, and after an intial beer/soda stop, with brief introductions of new people, the runners and walkers head off. The leaders call “On, on!” periodically to keep everyone on pace.

We met downtown outside The American Club met a few of the veteran Hashers – the first one I met, a tall Kiwi man, introduced himself as “Chicken Legs" and a British woman told me her name was “Shakesbeer.” I met others with similarly colorful Hash names such as “Nice Bitch,” “Spandex Man,” and a diminutive Vietnamese woman with the moniker “Moneypenis” given to her because of her passion for James Bond (somehow derived from Money Penny). Real names were shared as well, but the stories behind the Hash names were much more intriguing.

The bus took us out of town, picking up Hashers at various locations en route, and an hour
later, we arrived at a dam in the countryside west of Hanoi. The 10k route took us through rice paddies, floating lotus gardens, with ducks in pens, and wallowing water buffalo. It was muddy and beautiful, hauntingly similar to scenes from so many war films. We would exit the paddies into small remote villages. Children would call Hello and then run shyly back into their houses. About half-way through, after we were good and sweaty, like an oasis in the desert, there was
the beer truck. Tropical heat, an empty stomach, semi-rigourous exercize, and beer are an interesting combination. I definitely slowed down for the remainder of the hike. When we got back to the starting point, there was the truck again. This time, I had water.

It was nearing sunset and we wondered when everyone would head back to to bus. It wouldn’t be for another hour and a half. It was time for the weekly Hash ritual. A German man, whose name I cannot recall, was the apparent leader of the group that evening. Using some white powder (lime?) he made a circle and everyone stood outside it. He called all new people into the circle, had us introduce ourselves, gave us a cup of beer (soda for the kids) and after the group sang us a song (led by Shakesbeer and Nice Bitch), we had to drink and then were brusquely told to get out of the circle. Then they called in birthdays, people who hadn’t shown up for a while, people who were going away for while, people who started as runners, but finished as hikers, men with really nice bodies who had to take off their shirts before they could drink their beers. With each category, there was a song, and a drink. There was more, and it felt a bit cultish or secret societyish (although there seemed to be no secrets). It was funny for the first half-hour, but got a bit tiresome and Sivan and Amali were really tired. They didn’t start the ritual until sunset, so, after leaving Hanoi at 2 pm, we didn’t get back until after 8 (The bus stopped for more beer on the way – and then, after all that beer, had to stop for a pee break as well).

Becky and I will go back to the Hash, but I don’t know about the kids. They had fun, but felt witness to an adult group that they didn’t feel entirely comfortable with. Personally, I think it was great for them to see adults “playing.” My problem is that it conflicts with Ultimate Frisbee – I’ll just have to choose sometimes.

I will post some Hash pictures, but I left that camera at my office.

Eating on the street

Restaurants set up every evening (after the morning and lunch ones pack up).

Cook it yourself restaurants are among my favorites, but Becky doesn't like to sit that long, especially if it is on the little kindergarten stools.
Crispy Chicken Skin, Sliced Beef, different veggies -- cook them on the skillet, then fill your bowl, dip in soy or fish sauce, or shove into baguettes and "an" (eat)

Karaoke night

Cheesy and in the wrong key for the girls. Just us, a karaoke machine and some snacks for about $6 per hour.

More pics from Amali and Chuck's ride

Little kids working on a cha cha number at Bach Thao Park

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ngac San Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake, Old Hanoi

Amali and Chuck's Big Bike Ride -- mid-August

Dragon sculpture and topiary at Bach Thao park