That Time A Vietnamese Gangster Almost Threw Me Over A Bridge

Hoi An Bridge at Night

I wouldn’t say I saw my life flash before my eyes.

Instead I was imagining all the nasties floating around in the Thu Bồn River while kicking and squirming to be let free.

It would not have been a pleasant fall, though I’m sure I might have survived.

How I came to be in this situation is all a bit silly. First, I’m backpacking through Southeast Asia, then one day I wake up living in Hoi An — apartment, motorbike, job and all. To call it an apartment is a bit of a stretch, we didn’t even have a sink or any means of cooking, but we lived there and called it our home.

The job is where the trouble starts.

Hoi An Street Vendor

You know those people on the street that hand out flyers trying to get you to go to an “awesome party” at the “awesome bar” they work for?

I hate them too.

Yet, somehow, there I am standing on the bridge asking tourists what their plans are for the evening simultaneously handing them a flyer for my bar. I’ve even got a Vietnamese crew, they follow me around and pile people onto their motorbikes to shuffle them off to the bar before they have time to think about it.

It’s not an easy game in Hoi An, there are too many bars dueling for the attention (and money) of backpackers passing through. You’ve got to know how to hustle to survive.

Bar in Hoi An

Yep, it really was a dive.

Now, a hustler I am not BUT what I did have going for me was that I’m a (somewhat) friendly looking white girl and in Asia this tends to mean trustworthy. So, people would follow, 4 to a motorbike in true Southeast Asian fashion, and drink the night away with us before heading on their merry way up or down the coast.

There I am one night, we found a jackpot of a crowd, at least 12 Brits who had just finished their dinner and were looking for a drinking hole. There are usually at least one or two other crews representing the various bars in the neighborhood trying to convince the same group to go with them, and in this case they chose us.

There were so many of them that I had to stay behind while the others taxied them over. What I didn’t realize was that these were turf wars, and I had just broken the golden rule. The restaurant we picked the Brits up at was a few steps away from another rival bar and their gang was NOT happy.

I already knew they didn’t like me because they would throw nasty comments my way when we’d be after the same group of people. This time, they really weren’t happy.

I started walking over the bridge to the happy side, the side with lights and street vendors and at least a few people who might come to my rescue if they tried to attack. It was that time of night when the streets become deserted, the bridge is no longer lit and you no longer feel safe wandering around on your own.

They had a crazy in their crew, I’m not sure if he was just a drunk and took too many drugs or actually legit crazy. Nevertheless, he followed me over the bridge, ran up behind me and picked me up. There I was, head first staring into the Thu Bồn River wondering if I would survive the fall as little lanterns float by. It wasn’t far, but I didn’t know how deep the water was and didn’t care to know what was in it.

I squirmed and kicked as his gang laughed in the background, finding it rather amusing the sight of this annoying white girl being threatened with assault. In one swift motion I wound up my left arm and shot it straight back giving him a good elbow strike to the gut, enough to ensure my release back onto safe ground.

I ran towards the more populated side of the bridge just as Rory and Bo sped back on their bikes to pick me up. I was shaking and in shock, but safe.

It turns out that they’re not only rival bars but rival gangs. When we got back to the bar, San (the owner) and his crew sped off immediately after hearing of the incident.

He came back ten minutes later, walked straight up to me and in his best English said “it’s taken care of, Sana”. He couldn’t pronounce my name and called me Sana.

I never had a problem in Hoi An again.

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