We’re Number TWO! Vietnam Gets Silver in SEA Games

It was about 6 p.m. and I was stuck in traffic in a taxi in Hanoi. Something was amiss. Flag vendors with the big red banner and bright yellow star in the middle were on every street corner. And a few of the members of the usual flood of motorbikes were stopping and buying one or two for the ride. There was no holiday that I knew about. I had only just arrived this morning but hadn’t heard of any political activity in the news. What other event might rile up the nationalistic fervor? Football. An hour later I was walking to dinner and all along the streets people were occasionally squealing in unison when a shot went wide of the goal. I ate at Quan An Ngon (18 Phan Boi Chau, French Quarter, 04 942 8162‎), an open-air restaurant spilling out of an old colonial home. A very cool setting with an easy to read menu of typical Vietnamese fare and a highly attentive staff with little or no English. There had to be more staff than customers and the place was nearly full. Suddenly the whole staff as though wired together would jump and cry with glee and then look about sheepishly as it wasn’t exactly what customers might expect from wait staff. How they all knew exactly what had happened at the same moment without all being near the TV/radio, I don’t know. It was like the way dolphins swim and turn in formation with some sort of signal that was received as quickly as it was given. They were all smiles. Moments later I heard a customer walkinging in saying Malaysia 1, Vietnam 0. I asked a waiter, Isn’t it Vietnam 1? No. Then what was all the joy about? It was a shot that went wide. An odd thing to celebrate I thought. On the walk home the streets were suddenly wild with people. Flares were lighted, sparklers, flags waving and a solid mass of motorbikes circled Hoam Kiem Lake in Hanoi’s French Quarter (The Lake of the Restored Sword). There was no getting in or out of the area. Motorbikes ran up over the sidewalks to continue forward. The massive cheers, honking and roaring motors were deafening. But Vietnam had lost. It was puzzling. What happens when they WIN? But a waitress at a cafe near the lake explained to me: Vietnam had taken silver in the Asean Football Federation’s 25th Southeast Asian Games. Malaysia took gold for the first time in 20 years. Well, actually they were GIVEN gold. Vietnam really DID score a goal tonight. Unfortunately it was in their own net. I’m sure Malaysia’s not complaining. And Vietnam is out in full force tonight in Hanoi. I can still hear them far away outside my hotel.

This guy is trying like hell to light up Malaysia. Damn flame retardant flags! Would have been awkward anyway when the flames spread up to the connected Vietnam flag. Total hooliganism faux pax.

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