Some time last week, Gavin and I were invited by our coworker, Kip, to a bar, Yoko’s, in District 1. Yoko’s has live music most nights and a smoky, cozy atmosphere. Getting to Yoko’s proved to be a feat, and once we finally arrived we were only able to see the band’s final few songs. We enjoyed what we heard, including a searing rendition of “Johnny B. Goode”, but were left disappointed that we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find the place. So we jumped on the idea of going to another bar/restaurant after the show with Kip’s friends, including the band. At 138 we sat outside and drank beers. I met some awesome female ex-pats. There seem to be a lot more women here than in Istanbul. Gavin met a few of the band members; one guy was from the Philippines as there is a large population of Filipino musicians here and another from Vietnam. He also met a few other Western musicians, who gave him some tips about buying a guitar in Saigon.
Yesterday we set out to buy Gavin his 3-month anniversary present, his very own Vietnamese guitar. We headed out to the ‘Music Street’ as we had been directed to the other night. This street reminded me a bit of the hill at the end of Istiklal Street in Istanbul (Tunel): every other store sells guitars and assorted stringed creatures and between the music shops there are hole-in-the-wall juice shops or pho restaurants. After examining the guitars at a few of these shops, we didn't really feel like anything we saw in our price range was that special as they tended to be generic factory-line models. So we headed back up towards our apartment to a little shop by our house that we pass almost everyday. Here we met Tuan. He makes and sells guitars in his shop in the front room of his house. Day after day as we passed, we would see him sitting on the floor with his tools surrounding him, working away on his guitars. His small work shop is packed to the gills with half-finished acoustic, classical and electric guitars, amps, wood, molds, tools and scraps. There is only a narrow empty aisle through the middle and hardly room enough for Gavin, Tuan, and I to sit and look at the guitars. Tuan greeted us with hand shakes, a big smile and a little English. He works sinewy and shirtless in his shop and has 2 extremely long fingernails (as many of the Vietnamese men have here). He was excited to show off his custom-made guitars and even let Gavin play on one of his electrics with a strange, indented fret board that lets out mournful squeals and squalls of feedback simultaneously (Vietnamese style). After meeting Tuan we realized we had to buy the guitar from him.
Today we headed back to pick out Gavin’s new friend. Tuan was all smiles and quickly pulled out a few of the guitars Gavin had tried yesterday. He ended up deciding on an acoustic with dark rosewood, a sturdy oak neck, and an unpolished matte finish. It is absolutely beautiful and has a great sound. Currently Gavin is happy as a clam, strumming and singing in the other room. I don’t think I have seen him so happy since our arrival.