38 An Thuong 5
My Anh, Da Nang, Vietnam
|Le Li Tam is the most interesting
person I've met in Vietnam so far.
Her little restaurant/pub is like a Museum and my conversations with her have been hugely interesting. It has changed my understanding of the American war in Vietnam. She was there and lived through it. And her personal stories are informative and sometimes very moving.
|Tam usually has only one or two customers at a time and she always sits with them. If it's your first visit she will start off with some advice about what to do around Da Nang and answer whatever questions you may have. If there are no questions, she will tell stories of her incredibly interesting past - her relationship with the American military and the Viet Cong - or whatever may be happening in her world today.|
|Her little 3-table pub is located on an obscure back road about 8 km south of central Danang - about 200 meters from My Anh beach.|
|Tam also rents surf boards and motorbikes for a very fair price. And she and her Canadian partner - Jeremy - do jeep tours of historic sites in a 1968 US Army jeep. Many of her customers are veterans who want to visit bases where they were stationed. She and Jeremy know where everything is - as far away as Hue, the DMZ, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail - including bomb craters and areas devastated by Agent Orange.|
|The walls of the restaurant are covered with photos from as far back as the mid 60s - mostly depicting altruistic activities of American soldiers. And there are stacks of albums of the same. It is a Museum - and a lesson in history that may change your perception of the American war in Vietnam.|
|Every picture tells a story. It usually starts with "So-and-so was here yesterday.... this him in 1971.... he helicopter mechanic Marble Mountain base.... now he come visit every year - fix my motorbikes and things... he very good man..." etc.|
|Tam was a teenager during the war and learned to make hamburgers while hanging out in the mess hall at the big US army base in Da Nang. She carried a kitchen to remote bases and sold hamburgers to troops who were living on K rations. They were very appreciative.|
|This is how Tam would have carried her kitchen. She said it sometimes weighed 100Km and she sometimes took it 10 Km - uphill. And I believe her. When I took the pictures below (in Hoi An) I tried to lift the baskets and could barely get them off the ground. And I have been to the base on Marble mountain. It is uphill.|
|Many of Tam's customers are veterans who have returned to pay there respects. Some are ex-pats who have lived in Da Nang for many years. They sit beside pictures of themselves that were taken 30 or 40 years ago.|
|Jimmy Buffet ("Wasting away in Margaritaville") - who evaded the draft and was outspokenly anti-Vietnam war - was here in 2008. It's strange to see his photo among heavily armed troops on patrol.|
|Mr. Buffet was so impressed with Tam he sent her 4 surfboards from Hong Kong on his way back to the US. Pack rat Tam copied and framed the receipts and hung them on her wall. Here's one version of the story.|
|Mr. Buffet wasn't the
only one to be impressed. This obscure little restaurant
gets rave reviews on TripAdvisor and 6 pages of relevant hits
from Google. But a few people object to the resident cats
wanting to sit in their lap and the "unstylish"
atmosphere (by Western standards).
I copied all of these reviews - minus space-wasting ads etc - and printed them out. It came to 18 pages - which I gave to Tam as a farewell gift when I returned her motorbike. [I just checked and there are now 70 reviews]
|I was introduced to Tam by Mick (co-owner of Dimple's bar) while inquiring about a motorbike to rent. She provided me with one for $50/month. And when she saw I had no jacket she took it upon herself to buy me one - without my knowledge. She went to 3 second hand shops until she found one that would fit my lanky frame. She paid $15 - I gave her $20.|
|Later I noticed this in a Jan 16 TripAdvisor review: "[Tam] is extremely generous. She even hunted down, bought, and altered a coat for a very tall Canadian customer who was struggling to keep warm on his way north." Although I wasn't exactly on my way north, this must be me. It was Jan 9 when she gave me the coat.|
|Tam is famous for her hamburgers, but she also makes an excellent US$3.50 breakfast.|
|Scrambled eggs, fries with onion and garlic, crispy bacon, and tomato.|
|The photo doesn't do it justice.|
|More pictures.... Culls??|
|I made notes after most visits to Tam's and I'm working on some sort of dialogue.|
|Conducting a tour with partner Jeremy...|
|More photos in albums|
|Partner Jeremy's 1968 Jeep - kept in great shape...|
|An odd little corner...|