How I Get Paid to Party Abroad

Kiana Zemenchik

After teaching English doesn't pan out, Kiana goes for the next best job: pub crawl leader.

Bobby is a VietKeo (a Vietnamese/other mix, normally someone who has Vietnamese parents/heritage, but grew up somewhere else) who owns three hostels in Vietnam. Two are in Ho Chi Minh City, and one is in Hoi An.

I was introduced to him through a friend of a friend, since I was looking for a job, and he was looking for Western staff. When I told him I was Canadian, he gave me two high-fives (on the same hand), and told me he was from Toronto.

The job that Bobby told me about was to work at the bar and eventually become the bar manager. Although vague, he said I could have days off and told me that they were having a pub crawl that night. Would I be able to help out? I agreed and asked what time I should come back. Bobby looked at his watch. “Let’s go get some phở. I know a good place," he said.

Over phở, we discussed the details of the job, which was to start at 6 p.m., finish “when the crawl is over,” and come back to do it the next day.

“Your job tonight will be to just socialize with the guests in the bar, talk to them, get to know them and then keep everyone together, because people are going to be pretty ****** up.”

This wasn't new to me. When I lived in Prague, I wasn’t only teaching English; I also led pub crawls and worked night reception at HostelOne Prague. I have all kinds of experience with drunk travellers and I assured Bobby of this. He cocked an eyebrow at me. “You have never seen anything like this,” he told me.

I arrived back at the hostel at 6 p.m., after driving through the insane rush-hour traffic. I went into the hostel to find that Bobby hadn’t arrived yet, so I began talking to a group of group of girls who had their faces covered in red, blue and white paint. 

“We’re from Australia. Did you know that it’s Australia Day today?” they all asked me sporadically, drunkenly touching my arms and face, putting extra emphasis on their country’s name.

I tried to hold a conversation, but every couple minutes they would laugh or get distracted, as drunk people do. Luckily, Bobby walked in and saved me. He briefly showed me around the bar and reception area, and introduced me to Daniel, another Canadian who worked at the bar, but was leaving Saigon on the weekend.

Bobby ducked behind reception, and when he popped up he threw a shirt at me, and told me to write the drink menu on the blackboard. He then threw some pens at me, which spilled all over the floor, since I was in the middle of putting the shirt on. While I was writing on the board, Daniel sat beside me and we discussed all the great parts of Canada (so we had a lot of talk about), until Bobby stood next to me and started telling me about what we do at the hostel every night, excluding Sunday.

Pretty much there was free alcohol all evening, and then at 10 p.m. we are meant to take all the guests coming on the pub crawl to the other hostel and shut the bar down. We get free shots at the other hostel, and the pub crawl begins shortly after that.

The evening flew by, since socializing with other people didn’t feel like working. At 10 p.m., Daniel and I led the guests to the other hostel, where we all had free shots. I had met two guys from Denmark, and since we had already gotten past all the icebreaking questions, it was much more enjoyable to speak to them than to start all over again with someone else. (If you haven’t had this experience before, let me briefly explain it to you; you meet someone, and then it usually goes like this: "What’s your name, where are you from, how long have you been in Saigon for, how long are you planning to stay, where else have you been, where are you planning on going, what do you do back home?" It gets extremely exhausting after doing it 30 other times.)

So the boys from Denmark and I played beer pong until it was time to start the pub crawl. How did I know it was time to start the pub crawl?


Bobby was standing on the top stair outside, with his hands around his mouth for dramatic effect. Despite his small size, he was extremely good at screaming.

And so we headed out. I was in the middle of the group with the same Australian girls as before, except this time we weren’t talking, I was just trying to keep them off the road so that they didn’t get hit by the motorbikes that whizzed past us every minute.

We went to three different bars and each one felt the same. Loud electronic dance music, people screaming in each other’s ears, people dancing erratically, and people spilling their drinks on each other. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to see the end of the night.

Daniel and I walked back to the hostel with some stragglers dragging their drunken asses behind us, since Bobby had mysteriously disappeared somewhere between the first and second bar. We helped the drunken folks in through the door and pointed them in the right direction of the stairs.

I grabbed my bag and started to head out the door.

“Special K!” Daniel called (he could never remember my name). “We’ll see you tomorrow, mate.”

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Kiana Zemenchik

After falling in love with one-way plane tickets, Kiana moved to Vietnam to write, pet stray dogs and work an office job that she didn't apply for. Hailing from the True North Strong and Free, she has no immediate plan to leave Asia.

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