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Today is Australia Day — and I’d love to wish a very happy Australia Day to my beloved Australian readers.
This time last year, I was in Hanoi, Vietnam, and celebrated Australia Day for the first time…in a truly unique fashion.
I was staying at the excellent Hanoi Backpackers, home to one of the best hostel happy hours in the world. At 5:00 PM every night, it feels like every backpacker in the city comes up to the Hanoi Backpackers bar. In this city, where you can find bia hoi (cheap Vietnamese beer) for 12 cents a glass, Hanoi Backpackers actually gives out beer for free on Sundays!
A few days after arriving in Hanoi, I got very sick. After four days of staying in bed and eating nothing but baguettes and bananas from the hostel kitchen, I decided it was time to be a human again. I dragged myself upstairs to the bar, determined to socialize. It was Australia Day, and I heard there would be a celebration.
I got to the top and saw this:
Have I mentioned that Hanoi Backpackers is owned by Australians?
Everyone, no matter what nationality they were, was covered in Australian flag tattoos. The barbecue was fired up, serving burgers that should have been far too delicious for being made in Vietnam, and the beer was flowing!
And I got into the spirit! I love Australians. All the Australians I’ve met have been incredibly welcoming and friendly, so hilarious, and always up for a beer. They also love to travel, and you’ll probably find at least one Australian anywhere you go around the globe.
Most of the people up there that day were Australian. I was wrapped up in the Australian flag and cheering the country’s existence in no time.
And then it became time for frog racing. Yes, the official event of Australia Day at Hanoi Backpackers was racing frogs.
The frogs were put in a circle and the first one to jump out would be the winner.
The frogs had numbers on them, but that wasn’t enough — we had to name them as well. Most of the Australian guys had named the frogs after themselves, but they came up with a few unique ones…
Yep. We had a frog named Lady Gaga.
With that, I immediately knew who I was rooting for.
And they were off!
“JUMP, LADY GAGA!” I yelled. “YOU CAN DO IT! JUST DANCE! LET THE MUSIC PLAY!”
Lady Gaga stayed still, as did most of the frogs.
“COME ON, LADY GAGA!”
Lady Gaga didn’t even come close.
But she was still my froggie.
Out of all the country celebrations I’ve seen around the world, my bizarre Australia Day in Hanoi remains one that I’ll always remember. Tattoos, beer, frogs, and all.