Once upon a time in America a man could sit down with complete strangers and set aside the cares of the world.
Some men were CEOs, others were blue collar workers, and some of us were students. All were welcome and status did not matter.
Even women were welcome, and in fact the sight of a woman smoking a cigar was seen as a unicorn.
In the cigar lounge there was a certain brotherhood. Some even called it the “brotherhood of the leaf.”
I smoked cigars with Axl Rose and helped David Arquette choose the best cigars for his home humidor. In a cigar lounge, no one is a celebrity or rich guy. Everyone was equal.
I fell out of the cigar scene as smoking restrictions became more severe.
In an effort to protect workers’ health, California enacted various draconian smoking bans. No one would be allowed to smoke indoors, even if the employees had no issues with inhaling second-hand cigar smoke. (I happen to enjoy it!)
Even owners were prohibited from working around cigars. In a nation of obese people, you’d think we’d have bigger issues to address than cigar lounges.
Some of us viewed attacks on cigar lounges as a broader attack on masculinity. Men would go to the lounge to “get away from it all,” to kick our feet up in peace and quiet.
I’ve re-discovered my love of cigars in Saigon.
Like many Americans, I’ve learned the “communist countries” my government told me to fear offer more freedom than the land of the free and home of the brave.
My two favorite cigar lounges in Saigon are SIQAR and the Saigon Cigar Club.
As any cigar aficionado knows, there are more counterfeit Cuban cigars circulating than there are authentic ones. It was thus of paramount importance for me to interview the owners of the respective cigar lounges.
Last week I had a detailed discussion about cigar sources and counterfeits with the owner of the Saigon Cigar Club.
Today I had the pleasure to discuss cigars with the owners of SIQAR and can confirm their cigars are authentic. They order from a reliable source and unboxed a sealed box of Cohiba Behike, two of which I enjoyed.
(FYI, I don’t do sponsored posts or talk to anyone before reviewing their establishment. This is entirely unpaid.)
Drinking a Vietnamese milk coffee while writing and smoking.
“A cigar oughtt not to be smoked solely with the mouth, but with the hand, the eyes, and with the Spirit.” – Zino Davidoff
A fresh box of Cohiba Behike at SIQAR in Saigon.
SIQAR’s humidor is well stocked with a selection of Dominican cigars like Fuente and Padron as well as Cuban cigars.
The Saigon Cigar Club has a full selection of whisky and Cuban cigars.
Women are welcome at cigar lounges, too.
One life. Enjoy!
Do you smoke cigars?
If so, what’s your favorite cigar?
A Day (and Night) in the Life of Saigon
I’ve travelled enough to not get goo-goo eyes for each new city. We all know the type, “OMG! THIS PLACE IS AMAZING I AM GOING TO LIVE HERE.”
Well. Oh my.
Saigon has a vibe as all cities do.
Saigon has a fair amount of chaos and disarray, which excites me. I approach each new day without expectations.
Here are some photographs of Saigon I’ve taken.
Saigon is humanity.
Saigon is narrow streets.
Saigon is work.
Saigon is a lot of coffee.
Saigon is traffic.
Saigon is new games.
Saigon is walking.
Saigon is riding.
Saigon is good food.
Saigon is service.
Saigon is open air.
Saigon is water.
Saigon is a city.
Saigon is life.
Saigon is whatever you want it to be.
Enjoying the Beaches of Hội An, Vietnam
The “motorcycle gang” started off in Huế en route to Hội An, and the trip was worth it. Hoi An was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited. The weather was cool and breezy.
Wikipedia will tell you all the high-brow facts of Hoi An. For example, “Hội An is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Hội An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century.”
We came for the beaches, custom suits, and swag bags.
I’ve been to many of the world’s best beaches like Cabo and Miami, and of course I lived in Los Angeles for over a decade.
While there isn’t a party scene, the beaches of Vietnam are equally beautiful.
Check out this coastline.
You can also shop for custom suits and leather travel bags in Hoi An.
I had food poisoning and didn’t get a suit made, unlike these two handsome men.
I’ll be back later in the year for a custom tailor job.
I was able to pick up a handmade leather bag.
In “money see, monkey do” fashion, all four of us bought a leather travel bag.
You got a problem, bro?
Old Town Hoi An by day.
Old Town Hoi An by night.
Looking at city lights reflecting off of the water while enjoying a cool breeze is one of life’s simple pleasures.
We stayed at the Alma Courtyard in Hoi An. The stay included a huge breakfast spread and a massage.
The view of Alma Courtyard during the day.
Time to unwind.
It’s a long and winding road.
Some travel by oxen.
Others by boat.
And still others travel by bike.
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Motobiking from Huế to Hội An, Vietnam
Vietnam reminds me of my former home state, California. Both are a single state/country and yet each offers rich geographical and lifestyle diversity. In Saigon you can smoke Cuban cigars from an elegant rooftop bar on Monday night and then hop a short flight to explore the caves of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng.
With some friends in town, my girl and I flew from Saigon to Hanoi and gradually worked our way South, back to Saigon. While in Huế, located centrally in Vietnam, we all decided to rent motobikes to take the trek further south to a relaxing beach town – Hội An.
We got a guide, which I’d recommend. Navigating through Vietnamese streets can be a bit daunting at first. Also, the guide handles the logistics of setting you up with a motobike and he will know how to keep you out of too much trouble.
The drive itself could take you two hours (if you sped) or six hours (if you stopped to smell the roses).
The map from Huế to Hội An.
The guide arrived to the hotel with motobikes and took us on our way.
I would look cooler on a full-sized motorcycle, but these motos’ get you around swiftly while in ‘Nam.
Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world, and there’s no California Clean Air Act here. The air inside denser areas like Huế and Saigon can be nasty, which is why we look like bank robbers in this pic below.
Face masks are a necessity.
Once outside the city, the air was clean.
As we drove up the mountainside, we were greeted with views like this.
After a long ride, we arrived safely in Hội An.
I hid out in the shade.
Others enjoyed the sun.
Do you enjoy these travel updates? If so, I’ll keep posting them. I’m keeping a travel journal, anyhow, so I can share it with you all or keep it to myself. Either way I’ll be writing.