JZ & Friends In Vietnam And Thailand

The plan was to skate Bangkok, Thailand for a few days and then spend another week or so in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to film for Patrik Wallner’s new video, Translations.  I was hyped to jump on a plane ride from NYC in early February to make this trip.

The first thing Patrik and I did upon our arrival in Bangkok was jump in a “tuk tuk” (a three-wheeled moped taxi) to cruise the streets to find spots and take in a mini tour of Bangkok. The sixteen-year old driver was driving completely out of control, nearly getting us killed several times trying to get us to our destination fast–I loved it. I think he might have been high on glue. We eventually ended up at Preduce Skate Shop in central Bangkok and scoped their latest video project, took notes on spots and went out for a night session.
It was common for us to take fifteen “tuk tuk” rides a day, which proved to be an effective method for finding spots. Each ride would only cost 50 bhat ($1.50). The heat was intense so it was nice to jump in and cool off for fifteen minutes before skating again. The driver often waited for us at the spot. As far as food, we ate pizza from Pizza Hut each day or shrimp fried rice at local restaurants and drank a lot of 7-Up out of the bottle.

Kenny Reed was in Bangkok with two skaters from Siberia and one from Russia. As to be expected, Kenny had the inside info on an epic natural transition spot. Before the end of the trip we took a 45-minute trip to skate an eight-foot tall mosaic sundial half pipe surrounded by a moat. Being only 50 feet from the security post, I knew I had to get my trick really quick. The moment I jumped the moat to get to the sundial, I heard the police yelling and could feel their presence coming closer. I ran up the tranny and got a couple pumps in before getting the speed needed to hit the lip with frontside rock. I wanted to get a blunt on the other wall but I was so close to the edge, I flew off the side of the sundial into the water. The cops pulled me out of the muddy moat and violently screamed at me in Thai! For a split second I thought about that kid who got publicly whipped for graffiti in Thailand. I calmly looked at them, smiled innocently and pointed to my skateboard asking if I could skate it again. It was my way of saying that I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. It worked. They didn’t take me to jail and simply escorted me off the property and warned me never to come back. It was so worth it.

Security was a major factor throughout Bangkok. We had to be sneaky even to get a couple tries at each spot.  This is my favorite kind of skating though. Kenny back tailed a rail the day before on his final try with security guards just a few feet away. The “last chance” attempts are exciting! It really makes you go for it, you know?  The last night before we were scheduled to leave Bangkok, the guys at Preduce took me to a perfect sixteen-stair round mint green rail. Security was heavy so Patrik got set up quickly and I grinded it first try. I was stoked!

After an hour and a half flight, we landed in Ho Chi Minh City (Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City) and met up with Michael Mackrodt and his girlfriend Anna, Dany Harnard, and photographer French Kev’.  These guys ripped and were in Vietnam for one month shooting for a few other European magazines. For the next week, we traveled throughout the city via moped. We happened to be there during the Chinese New Year celebration. It was pure madness! Everyone was on vacation. Four million people in the city ride mopeds. We called our crew the “Ho Chi Minh Ducks” because we literally had to travel like a flock of ducks. We had to stay within ten feet of each other on busy roads otherwise we would get split up. A few times it happened, and we all had to meet back at the hotel.

Skate spots were not as plentiful as we had hhoped. There was 24-hour security with guns directly in front of a few sweet spots. We still managed to find a killer bank to wall the first day. Mishi got a frontside nose bash on the wall and Danny frontside nosepicked it. At this spot a kid approached us with a business card for a skate shop that a guy named Mr. Phuc owned. We couldn’t stop laughing. Anytime we got lost we would say, “Call Mr. Phuc.”

One day we skated this yellow mushroom shaped sculpture in front of the embassy for fifteen minutes or so before getting the boot. Mishi hit a dope frontside flip on it. Danny nose mannied up it to switch manny down and I got a quick 43 on it. Kevin got some rad flicks here due to the fact that like 200 people were in the background blocking traffic to watch the skating. 

One morning at breakfast, which usually consisted of tasty strawberry yogurt shakes and Vietnamese super sweet iced coffee, this older local man explained that near the zoo was an abandoned roller skating area that had woopdy doos we might like. That immediately became the game plan for the day. After searching for an hour or so we found the spot. We swept off the area with gigantic palm tree leaves and hit it up! Another day I found a gigantic 30-stair triple kink hubba. I was able to get a grind on the first set and pop off quickly before security rushed me. I would have liked to grind the entire thing, but it was so slick I would have gotten air off the second kink and gotten wrecked for sure. It was one of the scariest grinds of my life since it dropped off like 25 feet on the other side. Later that day, Danny pulled a lengthy nose grind backside 180 out on this red marble stairway entrance to the post office. He almost nollie heeled out on a few tries!
On one of my last days in Vietnam, we took a day trip to the Mekong River, which apparently is the longest river in Asia running through six countries from China to Vietnam. We took a private tour/canoe ride along the river and witnessed small fishing villages, a few monkeys, and heard stories about snakes that eat crocodiles! We celebrated my last night in Vietnam (Patrik, Mishi & Anna, Danny, and Kevin would leave the next day to Hanoi for three weeks) by going to the club Apocalyspe Now, named after Francis Ford Coppola’s famous film about the Vietnam War. We rocked out and partied the night away dancing and drinking with the locals. It was an epic trip! Be sure to check out Patrik’s video due to be released near the end of ’08.  

Thanks to Natural Koncept Skateboards, Osiris, Freestyle, Anarchy Eyewear, and Drunkn Munky for making this trip possible.

Also a big shout out to Simon, Yannick & Leo at Preduce.