A seriously surreal meal accompanied by captivating music, interrupted chats and strict surveillance.
The singing is so deafening that Hoa Mai, our tall, fair-skinned waitress, almost has to yell as she tries to take our order, and still to no avail.
Up on stage, a woman wearing a hanbok is fervently hitting a jang-gu, Korea’s traditional hourglass-shaped drum. I hold my breath, eyes fixated as the drummer builds up for the finale.
The last note leaves me dumbfounded, loud and abrupt, like the way it all started.
Almost every night at 7:30, this is the scene at Pyongyang Restaurant, one of the last two North Korean eateries in Vietnam. For an hour, it felt like the hermit kingdom itself: a red stage showered with LED lights; young, slim, tall and good-looking performers with slicked back ponytails and extra-large hair bows; exuberant, half acrobatic folk dancing; songs about the Great Leader; and of course, a no-camera sign.
At one point, in almost perfect Vietnamese, the women sang a song extolling Ho Chi Minh, followed by a rendition of “I wish”, a popular karaoke hit by Vietnamese diva My Tam.
It goes like this.
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