BG -THE HOW AND THE WHY
In 1997, a young Nguyen Tung Lam was told by his mother to get out of the house, get a proper haircut, and get a real job.
Lam had become use to his lifestyle consisting of sitting on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, drinking cafe da (iced coffee) during the day and practicing his karaoke at night. But this experience was perfect for setting up his business the Vietnamese cafe and restaurant Tac Ke (Blue Gecko). It so happened at this time that a group of hard drinking Australian expatriates were looking for a new "local" given that their previous establishment has shafted them. Mr. Lob, had been dining at the BBQ restaurant 2 doors from Tac Ke and decided to take a look inside. Even with Lob's lack of Viet Namese and the staffs complete non understanding of English, Lob managed to convey to Lam that he would be back tomorrow with his mates. Frantic 'phone calls the next day were made and at 5 minutes past 5 o'clock the Aussie pack arrived.
Lessons in how to keep a Aussie drinker happy commenced.
Put the beer on ice, NOT the ice in the beer
Do this 2 hours before opening
Turn the bloody air conditioners on
Get rid of the shit thumpin' dance music
Get some English speaking staff
And the Blue Gecko was born. Lob, Tip, Renan and the crew were set.
A week of remedial lessons followed by 3 months of constant follow up, the introduction of Georgio, the English speaking Viet Namese barman and expansion was on the cards.
The pool table was one of the best in town, cable television was installed, air conditioning was upgraded and the clientele increased.
An American was hired to manage the bar and in true Aussie fashion he lasted 30 minutes.
At this point in time Lam was becoming Aussiefied himself and decided that he needed an Aussie name. Marching proudly into the bar one night, he declared from this point in time he would be known as Simon to which the crowd cheered its appropriateness.
Another Aussie expat had gotten into Simons ear at this time and he became an avid supporter of the Richmond Football Club from the AFL and along with an Australian flag adorning the ceiling, Richmond paraphernalia was hung throughout the pub. Soon other "punters" of varying nationalities became regulars and other nations flags competed for space on the ceiling.
One of the "attractions" of the Blue Gecko at this time, especially for the single gentlemen among the clientele, was its proximity to the now long gone entertainment centre the Blue Door and manageress Al.
In further developments, live music would rock the Blue Gecko occasionally with Burned By The Sun a regular feature. Who can forget the debut performance (and final performance) of one of our Irish brothers. And even though the Ministry of Darkness have since curtailed the frequency of these bashes, the Blue Gecko is still the venue for the AFL Grand Final Brunch after brunch bash with Burnedd and friends shaking the place to the core. Simon is now Viet Nam's version of Bono and his yearly rendition of With or Without you is always highly anticipated.
In 2005, the Blue Gecko was the major sponsor of the AFL Grand Final Brunch.
Major sporting events have always been a big attraction at the Blue Gecko and in time for Football World Cup 2002, jointly held in Japan and South Korea, a "too" big screen and projector system was installed. Regular features shown on the "too" big screen are the Formula 1 Grand Prix, English Premiership football, rugby Super 14's, Six Nations and who can forget the biggest crowd at the Gecko ever, the final of Rugby World Cup 2003.
Neighbour complaints were highest at this time as the crowds overflowed into the street and the punters turned the motorbike parking area into an impromptu men's toilet. Palms were greased and everything was okay.
The Blue Gecko is now a major stopping off point for tourist groups and fun times are assured when the bus loads roll in. With mentions in Lonely Planet and other such travel guides, it is a common sight to see folk walk in clutching their "bibles". Most of them even wear shoes!
It would be remiss of any writer of the history of the Blue Gecko not to mention the synergy between the AFL and the Gecko. Luminaries of the game such as David Rhys-Jones, Russel Morris, Dale Weightman, the 2 Gary Ablett's and Nathan, Mark Yeates, Peter Wilson and David King have all made the Blue Gecko their local whilst in Ho Chi Minh. But, without doubt, the greatest sporting legend to patronize the Blue Gecko was the VFL/AFL legend Ronald Dale Barassi. A Sunday afternoon with Ron and the 13 sponsors of his trip, together with Simon, was the best afternoon for those involved and will remain in their memories eternally. A real highlight of the BG's history.
Despite occasional visits from the anti-fun patrol, the odd blue and rare unwelcome punter, the Blue Gecko remains an institution for drinkers, ex-pats and tourists alike. Whether you want a game of darts or pool, to watch your favourite team play in your preferred sport or just kick back and relax with a coldie, Simon and the crew will do their utmost to make your time in the pub time to remember.
But remember: NON MEMBERS ONLY !