BootsnAll Travel Network

Hanoi: Bia Hoi Ahoy!

With our bags bursting at the seams, including our extra bag – a small wheely bag stuffed full of wedding clothes, we said goodbye to Hoi An and caught an overnight bus north to Hanoi.

Two minutes into the trip, whilst the bus still slowly made its way along the flat straight streets of Hoi An, the lady in front of me started vomiting. Poor thing, it must be no fun getting car-sick, but come on – at least the previous chunderers we’d encountered had the excuse of winding mountain roads. Perhaps it is Bec and me who induce the vomiting, rather than the vehicle’s movement – the sight of a skinny tall redhead with pasty skin trying to squeeze into a tiny seat sends them over the edge. Thankfully she regained her composure and managed to halt the vomiting, hocking and spitting and the remainder of the trip passed rather smoothly.

At 5.30am, as we hit the outskirts of the city, Bec gently woke me up and pointed out the bright pink sky that had emerged from the darkness. Nothing beats a beautiful sunrise. But the herbal sleeping tablets I’d taken overnight wouldn’t let me wake up yet, and it wasn’t until we stopped an hour or two later that i fully woke. A surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep, that one.

From where the bus stopped and dropped us it was still a ten minute taxi ride into Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where most travellers stay. The travel company reps who had travelled on the bus from Hoi An informed us that if you took a taxi to their travel agency in the Old Quarter, from where they could get commision by sending you to their preferred guesthouse, the ride would be free. If you wanted to go to any other guesthouse, as Bec and I did, then you’d have to pay yourself. Ah, Vietnam, always taking care of the visitor.

We agreed on a price with a couple of moto-taxis to take us to the guesthouse we’d picked from the guidebook, and then when we arrived they asked for double what we’d agreed upon. Sigh.

We’d chosen this guesthouse due to its description of being friendly, and upon entering we were greeted, for one of the few times in Vietnam, with a friendly smile. There’s nothing like a smile to help you relax.

Our few days in Hanoi pretty much revolved around one thing, and I’ll get to that in a second. The common things for a visitor in Hanoi to do include a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, where you can view the dead body of Uncle Ho, the saviour of Vietnam. We journied out to the mausoleum, stupidly, on a Sunday, along with what seemed to be the entire Vietnamese population. The line to get in was, truthfully, kilometres long. So we gave that a miss. Next attraction was a night at Vietnam’s famous water puppet theatre. Now, when I picture an enjoyable night out, going to see puppet theatre ranks about as high as dinner with John Howard, and so we gave that a miss as well.

What took up most of our time in Hanoi revolved around two words; bia, and hoi.

For those unfamiliar with the Vietnamese language, bia hoi translates as ‘fresh beer’. What the translation fails to mention is that bia hoi is quite possibly the cheapest beer in the entire world. It is, essentially, what we in AUstralia would call home brew. SOld on the side of the street, where a vendor will plonk down a couple of kids’ size plastic chairs and a keg with a rubber hose for a tap, the Czech-style pilsner is sold for the eyeballs-popping-out-of-the-head ridiculous price of 2000 dong per 300ml glass. Sounds like a lot of money, right. Well, 2000 dong equates to around 15 cents. That’s six pence.

Why the fuck would I want to go and watch water puppets when I can get a beer for 15 cents?! With 15 bucks in my pocket, I can go out and buy ONE HUNDRED BEERS!

There was little that Hanoi could do to convince us not to spend our afternoon drinking bia hoi. It tried its best though. On one afternoon, as we sat on the little plastic seats on the road next to the kerb at a major crossroad in Hanoi, a crossroad known as Bia Hoi Junction where three of the corners feature tiny bia hoi bars, a vicious rain storm hit. It pelted down, and within minutes the drains were blocked, and the water began to spread out across the road until the entire crossroad was underwater.

We sat as the water first lapped at our toes, then eased up our feet and began splashing around our ankles. The rain kept coming and the water rose up to our calves. Not even the cockroaches and centipedes that were flooded out of the drain and that began running across our feet and through our hair could prevent us filling up yet another glass of bia hoi.

Eventually the rain stopped, and the water level fell back down. And we kept drinking bia hoi.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply