Only have time for a quick post before the tour bus gets here…
We had wanted to try out Bia Hoi (fresh beer) in Saigon, but didn’t get around to finding a watering hole near our hotel. When went looking for one in Hanoi when we arrived, but they were all closed (11pm). Everything seemed to be closed after ten in Hanoi. Saigon kept going all night. Bia hoi is a light (4% alch) lager (almost a pilsner, but not as bitter) that is brewed and consumed daily. Usually served on the street, the beer is also dirt cheap. Depending on the rate of white-face-tax, you can usually pick up about four pints for a buck, and the food at a bia hoi place is cheap as well.
Yesterday after a long walk we finally managed to get some bia hoi. We stopped in at one busy shop near our hotel, and grabbed some seats on the first floor (second floor). There was a party of some sort finishing up near us, so we made our way through the peanut shells and paper napkins to snag a table. These places don’t seem to be touristed at all, so we had a pretty warm welcome.
We ordered a couple glasses and watched the guys next to us get more and more red faced. I’ve heard some disparaging remarks about the taste of bia hoi, but I found it quite good. Served in a cold glass, the light body is perfectly suited for the weather. I polished off three glasses. A bia hoi spot seems to be the perfect place to take a break. You can sit and relax, or make a toast and a few friends.
PS – The bia hoi staff also seemed to be some of the most deserving of a tip. They were friendly, hard working, and seemed to be on the lower end of the income scale. Most of the staff seemed to live at the joint (they were collecting their laundry and rolling out sleep mats as we left), and were hungry enough to finished off food that guests left behind. Since your bill is probably only a buck, there shouldn’t be any excuse for tight wallets.