Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bia Hoi - Keeping it Real (Cheap)

Juice Cafe - HCMC, Vietnam

I am really digging it here in Nam.

On Friday night, we went out looking for the "local" experience and found it. Just a stone's throw from the wanky bars and nedly discos around our hotel, there is a large bia hoi (draft beer) joint. During the day, I think the place may be a motorbike repair shop. At night, the garage-style doors open wide to reveal seating for 100 at unsturdy folding tables surrounded by plastic chairs. We were seated in the front on the border between the dining area and a busy street. To my surprise, our waitress spoke some English and also produced an English menu. We ordered a seafood hotpot, shredded pork with bitter melon, and the first of several plastic jugs of beer brewed on the premises. The done thing is to drink the beer from a glass mug, most of which is already filled with a block of ice.

The atmosphere there was exactly what you might think Vietnam is like. One one side I had a noisy room full of increasingly drunken Vietnamese enthusiasticly digging into unidentifiable foods. On the other side I had a street full of honking motorbikes. Right in front of me was a boiling pot of seafood the smell and taste of which was as strange as it was delicous.

It was not long before we attracted some attention from the staff and other customers with our foreign eccentricities. The employees are mostly young (early 20s) and eager to try out their English. A Japanese girl (name escapes) at the next table over chatted with us between grimacing mouthfuls of frog. We showed off the pictures in Jason's camera and took a bevy of new ones (coming soon to an OC blog near you...). There was also a good-natured exchange of bar tricks. Jason impressed with the always reliable "chopstick twirl around the thumb". I was less successful with the "try to juggle chopsticks but mostly throw them on the floor". We left before closing time (midnight) but not before making an unsuccessful effort to meet up with our new friends after. I guess the Vietnamese go to bed early. The bill came to about 4 US dollars.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Update from Mom: It sounds like you and Mike are on the mend. Steve and I enjoyed looking at the Mt. Fuji pictures and other pictures. Now that I have ventured onto the website all by myself, I will do it more often. I'm going to go look at your schedule to see where you are going next.

Take care of each other. Love, Mom

8/21/2005 4:10 PM gmt

Blogger jason said...

We're better, and on our way to Hanoi.

8/23/2005 11:20 AM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I was just reading this /. article and figured that seeing as you guys are in 'Nam, you could consider making the gory sequel to Mike's aesophagus DVD.

Jason --- you could sneak off and meet this guy one night, and then 'surprise' Mike (by having it all edited for him on your Mac by the time he wakes up. I suppose you'd better make him breakfast too!)

8/23/2005 1:34 PM gmt

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ass. I wish my Mac would quit with autocompleting that "type 1 fool" thing.... wasn't even funny the first time around...!

8/23/2005 1:36 PM gmt

Blogger Mik3 said...

We could make an entire season of a sitcom that takes place in my stomach. The pyloric sphincter makes an excellent "whacky next door neighbor".

In related news...

I have managed to cobble together from bits of twine and coconut shells my very own "Shut The Hell Up, Allan" Device. How's that for autocompletion, eh?

8/23/2005 2:27 PM gmt

Blogger Mik3 said...

By "vat of ice", did you mean "vat of rice"? I could find the latter in abundance.

8/26/2005 2:51 AM gmt


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