The recent holiday weekend in Vietnam was to commemorate the liberation of South Vietnam and May Day. I toasted with bia hoi and peanuts.
While summer's by no means in full tilt, an hour of Sunday morning sunshine on a ride about town to take in the holiday atmosphere had me sufficiently heated up and craving a beverage of some description. The breakfast was digesting, the coffee injection of an hour earlier causing hydration issues. Water would have been good.
But Beer would do.
Bia Hoi is draught beer served on the street, pulled direct from the keg, sometimes through a proper tap, sometimes enticed down a syphon by a quick suck of air from the beer-tender's lungs. To small operators, the kegs are delivered strapped on the back of motorcycles, picked up directly from the brewery door. All manner of old-fashioned ice-boxy refrigeration techniques are employed to keep the amber fluid cold. Shot up pieces of polystyrene box, sponge and ice blocks in grotty towels wedged on top and around the keg seem to do the trick at most bia hoi stops. As a general rule, the nearer to delivery time, the better the brew. If it's not cold, it's toxic in my book. Bloody awful!
It's delivered early and lots of blokes down beer first thing. Drinking in the morning has no stigma attached to it in Vietnam so it is not uncommon to see 7am beer swilling taking place around the capital or shots of rice wine being drunk with the morning pho for that matter.
Beer o'clock for me is at the other end of the day but the festive atmosphere has me pulling up roadside at a quarter to yard arm. This particular stretch of bitumen is lined with suburban pubs, just brewery umbrellas really, under which sit kegs sheathed in heavy green cloth, a beer-tender and used plastic water bottles for the drive-by take-away trade, which is swift. Blue and maroon furniture is strewn about.
The beer comes served in crude washed-up-on-the-beach-glass tumblers that, in all probability, sit in chic homeware shop windows in other parts of the world. It's cold and then it's gone. As it's a double-header holiday, I line up another along with the only beer snack on offer: a plate of boiled peanuts. Now, these sound weird but they eventually do work. The job of shelling them at least keeps me from getting completely plastered at lunchtime.
Ba cop (three cups) and the nuts - 12,500VND (USD78c, AUD$1.01)
Bia Hoi is available all over town, from big halls with huge menus to one keg stools on the footpath.