Bia Hoi in Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, boasts an endless amount of wonders for the visitor to enjoy such as Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature (Vietnam's first university), the unique Water Puppet Theatre and the Hanoi Hilton amongst many other attractions.  But for us, Hanoi will alway mean Bia Hoi, literally translated "Fresh Beer."  The consumption of Bia Hoi takes place on the sidewalks and streets of Hanoi in front of small, family run establishments (usually their home) that provide several tiny chairs, a few kegs of beer and a water pipe for the smoking of local tobacco.  The best things about a Bia Hoi place are the prices (approximately 10 cents a glass) and the opportunity to witness the bustling street life of Hanoi.  On any given night, you are bound to witness any one of the following: a heated argument between Vietnamese (very fun to watch), a drunken Westerner falling all over the place, a traffic accident or any other number of improbable incidents.  Since it is illegal to set up tables and chairs on the sidewalks of Hanoi (an inane law because most of the activity of Hanoi takes place in the streets), it is the beer consumers job to lookout for approaching police who will fine the family for serving beer on the street.  Usually, you can hear the approaching commotion giving you ample warning which sets everyone into action.  Quickly, everyone stands up, stashes the chairs and tables in the family's house and stands around like they're having a casual coversation on the street corner.  After the police move on, the tables and chairs return to the sidewalk and it's business as usual.  It is a hilarious, nightly ritual that adds to the atmosphere of the Bia Hoi Corner.
A Bia Hoi Sign in Hanoi Advertising a Glass of Fresh Beer for 1200 Vietnamese Dong, Roughly 8 cents.
Just as we have our regular pub at home (and we do miss the King's Head Pub), we found it important to find a regular Bia Hoi Corner in Hanoi.  The advantage of this is that the family gains trust in you and makes you feel at home; you can pour your own beers throughout the night and simply tell them how much you've consumed when you leave.  At our particular Bia Hoi Corner, we had the added pleasure of free nightly entertainment provided by a local crazy woman.  Every night around 6:00pm, she would stand in the middle of the very busy intersection, wave a bamboo stick around and rail against journalists in Vietnam (don't ask, just enjoy the show).
After many nights at our Bia Hoi Corner, we bacame friends with a very cool, young Vietnamese man named Hero (the English translation of his Hmong name).  As our luck would have it, he was a freelance tour guide and upon our request, he took us and our friends, Kate and Mostyn, to a Bia Hoi Brewery to see firsthand how this wonderful brew is made.  The brewery is a joint Vietnamese-German venture located in the outskirts of Hanoi.  Upon our arrrival, they provided us with several liters of fresh Bia Hoi and were quite astonished that Westerners would want to visit the brewery.  Due to the brewery's manager not being present, we were only allowed to see the fermentation tanks from afar; by that time, however, we had a buzz on so it didn't matter anyway.  Instead, we ended up at another Bia Hoi establishment down the road from the brewery where we drank the night away.  Again, that's why we call it blurrytravel.


So if you ever find yourself in Hanoi, be sure to partake in Bia Hoi.
One of the Many Nightly Mishaps that Make a Night at the Bia Hoi Corner so Interesting.  Fortunately Nobody was Hurt.
While Drinking at the Bia Hoi Corner, Many Food Vendors will Wander by Ready to Satisfy your Appetite.  This Woman is Cooking us Some Small Fish and Squid.
This is the Kindly Proprietor of our Regular Bia Hoi Corner.  He was a Generous Man who was Always Quick with a Smile and a Beer.
The Gang - Karen, Kate, Mostyn and Hero - Drinking at our Regular Bia Hoi Corner. The Gang - Mostyn, Brian, Kate and Hero -  Drinking at a Different Bia Hoi Corner Down the Street from the Asadki Bia Hoi Brewery.
The Proprietors of a Bia Hoi Corner Tapping a Fresh Keg.
A Keg of Asadki Bia Hoi Ready to be Emptied.
The Fermentation Tanks at the Asadki Bia Hoi Brewery. 
Bia Hoi, a Common Sight Throughout Hanoi.