Bia Hoi in Hanoi, Vietnam

bia hoi ha noi

Bia Hoi is a unique cultural experience in Vietnam that I thoroughly enjoyed. Fresh draft beer is delivered daily to bia hois and stored in a HUGE container. It’s served by the glass and each glass only costs VND 6,000 (RM 0.90). It’s icy cold and has a low alcohol content (reported to be around 3%), which makes it perfect for prolonged drinking sessions.

bia hoi draft beer

I was lucky to find an real bia hoi where all the locals in the Old Quarter go to just a street down from the place I was staying at. The best thing about the place is that they’re not used to foreigners – I got a lot of puzzled looks when I sat down and people started asking me where I was from.

bia hoi fresh beer

One other interesting aspect is that office workers would drop by during lunch and grab a quick glass of beer before departing again. I think this has something to do with the American occupation and the cultural vestiges left after that but I’m no sociologist so take this with a pinch of salt.

bia hoi ambience

Anyway, they were very surprised at the amount of beer that I can drink and on the second visit on my first day, the owner sat down with me and bought me a beer. This is a friendship that would last throughout the trip, sometimes I just sat down and he waved my money away. He was interested in me and I guess they don’t get a lot of tourists coz he was asking me a lot of questions.

bia hoi owner

He also had two peculiar traits – a fondness of working ladies (which he claims he can get for VND 30,000 but I never verified since I didn’t take him up on his offer) and an equal enthusiasm for photos (he kept wanting me to take photos of him) but he’s a really nice guy. He actually saved me from being pick pocketed – someone on a bike pulled up and discreetly opened by my backpack and he shouted at the dude in Vietnamese before I realized what happened.

bia hoi cigarette

Bia hois in Vietnam is places where the locals congregate to drink and shoot the shit. I managed to meet a lot of the locals there – from dodgy people of dubious career paths to real deal old communists complete with Viet Cong tattoos.

I also learned a method of smoking which is like the Tim Tam Slam. Basically you dip the filter of your cigarette into the glass of cold beer and suck up the amber fluid through the other side. I was surprised that it would light at all but it did and the end result was a cigarette that tastes cold and you get a sip of beer with every puff.

I cannot stress the importance of visiting a bia hoi when you’re in Vietnam. It is where you meet the locals and talk to them. Communication barriers abound but after a few glasses you’ll be using a mixture of gestures and basically speak the same language. smirk

The bia hois are usually adorned with the stools and tables common in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and it’s a great place to hang out before and after you’re done with the day. The fresh beer comes in right in the morning so be sure to catch that batch – it’s a refreshing breakfast to start your day!

bia hoi pipe

I also learned how to smoke their tobacco pipes in the local bia hoi. I was sitting with this bunch of people passing around a communal pipe and one of them offered me the pipe. It’s not like smoking a bong at all – the trick is to inhale and sorta blow out the excess burnt tobacco and inhale again.

bia hoi local pipe

The tobacco pipes is filled with…you guessed it, fresh beer and it’s guaranteed to make your head spin after a couple of hits if you’re not a heavy smoker. Heh!

bia hoi me

If you’ll ask me to name a place where I felt most at home while on vacation in Hanoi, Vietnam – it would be hands down the local bia hoi. No contest.

Banh Gio in Hanoi

banh gio stall

Banh Gio is one of the most amazing epicurean (here’s that word again) discoveries I’ve found in Hanoi, Vietnam. I’ve always been puzzled by the large group of people huddled around this middle aged woman in the Old Quarter and decided to just pull up a chair one day and do it as the locals do.

bahn gio

Banh Gio is basically glutenous rice with a filling of mung beans and pork wrapped in banana leafs into a pyramid shape.

bahn gio vietnam

However, that is not what makes it good. Banh Gio is served piping hot and the glutenous rice is so glutenous I’ll equate it to jelly.

bahn gio source

It’s melt in your mouth goodness!

bahn gio chilli

I was sitting there when the woman beside me gestured for me to pour some chilli sauce into my banh gio. This is a totally unbiased review since I was so full I wanted to puke. I’ve had too much to eat but the crowded stall just pulled me in to see what the locals eat.

bahn gio people

You can opt for various side cuts (also wrapped inside banana leafs) in your banh gio. The texture and and taste it like nothing else! You can literally scoop the banh gio and slurp it down – that’s how soft the glutenous rice is.

banh gio tea

Best enjoyed with…their local iced tea. Bet you thought I was gonna say something else. :p

Balcony jumping in Sepang

balcony jumping

Okay, this is a rather ill conceived idea that got into my head ever since the mangrove tour guide guy told me the water was 5-6 meters deep from the individual water chalets. I’ve done cliff jumping in Ton Sai and bff Lainey knew that I was gonna do this from the way I pondered and reccied the exit points.

There is an emergency ladder system about 100 meters from our water chalet and to be safe I deployed the life buoy (standard in each chalet). I didn’t know how deep the water was or whether there are any rocks under it so I needed the life buoy as insurance just in case I jumped into rocks and can’t resurface.

I must let it go on record that this is not recommended at all! It was a lot of fun for me but the water at high tide is only 1 meter deep (!!!). It’s a good thing the bottom is sand or else I’ll be in a shitload of trouble from jumping from the balcony into the sea.

The video is funny from bff’s commentary and how I kena tiu by the security guard when I appeared seemingly out of nowhere…in my briefs. smirk

Go watch! =D

It’s like that…and that’s the way it is!

jisan vodka

Jisan is leaving today so I figured I’ll bring her out for a farewell dinner. She said to meet at delicious and for some reason it registered as WIP for me. I was sitting there in bsc, having two perfect pints of Guinness (how apt smirk) while waiting and playing Solitaire on my phone when I got a call from her.

It turns out that she was waiting at delicious in BVII so I drove there and we ordered some stuff to eat. My last meal was at 3 pm so I couldn’t eat much though I really liked the pate with crackers.

jisan b52

Anyway, since it’s her last day I figured we should probably do some shooters. I got 4 AK-47s and we both drank two in a row. It was kinda weak though so we drank our beers, ate some more, talked a lot and then I got an idea to order a bottle of vodka.

They didn’t have Absolut or Smirnoff so I went for SKYY (God I feel like puking just from writing that). I poured about 4-5 shots neat into the glasses – no ice, no mixers and we downed 3 glasses of that, almost in a row. I remember drinking more but alcohol induced anterograde amnesia kicked in after that.

jisan food

I had to get the download from Jisan the next day. Thank God everything was fine. I walked her to her car, drove back and even texted her to tell me when she’s home safe. I could even reply her but seriously, I don’t remember anything at all. I don’t even remember driving back but there’s no human shaped dent in my car so I guess everything went A-OK. smirk

It was fun but I probably shouldn’t have drank so much neat vodka over such a short period of time. We nearly finished the entire bottle. Neat, no mixers, no ice! Boy was it hard getting up the next day. T_T

jisan me

Say goodbye/hello to Jisan! All the best in all future endeavors!

P/S – She can drink more than me one. Dammit tricked me into drinking more. :p

jisan tic tac toe

…and I certainly don’t remember playing tic-tac-toe on a napkin!

Adventurous OR Suicidal?

propeller

I am a very adventurous person by nature. I make it a point to do something that feeds my inner adrenaline junkie every time I’m on vacation. The last one was a week ago – I went cliff diving in Ton Sai off Phi Phi Islands.

The cleverly crafted piece of text that piqued my interest:

Cliff jumping is fairly new to Tonsai Bay. There are cliffs from 6 to 16m that are ideal for cliff jumping due to the depth of water below. Organized tours can be found at Ton Sai, but please be informed that this is not a particularly regulated activity and can cause injury to people including ear ruptures, and muscle / back injuries.

(Source: Wikitravel)

Unregulated? Potential for injury? BRING IT ON!

cliff%20diving

Well, I kinda messed up my second cliff dive coz I had to climb out into a tree branch. The foliage made it hard for me to see and I’m a little wary about heights (which is part of the fun!). I landed in a very peculiar position and have chest pains to this very day.

It hurts when I laugh or cough or inhale too deeply.

A gem from Wikipedia:

Hitting the water flat from 10 m brings the diver to rest in about 1 ft. The extreme deceleration causes severe bruising both internal and external, strains to connective tissue securing the organs and possible minor hemorrhage to lungs and other tissue. Very painful and distressing, but not life-threatening.

I went to see the doctor since I jumped from twice that height but my ribs are all intact. Just some minor bruising of internal organs and stuff like that.

I wanted to go for the 30 feet jump but our guide didn’t let me. I suspect he wasn’t confident about climbing up as well since the rocks are RAZOR SHARP. I probably won’t be sitting here writing this if I messed up that dive or if there’s rocks underneath (it’s a very unregulated sport).

God forbid that happen since I am not exactly very good with savings as well so the hospital bills will kill me if the jump didn’t. I basically live from paycheck to paycheck. I spend a lot on unnecessary stuff and poor planning makes me particularly susceptible to paying more than I need to:

Exhibit A

rm 90 parking

I shouldn’t have drove to the KL Sentral car park while going on vacation

Exhibit B

ticket

Parking tickets are always a problem with me

There are Exhibits C-Z (so much that I fear I may have to start with renaming it Exhibit A1) which just illustrates the poor choices I make.

Like losing RM 35,000 in a casino. That is one of the more epic ones.

20k%20chips%20genting

The thing is, I used to save before the 35k loss. How do you think I even had RM 50,000 to lose within one week? (first instance was Auckland)

I just can’t save after that due to my spending habits so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and get back on my feet.

I’ll start being careful with my money and as an important aside to that, being more careful with my life. I’m starting to feel very insecure with my lack of savings should anything happen.

I always catch a lot of flak from my friends due to my lifestyle and I figured it was high time to take back at least some personal responsibility. A quick Google search turned up a host of results from various financial institutions but one in particular stood out. The Great Eastern’s CHAT calculator got me thinking about financial planning and protection due to the scenarios given. It really gave me pause. I’ve never thought of insurance as a priority in my life since I’m kinda blasé about personal safety.

car bumper

My rear bumper has been hanging since a month and I have to periodically shove it back. I’m really afraid that it’ll just fly off while I’m driving on the highway one day and hit a car behind. It’s not exactly something you can drive away from considering your rear bumper has your license plate on it. smirk

It really is rather dangerous both to myself and others. Some of you would be familiar with my colorful and rich history but it’s not something I recommend for other people. There are consequences. I wish I had started saving earlier so I wouldn’t be in this predicament right now – I can’t even fix my bumper due to lack of funds.

A lot of people live vicariously through me and that’s fine, but there are a lot of takeouts (or life lessons) you can learn from my mistakes. I know hindsight is 20/20 but I wish I had taken a closer look at Great Eastern’s range of insurance plans earlier on in my life…as a safety net.

The protection, medical and retirement calculators would be useful for me while the education calculator would be good for my children. Yes, contrary to popular belief I really want to settle down, have kids, watch them grow and send them for a nice education.

adventure

CHAT is a financial analysis tool that uses different scenarios to enlighten people like you and me on the importance of insurance. To be honest, my self-reflection only came after this as there is so many unexpected things that can happen in your life.

BTW, if you’re quick, you’ll get to watch a movie on them coz they’re giving away 1,000 movie ticket vouchers. :)

Bun dau in Hanoi, Vietnam

bun dau hanoi

Bun dau is the cousin of the famous bun cha. It is essentially the same but bun cha has grilled pork as its main meat dish instead of tofu. I was wondering around the streets of the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam when I saw this small bun dau place that is full of locals.

bun dau shop

The place piqued my interest, even though I’m not a huge fan of tofu. I reckon I could use some food to wash down all the fresh local draft beer that I had. smirk

bun dau frying

The bun dau place is quite a simple setup with a place for frying and cutting tofu and the ubiquitous pieces of meat in flour and seating arrangements inside and outside.

bun dau meal

I was overwhelmed by the chunks of rice vermicelli, deep fried tofu, and the veritable forest of herbs and vegetables that came so I started eating it with the dipping sauce (made of fish sauce – as most Vietnamese dishes are).

bun dau girls

There was a table of three girls sitting beside me and after watching me for a while, one of them came over and showed me how to mix the dipping sauce:

bun dau dipping sauce

You’re supposed to put some bird’s eye chilli and squeeze a couple of limes into it for the taste to shine through.

bun dau me

It tastes pretty good but I have to admit, I had a lot of trouble finishing it coz I really dislike tofu.

bun dau clientale

The place attracts a lot of people from different walks in life – I saw everyone from office workers to stall owners at the Old Quarter pulling up a chair and ordering some bun dau.

bun dau

The chunks of rice vermicelli have a very interesting texture. It has no taste per se, but the way it rolls around and unravels in your mouth when you dip it is quite an epicurean experience that is worth noting.

The best part is that it only costs VND 20,000 with a bottle of Bia Ha Noi! That works out to slightly over RM 3 – not too shabby for a tofu dish. ;)

Eating dog meat in Hanoi, Vietnam

dog head

How much is that doggie in the window? *woof woof*

The one with the waggly tail?

dog head me

How much is that doggie in the window?

dog paws

I do hope that doggie’s for sale!

thit cho

Eating dog meat is popular amongst certain demographics in Hanoi, Vietnam. The place to head to is the row of shops bordering Red River. It is full of mom-and-pop shops with names like thit cho. Thit cho literally means dog meat in Vietnam.

dog meat butcher

It looks like a butcher shop and not a restaurant since all the dog chopping action is happening on the ground floor, but fear not, there is actually a place for people to enjoy a nice meal of canine meat upstairs.

chopping dog meat

I choose a platter of mixed dog cuts to experience the texture and taste of man’s best friend – it’s served with a dipping sauce which tastes like fermented shrimp paste (cincalok) and turns into a vivid shade of purple when my guide mixed it.

cooking dog meat

My guide is a motorbike driver you’ll find loitering around in the Old Quarter – it’s the best way to get around! I negotiated a return trip for VND 5,000 + 1 Beer Hanoi and I get to choose the thit cho place. I chose the one that had the most locals upstairs – a rowdy bunch that kept on chanting something before drinking their vodka.

dog sausage

The portly woman who owns the place did not appear to be very friendly but after one of her staff passed me a piece of dog meat and I ate it before giving her the thumbs up sign, she warmed up to me considerably and led me upstairs. The price for dog meat should range around VND 20,000 to VND 30,000 per 100 grams.

dog meat shoes

You take off your shoes and sit on the floor with a piece of newspaper being the communal dining place in lieu of a proper table. It’s customary to drink vodka with dog meat but I didn’t want to get fucking sloshed and then lose my way in a dodgy part of town so I went with the ubiquitous Bia Ha Noi instead.

dog meat seating

Most people choose a selection of mixed cuts. This is an interesting dish as it comes with pure cuts from the dog (without further cooking) and a mix of dog sausage (which gives a totally new meaning to the word “hot dog” smirk).

dog meat stew

There is also dog stew available – it tastes pretty good but after a while it got a bit cloying due to the amount of oil they use in cooking.

deep fried dog meat

Deep fried dog! Not too bad, but I prefer pure cuts.

dog meat meal

The entire meal (inclusive of beer) only costs VND 180,000 (RM 28) – a fucking bargain if you ask me.

Q&A time!

eating dog meat

I bet most of you is going to ask me this – what does dog meat taste like?

Well, dog meat tastes like dog. I’ve had dog meat in Korea but the dog meat in Hanoi tastes better since it’s not infused with a multitude of flavors. I particularly liked the pure cuts of dog – some parts like the thigh is nigh impossible to eat due to the huge bones and the tough skin and fat, but some cuts are easy enough to chew though.

dog meat upstairs

Dog meat has a very interesting taste to it. It is very odoriferous so people who don’t like mutton probably should stay away from it. You can literally taste/smell the dog as you chew it.

dog meat dip

There’s also a layer of fat between the skin and meat that imparts a very vivid flavor to the dog meat.

dog meat cuts

I love the taste – it’s like a cross between castrated pork and mutton. The meat is tough and the skin is chewy but it’s an experience unlike any other.

dog heads

The canine culinary experience is a must try for everyone with an adventurous palate. Mmm…dog meat.

Why drink and drive when you can indulge and fly?

arrivals

I must admit, I usually go to the airport just in time to catch my flight. I never even notice most things there – it’s just a transit point for me to get to my destination.

alcohol

I might grab a beer before the flight and I’ll definitely get cigarettes and alcohol if I’m flying international. That would be the extent of my airport experience. smirk

probiscus monkey

I was at Kota Kinabalu International Airport for an entire day last Saturday. I flew in on the first flight and flew out on the last flight back to KL. Here are my experiences while I was there:

The Terminal

Dining at KKIA

Stink or swim

kk view

This is the furthest I’ve ventured from the airport. The concept of this trip is supposed to be like The Terminal where you live inside an airport. I can definitely see that happening – there are toilets for your showers, food outlets for your dining needs, and perhaps you can even work part time. Heh!

famous amos

If, for some reason a civil war broke out in your home country while you’re mid-flight and your passport isn’t recognized anymore, I can safely say that yes, you can survive and even enjoy living in an airport.

kufong theraphy centre

Anyway, enough about that. KKIA has more offerings that I ever thought existed…like this massage place called Ku Fong Therapy Center. I went there to check it out coz I’ve been running around the entire airport and it was pure bliss.

herbal foot spa

The herbal foot spa involves submerging your feet into water mixed with herbal powder and cleaning it. You’ll also get a full massage up to your thighs – very nice after a tiring day. smirk

The foot scrub treatment is a pedicure of sorts. It lasts a full hour and it totally invigorated me for more exploration.

massage

Stephanie was kind enough to offer me a complimentary back massage for 30 minutes but unfortunately I had to turn her down since I had a limited time to shop.

cosmetics

Shop? Huai Bin? Yes, you heard me right. There are a lot of duty free items that everyone can get – perfumes and chocolates are available for purchase even if you’re flying domestic.

jack daniels

Naturally, I went for liquor filled chocolates. I’m a huge fan of these things – they’re not chocolates per se but pralines. Mmm…

chanel

Perfumes and chocolates in duty free costs A LOT less than what you’ll find in retail. It’s a good reason to grab some when you’re at the airport. My friend asked me to buy a bottle of Chanel for her.

cafe de jesselton

I headed over to get some food next – there’s some awesome coffee to be had at Jesselton Kopitiam at departures with a GREAT view of the runway.

jesselton kopitam interior

That’s the best part – you’ll see if your plane has arrived just from that coffee shop.

jesselton kopitam tenom kopi

Mr Kay was very kind – he noticed that I loved Kopi Tenom so much that he gave me some for my trip back!

jesselton kopitam crew

It was good talking with him about how F&B in airports work and the clienteles’ different preferences in food.

runway view

The view of Kota Kinabalu from the terminal is breathtaking. I’ve been here twice – once to conquer Mt. Kinabalu and the other time just to relax at the islands.

travel and tours

Hey, if you find it appealing you can always head out one of their tours!

bonia

I bought quite a lot of stuff at the airport, including a jacket from Bonia that I thought looked really cool on me.

handicrafts

I also got chocolates (for myself) and perfumes for friends.

ck collectors bottle with speakers

I really like this limited edition CK one/be that comes with built-in speakers (!!!).

giant fish

The Malaysia Mega Sales is also running now so you get twice the bang for your buck! There will be additional rewards and prizes from now until the 16th of September. Spend a minimum RM 250 and get an entry to Indulge & Win Contest + a RM10 on the spot voucher which you can use immediately. If you’re a Mastercard holder you get double the chance to win (2 entry forms) in the Indulge & Win Contest. Spend RM 350 using MasterCard and get all those and an additional nifty Recycle and Indulge green bag! All purchases made using a Mastercard will get 20% off!

curry chicken

No worries if you’re not a Mastercard holder – you’ll still get the RM 10 voucher to spend as you like! Plus you get 15% off everything too!

indulge till you fly form

The entry form is for the Indulge & Win contest which starts from now until 6th January 2011. Just spend RM 250 and above on anything at the airport (spas, shopping, dining) at KLIA, LCCT, PIA, KIA, KKIA or LIA and win fantastic prizes. You must submit the form with a maximum of 3 cumulative receipts totaling RM 250 on the same day. Mastercard owners will get twice the number of entries!

sabah pearl

Now to the prizes!

They’re giving away 10 pairs of First Class Indulgent Holiday Packages comprising of:

- Two (2) first-class return air tickets to Cape Town, London or Sydney
- Three-nights complimentary stay at one of the following five-star hotels
   – The Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town
   – The Landmark Hotel in London
   – The Blue Hotel in Sydney
- Top-of-the-range local holiday experience at any one of these destinations
   – Full-day Safari at Fairy Glen, Cape Town
   – Afternoon tea at Langham, London
   – Seaplane tour of New South Wales Coastline
- Every package consist of indulging dining and spa experience

indulge till you fly girl

OMG! Wish me luck coz if I win I’m going to choose Cape Town! :)

indulge and win entry

Get more details about the Indulge & Win contest here.

You know you want to join. How can you resist? smirk

Vietnamese Coffee

hanoi coffee outlet

Hanoi does not have a coffee drinking culture, at least not in the Old Quarter. The people congregate and have communion over unsweetened iced tea instead. However, there are cafes around which serves coffee though I would hazard to say that tea vastly trumps coffee over here.

I have walked around the various streets and I’ve never seen the complicated Vietnam drip coffee contraption – except in high end (by Vietnamese standards) cafes. I choose to go where the locals go instead. This is a form of pride, I must admit – I shun all touristy places and eat and drink where the locals go to get a dose of their culture.

hanoi coffee stool

I am a very firm believer that when you go somewhere, you should do as they do, not go on some guided tour. Be a traveller, not a tourist and go about it yourself. I am a travel snob when it comes to this. I can never figure out why people come to eat…steak or drink beers which are available at their home. *snob

Anyway, back to Vietnamese coffee, they don’t put the drip contraption at your table coz there are no tables. smirk

hanoi coffee

You sit on the ubiquitous stools that are available while you enjoy your coffee. It’s served black with sugar over ice but you can also opt for condensed milk. The people there don’t speak much English so I pointed at a guy opposite me and said I wanted that. The coffee here is really good – rich and strong.

It’s a very refreshing drink on a hot day. I paid VND 20,000 (RM 3) for this and I saw the guy opposite me paying VND 10,000. I called them on it and they said it’s a different drink. How can it be a different drink when I specifically pointed and said I wanted the same drink? hmph

hanoi coffee guy opposite

Some places put a “foreigner surcharge” so I purposely waited until the guy paid since there are no menus or price lists over here. I guess they felt bad coz when I was about to leave they called me and gave me VND 10,000.

*thumbs up*

Posted: 7:00 pm Hanoi time

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...