My neighbor Chris, realizing he had 2 friends in Hanoi at the same time, connected me up with Zak, his buddy going back to highschool. We decided to go check out an area of Hanoi known as Beer St.
Beer Street is not my jam. The place is a high-pressure nightmare all about extracting money from partying tourists. Imagine a narrow street lined with bars, clubs, restaurants, with plastic stools into the street. Guys on motorbikes hang on its edges. “You want massage?” “You want marijuana?”
Touts pushed menu boards in our faces as we walked through, blocking our path. “Here, here! Food! Best menu. You sit here. Sir, Sir, shisha here sir. Best beer.” They were super aggreesive, sometimes 2 at once trying to get us to sit down.
When we finally sat down we were converged on by Miss Tuborg and Miss Tiger, dressed in beer label outfits, thrusting menus at us, talking at the same time. You want Tiger Beer? you want Tuborg? It was a competition for our dollar, in which you only ordered one company’s beer from the appropriately dressed server.
Then along came the lady selling stale donuts, followed by the lady selling t-shirts, followed by the girls dressed in gold coats to match the brands of cigarettes they’re selling on the street. “Only a dollar”.
It wasn’t a busy night – Miss Tuborg told us Sunday nights are when the place gets packed.
We stayed for a beer and watched the circus for a while. Miss Tiger and Miss Tuborg realized we weren’t big spenders and moved on to other victims. By the time we decided to move out, lines of backpackers were moving in, whooping and laughing and ready to keep that party happening.
We wandered through the Old Quarter, passed the old city gate, an 18th century landmark, and zig-zagged in the general direction of our hotels.
We stopped at a cafe for a smoothie. The relaxed vibe was a relief to me, in sharp contrast to the aggressive sales pitch characterizing Beer Street.
I’m happy to have experienced Beer Street, and I suppose it’s fun for the backpacker crowd looking to party with young travelers from around the world. I think there are many better places to drink beer in Hanoi, in particular the little sidewalk bia hoi joints all around the city, where the beer is cheaper, the vibe is friendly, and the snacks are better.