Street beer, 284 Lach Tray

I am going to take a moment to talk about my favourite street-side watering hole. While an empty pavement during the day; come 9pm every night you will see the rise of night drinking spots. Lach Tray is host to many food and ‘bia hoi’ areas which are all near identical, with low to the ground tables, small chairs you’d consider half side at home and a portable ‘kitchen’ area. 284 is somehow different. Where most of these areas will be half full at most, this particular spot will be rammed with capacity close to full. It is also the place you will run into the most expats, almost every night of the week.

Bia hoi, if you haven’t read my previous blogs, is a cheap beer that works out at about 19p per glass. This is the drink of the people in Vietnam and the adopted drink of expats looking for a cheap and entertaining night.

One particular night recently was different to all others, and probably the funniest night I have had there to date. It all started when the group of 8 had polished off roughly 10, two litre jugs and had stacked them up to create a tower. The tower was pushed onto someone, leading to a backlash of complimentary peanuts for the table being launched in the opposite direction with the aim of landing in the opposing persons drink. Looking back, this really started the rowdiness that was to follow.

To the amusement of the staff working there, a beer was then poured over one of our group (by someone who shall remain nameless) while he was visiting the portable bathroom (a bucket behind a metal vanity curtain). After no one took responsibility for the act, this then resulted in the victim throwing beer in a semi-circular motion hitting everyone in the group.

After this, beer was flying in all directions and dares of doing a long arm pint down (pouring beer vertically from the height of a outstretched arm) followed. If a peanut landed in your drink, finish it. If a cucumber hit your face, applause and laughter. One member even came back from the toilet to, unbeknown to him, a beer covered seat. This continued for a couple hours while people laughed and told funny anecdotes about those present and not. This behaviour attracted the attention of locals and the owners who were buying the groups shots of rice wine (or as it’s called happy water- don’t ask me what’s in it but it tastes like petrol), and getting involved in the beer/peanut throwing. We drank the night away with colleagues and newly made friends, finishing with a bill of 60,000 Dong each. Approx £2.

Eventually, beer sodden and out of laughs, the group retired back to our accommodation where people went their ways. The night was over but the memories of one of many great nights will be ours to keep.

Angus MacKay

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