All about Bia Hoi

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Where are all these people going, quick quick?
Why they’re heading to Bia Hoi Corner, a part of the Old Quarter where three streets converge and there’s a bia hoi stand on each point.

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Just look for this sign and a buncha ppl drinking in front

Now what is bia hoi? Well, it’s a locally produced brew that gets distributed daily to the various bia hoi stands in Hanoi. It’s a local tipple, costing the grand sum of 2000 dong (that’s 12 cents US). That’s right, 12 measly cents! Cinguliar charges that much to receive an SMS! You can find that much in your car underneath the seats. You can find that on the street back home (cuz 12 cents dun buy much). But in Hanoi, it can purchase one cuppa bia hoi!

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Well, technically this is 1.5 cuppas but we’ll ignore that

So how does one try?  You approach, grab a chair to sit on and motion for “one”.  Whoever’s on duty will pour you one and charge you.  If you sit for a while and fit in, you can easily run up a tab of 10,000 dong!  5 beers at 2000 dong each. Break the bank can!  It seemed on my visit (twice in one day) that bia hoi stands are the centerpoint of the neighbourhood.

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To get a feel of the place, you gotta drink here, not just snap! In his defence, I think he did…

Besides seeing more close calls that any other intersection in Hanoi (maybe they’re thirsty and thinking about getting a drink?), there’s street theatre. 7 times I was approached to buy overpriced bootleg Lonely Planet guides. Twice, I was approached to purchase some fried donuts.

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You eat donut, eat donut now!

And once, the Hawker Control unit (AKA shakedown squad) came by and made a LOT of people scatter.

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You eat more vegatables, more veggies now! OK, not say lah…

The man who owned the stand I was drinking at motioned me to move my bike from in front to the sidewalk across the way. Good customer service! Try finding that in San Francisco where some places seem in cahoots with the parking nazis! In the end, I spent a total of 5 hours that day at the bia hoi stand. The first 3 hours, I stumbled upon it and enjoyed. Then a few hours later, I wound up there AGAIN with a couple of blokes from the hostel. How much did I spend? 26000 dong. That’s a buck sixty four! What a deal!

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That’s a bloke from Oregon, me,  and the big boss of the bia hoi stand

Joyful Anarchy with Motorbikes

Wealth = mobility and Hanoians luurve their motorbikes! For the last two days in Hanoi, I was one of them. For the sum of US$10/day, I hired a Honda 125cc bike (helmet and gas not included) and puttered around much of the city.

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It’s small but sturdy, 125ccs of vroom vroom
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Made in Vietnam by Honda…

I decided to take the splurge after a day of walking around the old quarter and wanting to see more. Also I was not a big fan of walking or trying to ride the bus. First reaction of most of my frens was “are you insane?” Here’s a short clip of Hanoi traffic and how to ride in it.

Replace 7/8 of the bikes in the video with urban assault vehicles and reduce the driver skill level by 9/10ths and you’re in San Francisco! Goods get transported on them. Families go out on them. People eat on them. Mobility, yeay! (take THAT Muni!)

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Drive thru, Hanoi style
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You can carry stuff like a 55 gallon oil drum
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Or even the day’s bia hoi (beer) delivery!

And as for crossing the street, what worry? Just pick an opening, make eye contact and walk at a constant speed. We will see you and ride around you. Don’t make any sudden changes in your path, OTW you may be hit…

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crossing the road for yet another bia hoi…

Motorcycle Tip

We’ve been having some really odd weather here.

First it’s been really cold and it rained today. It also hailed while I was riding my motorcycle back to the house.  What did I learn? I can ride in the rain (must buy a rainsuit) but I kanna ride in hail. At all. I nearly ate it three times in four blocks…

You always remember your first …

Ten years ago, I purchased a second hand Honda Elite (Freeway) 250 from a guy who had bought it at a lien sale. It was in a dark, dank garage, chained to a post and had definitely not been taken care of.
“I was going to fix it up and ride it but I don’t have the time and I need the space in the garage” was the reason why he was selling it.
I paid the guy and had one of my friends follow me on the 280 as I rode to SF Moto to have it repaired and fixed up. When I got there, I was told that it was a miracle that I made it there in one piece, let alone taking it on the freeway. Something about missing hub bolts…
That was an expensive visit, because it needed a battery, new tires and a major tuneup. But it was worth it because the Elite got me around the City, was great with gas and had enough “git up and go” to survive in San Francisco with all the mentally impaired drivers and tourists that we gotta deal with here. Going up and down the hills of San Francisco with or without passengers was never a problem nor was a quick jaunt over the Golden Gate Bridge. We went through a lot together, including an engine transplant and being in pieces for just over a year as I ran short on time to get her running.
After the new used engine was installed and tuned, she ran like a new bike. Quieter and faster. But earlier this year, I picked up a Suzuki GS500. Figured it was time to graduate to a proper motorcycle. And as these months have passed, the Elite got less and less saddle time.
Finally, it was time to let go. I sold my Elite today to a fellow motorcycle/scooter rider who understood the meaning of “backwards brakes” and no gas gauge. I love riding and my SV. But I’ll always have a silly grin on my face when I’m passed in traffic by someone on an Elite 250, because I’ll be seeing myself zooming by.

Summer Sunset

I took a long ride yesterday, riding downtown, through SOMA, to Potrero Hill, back to downtown for ramen and then to the beach.
Mark Twain one remarked that the coldest winter he ever experiences was a summer in San Francisco.

That’s fog in the picture, not smug! And this is at Ocean Beach, near the Cliff House!
This is typical summer weather. It’s foggy, cold and wet. Now this is what summer is supposed to be!

Motorbike and Allergies

Yes, I will admit that I’ve been remiss in taking “pictures” for this blog. Mostly because I have to hang around SF during my peak travel season (the shoulder season before peak summer travel time). But I’ve a good reason, lah!!
I’m getting to know my new used bike. Its a naked Suzuki GS500 (yes, I’ll put a picture up when I remember to take one). It’s naked because it has no windscreen or fairing, which means riding it at speeds over 55 MPH (88kph) is an adventure in “gripping the handlebars tightly”.
Today was the first day of sun-shiney weather that we’ve had out here in a while. It seems that the deluge that we’ve gone through here (AKA the rainy season) has abated, thus leaving lots of weeds and horny plants about. In other words, it’s now hay fever season.
Atchoo! I mean, bleagh!
I’m get allergies in the springtime and whenever there’s a cat around. So this is not a good time for me to be here. Usually, I’m in Asia this time of the year, but am hanging around for the possibility of a straight gig. Hopefully I’ll hear something one way or the other soon…
But back to the ride. The best way to learn riding is “saddle time”. Go out and ride. So I rode. Across the Golden Gate Bridge, along US 101 to San Rafael. Stopped off at a Borders and got a book and some coffee. Enjoyed the sunshine. Then rode back on US 101, making a detour to Muir Beach, stopping there and then rode home via Sausalito.
Wait, I DID take a picture!

Notice that layer of “smug” over San Francisco. Looks like a 2nd stage smug alert! Yeeeech!

Absolute BS (sort of)

So on the way back from the Headlands (see previous entry), there was a gently curving road that was fun until we hit this red light.

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It was 5 minutes. I timed it.

Read that sign underneath the signal. FIVE MINUTE LIGHT?!? And no countdown signal or anything!

But it’s there for a good reason since the tunnel you enter after the light has ONE lane.

But it still can use a countdown timer at that friggin’ five-minute light…

Went for a Ride

Went for a ride on my motorbike with a friend who was breaking in his last weekend. It was a fun jaunt through Marin ending at the Marin Headlands (at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge).

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The Headlands are pretty high and the bridge is really big.
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This is the obligatory artsy shot.

At the other end of the Headlands is Point Bonita. There’s been a lighthouse there for a billion years.

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A BILLION years! From the time of the dinosaurs…
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Modern solution on the left of the pretty picture of the VA in the distance

But nowadays, instead of lighthouses, the modern solution is radar and electronically controlled foghorns.

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Definitely not lomantic, but the foghorns still wail