Hanoi is littered with local hole in the wall bars offering cheap beer known as “Bia Hoi”. The draught beer at these establishments cost 4000-5000 dong (20-25 cents). Most of these places are tiny and packed to the gills with locals and tourists spilling into the streets. It resembles a high school keg party as a motorbike pulls up with a keg and they start filling up mugs. There are usually tiny plastic chairs and tables that would be too small for the average 4 year old. We have held 10 minute conversations with patrons who speak zero English while we speak zero Vietnamese. The other common denominator of all these places is the grime.
The bathrooms always seem to offer some unexpected booby trap. During our 1st night in Hanoi we got stuck in a torrential downpour while exploring the Old Quarter. As luck would have it we happened upon a beer den just as the kegs were rolling in. After our tab hit 80 cents I had to use the loo. There was an inch of “water” in the cramped putrid smelling closet along with a urinal. Several seconds after relief began I noticed a pattering on the floor. I looked down to see that the urinal drained directly on to the floor by my feet. To make it worse the pipe that led to the floor was like a waterslide with an angle that created a perfect splash onto my shins and ankles. I moonwalked to escape the remaining flow. Luckily, like most Vietnamese bathrooms this one had a hose so I was able to rinse myself off like a zoo animal. I came back to the table and of course Nug said she needed to use the ladies room. “Go upstairs, if you can,” I offered ominously. “There is no western toilet down here and it’s gnarly.” What happened next can only be explained from Nug’s POV.
Taking Ross’ suggestion of finding an alternate bathroom I decided to kindly ask a gentleman, who appeared to work for or very frequently visited this lovely establishment, if he could point me to the toilet. Having an idea of the condition of the downstairs restroom I pointed enthusiastically up the set of stairs in front of me hoping he would confirm a different route to relief. To my dismay he shook his head and smiled as he escorted me to the swampy closet which contained a urinal, several large buckets and a tile floor. He gave me a reassuring shove through the doorway and closed the curtain which was supposed to provide me with privacy. I caught my balance and spent the next few minutes contemplating my next move. Unfortunately, my bladder won over my etiquette and after checking the contents of the buckets I found myself squatting over the drain in the corner of the room. With an overwhelming feeling of shame I made my way back to the table and confirmed to Ross “That wasn’t water on the floor”.