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.

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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.

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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”.

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