Speaking of beer, people immediately think of the prosperous German. But in the capital city of Vietnam, there is still a humble 100-metre street which attracts thousands of tourists to enjoy drinking beer. Are you an enthusiast of this cool wheat-made drink? If the answer is yes, Ta Hien (Tạ Hiện) vintage street would be an interesting hub for you. It takes about 15 minutes to walk in the north direction from Hoan Kiem Lake.
Actually, Ta Hien street, one of Hanoi old quarters, is a combination of short lanes. During the French colonization time, the street was named Géraud. According to the Hanoi’s Street Dictionary, the name Ta Hien originated from the name of a leader of an anti-France colonization campaign – Ta Quang Hien (Tạ Quang Hiện) (1841-1887) who was born in Quynh Lang Village of Thai Binh Province. In 1883 when the Nguyen Dynasty let France took over Northern cities, Ta Hien resigned from his position as Lord Lieutenant and led liberal fighters against the French army. At the end of that year, after recruiting about 4000-5000 liberal fighters, his army regained Thai Binh Province and prevailed in other battles afterwards. But in a battle in February 1887, he was captured and killed.
Another interesting fact about the name Ta Hien is that it was sometimes misread into Tạ Hiền (originally ‘Tạ Hiện’,) so it creates a huge confusion for tourists because the words of ‘Tạ Hiền’ and ‘Tạ Hiện’ are both displayed on signboards in the same street.
All the pubs at the crossroads of Ta Hien – Luong Ngoc Quyen have been operated for over a decade. The beer here is known to be cheap and tourist-magnetic. Pub operators from time to time speak Vietnamese and some English to communicate with their customers who come from different countries. Eventually it appeared the informal name of the crossroads – ‘The International Crossroads’ (Ngã tư Quốc tế.)
If you imagine yourself sitting in a pub and enjoy beer in Ta Hien Street Hanoi, you will be completely wrong! There is no proper pub here, not even proper table. Customers will sit on small stools around a little taller plastic or wooden stools on which food and beer bottles are placed. It may be uncomfortable for some foreigners, but it creates a unique atmosphere for customers to experience ancient local lifestyles in Hanoi. Besides, one of the best parts of drinking beer here is that the beer is usually served along with delicious food such as roasted squid, fried fermented pork rolls, roasted bird meat, or simply a plate of sunflower’s seeds.
Like any other pub street, the atmosphere here becomes more lively when the night falls down with the influx of both locals and foreigners. The quietness of the street in the day time is suddenly replaced with the noisiness. The whole street is crowded with groups of people drinking beer and chatting with each other. Echoed throughout the street is the sound of “một hai ba…dzô!” (one two three… cheers!) from both local and foreign customers.
There is a joke spreaded widely among Vietnamese young people: if you want to improve your English skills, the Ta Hien street is a must-place to go. Frankly speaking, this street really attracts foreigners from all nations and races as they seem to be fond of unique Vietnamese alcoholistic cultures. It does not matter if you are traveling alone, because in a few minutes, there will be some young people patting on your shoulders and talking with you like an old friend. That is what people usually talk about the friendliness of Vietnamese.
In the far southern area of Viet Nam – Ho Chi Minh City, there is a resemblance of Ta Hien Street named Bui Vien (Bùi Viện) Street which is crowded with bars and pubs. The street’s name is originated from the name of a great Vietnamese diplomat and revolutionizer. Coincidently, Bui Vien was a contemporary of Ta Hien’s.
So, if you like beer and plan to visit Vietnam, then Ta Hien or Bui Vien Streets should appear in your bucket list.
Một hai ba… Dzô !!!
One two three … Cheers!!!
Writer: Linh Dang