In the morning we went out to the docks to see about getting on a boat to Vietnam via Chau Doc, but failed yet again. If we had been up earlier we could have caught the $15 tourist boat to Ho Chi Minh City, but that was more than we wanted to pay anyway. We wasted the next few hours looking for any other cheap way to get into Vietnam on the river - we pressed hard - but turned up nothing. Instead, we crammed ourselves into another minibus and hopped off at the Moc Bai border crossing. From there we took another bus into Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) and arrived around 8pm. The bootleg photocopied Vietnam Lonely Planet we picked up in Phnom Penh suggested Miss Loi’s guesthouse in Co Giang so we got a nice room there then went out to find a bowl of pho bo and a bia hoi joint.
Pho bo is my new food obsession. It is by far the most popular dish in Vietnam, usually eaten for breakfast but you can get some at any hour without looking very hard. At first glance its just a simple beef noodle soup, but somehow makes for an incredibly filling and delicious meal. Dan and I had a big bowl and then walked on to find bia hoi.
Bia hoi = “fresh beer”. The concept was brought to Vietnam by the Czechs a long time ago and since then the Vietnamese have put their own touches on it. Bia hoi is a very cheap, weak locally brewed pilsner that has no preservatives and is only meant to stay fresh for a short time. You can find bia hoi shops all over the country - they’re basically just a bunch of tables and chairs in front of a big steel beer vat. A liter of beer generally costs 3000-4000 dong (25 cents or less) and the Vietnamese treat drinking bia hoi as a very social affair so there is constant toasting and drinks being passed around. We found a suitable place and sat down with an interesting bunch: a rapper from Ghana, his pro soccer-player cousin, a creepy one-armed Canadian expat and a loud Australian. The bia hoi tank ran out at around 1am so we turned in with plans to finally get on a boat headed for Ben Tre the next day.