I love the saying “a little alcohol greases the social wheels”, and in Vietnam’s district 2, this cannot be seen any clearer than along the Song Hanh belt on a Friday afternoon.
Every afternoon, on my way back from work, I’m delighted to watch hundreds of people in small groups of 4 or 5 gathered around small, plastic, low benches on small, blue plastic chairs – the type that you see in children’s play centres. Everyone seems comfortable, chatting, eating and drinking around a table often laid with a hot-pot or a grill-pan, platters of marinated beef or seafood, plenty of green leafs, herbs and almost never without a portion of rice noodles, and of course, an abundance of beer cans and iced tea!
Whilst mostly adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s and some 50s, don’t be surprised if you do see families in the mix, with young children! I can only conclude that these Vietnamese resto-bars must serve delicious food. These aren’t just simply a venue for a social drink. Food also plays a major part in Vietnamese culture.
Like in many other cultures, social gatherings are incomplete without a drink. And drinking is incomplete without a good hotpot or BBQ. The term “nhậu” is widely used in Vietnam amongst friends wishing to catch up or professionals wishing to get to know each other better.
Just in the last 2 months, at least 6 or 7 new “resto-bars” have opened along the Song Hanh stretch. Some are simple like temporary shacks whilst others are more elaborate in design. The most popular by far, and yet with the simplest interior, is the first one on Song Hanh called “Bo To Tay Ninh”, serving beef from Vietnam’s central highlands.
Even though the road gets smaller with the number of cars and motorbikes flooding the street, making it harder to drive through, I must say it’s thanks to these operations that social interactions are “greased” in a world where the pressure of work and availability of technology sometimes get in the way…