Mot Hai Ba Yo !

“Mot hai ba yo !” is a phrase we’ve heard a lot in Vietnam. It seems like we have a sport of “synchronised drinking” whereby we have to all raise our glasses at the same time and keep up with the same pace.

But at “Bia Hoi” on Bui Vien, it has been one of the loudest spectacles over the years. Sometimes we’re so loud in such a small area that it feels like we invented the phrase. Or at least one person did. Hoa the tailor. Party animal and regular bia hoi consumer for as many years as I’ve lived in or visited Pham Ngu Lao.

Living as I do, right next to the only bia hoi establishment in D1, run by old “Ba Sau” as I have known her ever since I interviewed her some years back, the sounds of bia hoi have been background noise in my apartment for years. Through police actions and street fights and muggings and crazy events I have fallen asleep to the sound of “mot hai ba yo” and “everybody yo !” and every once in a while “everybody motherf**king YOOO !!” for a long time.

At 46 years old, the fashionable tailor defies his years, drinking with everyone and rousing strangers to join together in a Vietnamese toast, teaching them word by word if he has to, and giving them something to remember when they go back home.

With wild hair colours and a personality that’s larger than life, even a man like myself can disappear in the background when Hoa is around spreading his charm and encouraging everyone to drink until you can’t drink anymore. With a smile and a cry to raise your glasses as though every night might be your last, he calls out to the crowd and pulls people together.

And if you go down to the street this week you’re in for a big surprise, because this week’s the week the Vietnamese have their picnic ;)

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