When French novelist, poet and playwright Jules Verne packed fictional adventurer Phileas Fogg off to circumnavigate the planet, it was to be a full 80 days before the rascal returned from his mission. Amateur!
“In a city one thousand years old, everyone is a visitor.”
I have been ‘dropping’ in to Hanoi for over a dozen years, for the past 9 months I have found myself a resident.
Hanoi has always intrigued me, drawn me, a visually beautiful city with a certain charm and character, it smiles at you through the cracks and exhibits style and elegance even amidst occasional chaos and degradation.
Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, I walked into theirs, and found the watering hole of my dreams. Tucked away at the end of an alleyway off of Phnom Penh’s trendy Street 240, Bar.sito is the “little bar” that could. And still does. Spectacularly.
It is hardly surprising that newcomers may wonder how the original owner of a rather fetching Green Vespa managed to ‘park’ on the roof of this Riverside pub of the same name.
For those of us for whom the impact of this novel gimmick and eye-catching sign has worn off, there still remains an allure.
If you are one for statistics, the mere fact that the Green Vespa came a lofty 9th out of a significant 136 entries in a Best of British Pub competition might draw you in.
The Empire Bar and Restaurant opened recently without fanfare. Business partners Niall Crotty and Bruce Douglas have set out to create a comfortable chilled out space, drawing inspiration from the Manchester bar scene Niall experienced in the noughties (remember that decade?). They seem to have achieved that, both in the ambiance of the venue and its diverse clientele.
It’s hard to do contemporary well in Hoi An, as the seventeenth century central region UNESCO recognized world heritage site positively reeks of the good old days, with schoolgirls floating by in white traditional ao dai on bicycles, merry jewel coloured lanterns hanging from roof eaves, and obligatory bas (grandmothers) hawking fruit from backbreaking carrying poles or selling local street food specialities worth dying for.
The name of bar reminds me of the late 70s and early 80s, when the Czech Babetta motorbike leisurely ran on the roads of Hanoi. At that time, only a rich family had enough money to buy these bikes, with the remainder making do with bicycles. Young men in white shirts and black trousers, a pretty girl bashfully leaned on this back, traveling down a road full of falling dracontomelum flowers. So the image of the Babetta belongs to nice memories past.
With bars, cafes and restaurants in Hanoi’s Old Quarter playing up their gritty, Old Hanoi faux-French colonial credentials, it comes as a pleasant surprise to find a place that is willing to grasp modernity, comfort and the tastes of home as their guiding principle.
Sports Bar. Ladies, are you still with me? Don’t go away. It’s just possible that you’re going to enjoy ‘Score!’, a new venue from Pascal Plamondon and his wife Srei Oun, the owners of ‘Liquid’ and ‘Flavours’. Its early days (the place has only been open a week) but Pascal and Srei seem to have pulled off an interesting trick. They have created a Sports bar that appeals equally to women. Yes, I know it sounds oxymoronic. I can’t work it out either.
The Loft Lounge is a combination of a Wine Shop in the front and a huge living room style bar in the back. Designed in red and white with a nice brick wall it takes you into a nightlife place you wouldn't expect here in Vientiane. It is quite stylish, and mostly younger middle class people gathering from 10 pm on. But take a 0,5 liter of red wine during happy hour from 7pm to 9pm or try the finger food like spring rolls.