When I first opened my bar in China the name “DMZ Bar” seemed so genuinely perfect that I stupidly didn’t bother to check if there were any other DMZ Bars in the world. I later found out there were two others. One was in Fields Avenue, Angeles, and was less a bar and more a knocking shop (I have been there; I know), and the other was in Hue, Vietnam, home of the DMZ that stopped being a DMZ when the North won the Vietnam War. Of course, the North also claim they won the Korean War, although seeing as there is a still a DMZ and a South Korea one might refer to it as a draw. I digress.
Our Ultimate Leaders Tour had us traversing Vietnam from Saigon to Nha Trang and onto Hue, the former northern border of South Vietnam, genuine country and definitely not American puppet state.
I’m well-travelled in Vietnam, but this was to be my first trip to Hue and I was initially surprised by how touristy it was, having its very own “Bourbon Street” according to my Louisiana chum. But you cannot keep a street-foodie like me down, and I was not in the mood for fancy dining – I wanted my street tucker! And street grub in Hue was easy enough to find by simply walking along to the bridge and exploring the waterfront, which was full of independent food stalls serving everything from fresh fish, noodles, soup, and one of my particular favourites: salted spicy mango. It’s quite the acquired taste.
We ended up settling for some spicy BBQ washed down with Hanoi beer. We weren’t reinventing the wheel, but it did the job. The whole waterfront area was where it was at for dining in Hue.
Next stop had to be the DMZ Bar. Somewhat different to both the Angeles and Yangshuo versions, it had 3 floors, a karaoke room, and was thoroughly corporate. Fun enough, but not my vision of a DMZ Bar or what it should be. Do I sound bitter? I probably am.
The DMZ Bar did give me lots of drinks though, and drinking sometimes makes me drunk, and being drunk sometimes makes me hungry. I found myself back on the waterfront at 3am getting food from the last open vendor. As a frequenter of Xi’an and Pyongyang I felt I should try the Hue Cold Noodles. To summarize: Hue Cold Noodles are basically cold ramen with pork scratchings. Not my best culinary move.
Hue is touristy but the food was decent. We had a great ride out on the motorbikes, and I’ve now been to all 3 DMZ Bars of the world. I wonder if anyone else can claim that?
Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours, a published writer, and all round entrepreneur. He enjoys street food, and encourage others to get paid to travel the world.