Meet 'Chicken Lady' of Quang Binh country pub

 The owner of a rustic pub in Quang Binh Province, popular among foreigners for the past half-decade, is commonly referred to as 'Chicken Lady'.

Quang Binh in central Vietnam boasts endless rice fields, white-sand beaches, pristine forests, mountains ranges, and many limestone caves including Son Doong, the world's largest cave.

In Bong Lai Valley, Bo Trach District, "The Pub with Cold Beer", ran by a woman named Nguyen Thi Nhat or "Chicken Lady", cannot look more random, though totally in place.

Located near Rao Con River, the owner has been termed a "local legend" by renowned U.K. newspaper The Guardian in 2015.

As one of the pub's appeals, Nhat allows eager guests to catch the chickens in her garden, which she would prepare into sumptuous meals.

The "garden to table" experience is what has made her joint stand out. She was praised for specialties like homegrown organic vegetables, peanuts and free range chickens, among others.

The Pub With Cold Beer in Bong Lai Valley. Photo by VnExpress/Trung Nghia.

The Pub With Cold Beer in Bong Lai Valley, Quang Binh Province. Photo by VnExpress/Trung Nghia.

Nhat used to run a small stall serving hikers during a time when Bong Lai Valley was a mere wilderness with very few visitors.

In 2009, however, an Australian man named Ben stopped by Nhat’s stall while en route to Phong Nha Cave, part of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. Ben wanted some cold beer but noticed the freezer was not on. Despite this, Nhat told him to wait and fetched some ice.

Impressed with her determination, Ben who just settled down in Quang Binh and ran a homestay with his Vietnamese wife decided to call Nhat’s eatery "The Pub with Cold Beer" and helped put it on the Quang Binh tourism map.

Nhat standing by her freezer. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Trung.

Nhat standing beside her freezer. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Trung.

Nhat’s small stall was soon turned into a famed farm eatery, attracting travelers and appearing on international news shows. Now, besides grilled chicken with cold beer, the pub also offers swimming, dawn watching, bicycling and river bathing excursions.

Since most Vietnamese pour beer into a cup full of ice, Nhat was surprised to watch westerners enjoy their drinks straight from the bottle or can. "Don’t forget to keep the freezer running!" Nhat remembers Ben reminding her.

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Allowing guests to catch chickens in the garden before dishes are prepared is one appeal of The Pub With Cold Beer. Photo courtesy of the pub.

Now, Nhat feels proud to be called "Chicken Lady" since the fun moniker helps her guests remember the pub. "Whenever I hear 'Chicken Lady,' I know for sure they are talking about me."

Despite the sign bearing her nickname, Nhat's establishment, hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic travel restriction barring foreigners entry to Vietnam, has not grown in popularity among local customers, to whom it offers nothing of special interest.

Her husband Quy is currently working makeshift jobs as a bricklayer’s assistant or xe om (motorbike taxi) driver while Nhat stays home to tend the garden and maintain what is left of her business.

"I will keep working as long as there are visitors to the pub. No matter what happens, I still have faith they would return. I will always be here, ready to welcome them," she said.

A meal with grilled chicken at The Pub With Cold Beer. Photo courtesy of the pub.

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