Monday 6th June started off with me being rather crotchety at not having had enough sleep. Captain Caveman had set his alarm for 7am and then turfed me out of bed to get a shower and get ready for the day. I was confused as my watch still said 3am, the blackout curtains fooled me in to thinking it was still night time and, at that moment, I didn’t really care what the plan was. I wanted to stay in bed and go back to sleep but Captain Caveman was insisting we needed a hearty breakfast because today’s activity would require sustenance. All I could think was ‘please don’t let it be an outdoor/adventurous pursuit’!
First, we went to a nearby cafe for breakfast where I got to watch Captain Caveman shovel in a plate of my least favourite breakfast items in one meal; avocado, tomatoes and poached eggs with toast. I had Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) with a pot of earl grey tea.
After breakfast we asked a security guard to call us a taxi and we headed to Bach Dang ferry terminal.
Captain Caveman had booked arranged for us to go on a gin tasting experience which we were told to meet at 9.30am for – I love a good gin but, crikey!
We were early and it transpires we weren’t getting on the ferry anyway. I had a wander about, used the portaloo (which was quite clean and had soap) then saw a statue of Vo Thi Sau, a girl who had fought in the war against the French occupation, more about her here:
Captain Caveman’s friend was sending a speedboat to pick us, and a few other select guests, up. I’m not one for speedboats, I was even seasick on one in the Maldives, so I was a bit apprehensive. The others arrived and we all walked across the ferry to get on to the speedboat. We got our life jackets on while Captain Caveman explained to me how these ones with CO² cannisters work. They automatically inflate in water and so, as we sat at the front of the boat, I moved my bag from across my chest in case it inflated by accident and injured me.
We were on the speedboat for quite some time and as we passed District 12, where Captain Caveman had cycled yesterday, we saw a big fire. It turned out that a tyre factory was in flames and was nicely polluting the area. After a total journey of 75 minutes we had arrived at a small area where we could use the facilities and wait for a car. When the car came, the guide expected the 8 of us to get in, but the 4 western fatties amongst us looked at him like he was insane. In no time, one of the guys was on the phone to request a 2nd car. By 11.30am (7.30am on my Turkish watch) we were at the distillery of Lady Trieu gin, having a water and meeting the very talented master distiller.
It was a strange feeling to have been out in Dalyan (Turkey) on Friday night, travelling to Vietnam all weekend, eating Lebanese food in Saigon last night and now it was Monday morning – it didn’t feel real.
We liked Adam, the Master Distiller at Lady Trieu, straight away. He was knowledgeable, engaging and funny as he ran through the process of how they make gin here. The downstairs part of the warehouse was super hot for the 8 minutes we were stood listening to Adam. We went upstairs to an AC room which was set up for us to taste the gins in and at 11.46am, Vietnamese time, we were about to find out more and taste the Limited Release gins. The clientele were reminiscent of us being in a corporate meeting but that didn’t stop me trying to smell and taste my way through the gins with much enthusiasm.
For the gin lovers amongst you, here’s the Lady Trieu Limited Release gins we tried, neat:
1. Mekong Delta Dry Gin – has star anise, pepper, kumquat and orange peel flavours. I liked this one and could see me drinking this with a dry ginger ale, as I don’t like tonic.
2. Dalat Flowerbomb Gin – floral with chrysanthemum, jasmine, citrus, lotus and coriander. I didn’t think I’d like this but I did and would definitely buy this one.
3. Sapa Citrus Tea Gin – the oolong tea and pepper flavour was amazing. This became my new favourite of the 3 and I’d fancy this as a martini cocktail, so no need for tonic.
4. Hoi An Spice Road Gin – ginger and black cardamom flavours which was fantastic and would go well with a curry.
By the 4th neat gin tasting I was starting to get tiddly and hungry but we still had the newest and best gin to taste. It was also apparent that almost everyone in the room, except for us, were suffering the after effects of a whisky event yesterday. One of the guys had popped out of the room to get himself a coke and a banana. Meanwhile I was getting right into it and my seasickness feeling was back with a vengeance. Lady Trieu, named after the famous warrior, was being sampled and reviewed by 12.20pm, this time I tasted it neat then with the recommended Fever Tree tonic and ice. I loved it.
In my mind it was 8.20am and I was pretty sozzled already as we went in to the next room, which had even more AC on and was where the magic and science happened. There was also a shelf with lots of glass bottles on which Adam, the Master distiller, explained were the ones that didn’t make it in to the final gin. By 1pm we were back downstairs, getting pictures with the rest of the Lady Trieu team and we were honoured to be allowed in the store cupboard to look at, touch and smell the ingredients. By 2.20pm we were in cars and almost back at the speedboat. As is usual for me, Monday madness was only just beginning and we happened to have an extra passenger!
As we got back on to the speedboat at 2.30pm, I foolishly thought we would have a calm ride back and then a taxi back to the apartment where I might get a little nap before whatever shenanigans Captain Caveman had slotted in to the schedule for tonight.
We had brought Adam, the Master Distiller, with us and within 2 minutes of departure he was driving the speedboat. While Captain Caveman and I looked on at the impressive speedboat driving skills, the others were sat at the back of the boat drinking bottled water and eating plums. On the 75 minute journey back, anyone who wanted to drive the speedboat down a Saigon river, could. Well, when in Rome! I can now drive a speedboat and I loved it. Captain Caveman could already drive one, obviously – what can’t he do!? Unfortunately I peaked too early and, after the real driver took back control, I had to have a little sit down inside the boat, while the men chatted business. I was so jet lagged, tired and drunk, that I took my Volleys (shoes) off and had a short siesta.
When we got off the speedboat Captain Caveman, Adam the gin man and I said bye to everyone else and jumped in a taxi. Captain Caveman had booked a grab to take us to a bar he likes, which I’d never been to before and couldn’t tell you where it was. I found that our new best mate liked Pulp as we blasted ‘Babies’ out and sang along to it. When we arrived at The Orient, I insisted we go in the AC, our friend Andrea, arrived to meet us. Unfortunately Adam, the Master Distiller, couldn’t stay out for more than the one drink and we said our goodbyes and thank yous.
We, on the other hand, managed another beer before going on to a restaurant of Andrea’s choosing where the 3 of us shared 2 bottles of lovely pinot noir red wine and 2 cheese and meat platters. Needless to say, we had an absolutely fantastic first full day together in Vietnam, I don’t recall getting back to the apartment over 12 hours after we left it, but I do remember wondering why all my clothes smelled of blue cheese.
If you want to find out more about Lady Trieu gins, they have a Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/LadyTrieuGin/