Good Morning, Vietnam

I really should call this post ‘Goodbye, Vietnam’ but it just didn’t have the same play on words…

We had such an amazing time in Vietnam that I thought it deserved another blog post, just to talk about food and shopping! It was such an easy country to get around; you don’t have to plan anything ahead of time and almost everyone speaks at least a little bit of English. The only thing I would have changed about our trip is that it would have been better to start in the South (Saigon) and end in the North (Hanoi). We found the shopping to be a better in Hanoi than in Saigon, and we liked the character of the city more. We highly recommend making a trip to Vietnam if Southeast Asia is in your travel plans!

Jeff and I had never had Vietnamese food before getting to Hanoi- but it only took a meal or two to fall in love! We quickly began our mission to find the best pho and bun in the country! Pho is on the left, and 2 different types of bun are on the right:

A bowl of bun normally cost us 60,000 dong, or a little less than $3. Pho is a noodle soup with your choice of meat, and thicker rice noodles. Bun is similar, but served with less broth, skinnier rice noodles, and you add as many herbs and lettuce as you want! We added as much romaine lettuce, sprigs of fresh mint, cilantro and sweet basil as we could eat!

For the most part, everywhere we went, we ate outside on tiny stools. It was like eating every meal at the kids table- good fun! Here we are eating pho in Hanoi.

Vietnam was colonized by the French, and once the French left, they were kind enough to leave the legacy of baguettes behind. (I thought the bread in Vietnam was just as good as the bread in Paris!) Bahn mi is any type of sandwich made on the baguettes- most commonly with eggs for breakfast!

Bahn mi normally ran 15,000 dong for a breakfast sandwich, or about 75 cents. We did see a lot of different food on the streets (dried squid), and advertisements for interesting foods. We skipped this delight from Pizza Hut: 

Pizza with hot dogs, shrimp, and cheese (that looks like eggs) in the crust, anyone?

Pizza with hot dogs, shrimp, and cheese (that looks like eggs) in the crust, anyone?

Jeff voluntarily ordered coffee in Vietnam. This is a big deal!!!! Vietnam is one of the largest exporters of coffee in the world, and they had a unique coffee culture. Vietnamese coffee is small and strong, and you wait while it filters in front of you. Typically, it is served with sweet and condensed milk. We found that we liked the taste of the coffee once it was iced, more than when it was served hot.

Many of the photos in our Vietnam blog posts I have stolen from Bri, Marie and Chip- thanks guys! I think this one is a Prisma creation from Chip while he is waiting for his coffee to filter on top of that sweet and condensed milk. Yum!

Vietnam is also a popular place to purchase civet cat coffee. Supposedly, the coffee tastes better after the cats eat the coffee fruit, digest it, and then someone collects the digested beans. Crap coffee! We didn’t try any, it was pretty expensive compared to the regular stuff, and we were looking for egg coffee the whole time anyways:

Coconut coffee (more like a cold coffee-coconut milkshake) and egg coffee (described in this blog post) set us back about $1.50. 

Since you can stuff your face while eating super cheap, it means you have plenty of money left to go shopping!!!! I was so excited that Bri and Marie wanted to shop, because it meant I got to help them spend their money. Vietnam is one place that I plan to return to with a shopping budget. Unfortunately, everything I wanted to buy wouldn’t fit in my backpack. And I’m not sure what I would have done with a knock off pair of Jimmy Choo’s or Christian Louboutin’s considering my current wardrobe...

So many name brands are made in Vietnam (like the store above states). Northface and Columbia for sure, and then there were great knock offs of every other brand you could think of. From the quality of some things, they may be the real deal! I know I'm going to have a really hard time paying full price for things from now on. Bri picked up a huge North Face duffel for $20 and Marie got a cute Patagonia messenger bag for $11.

Hoi An is the place to get tailored clothes or shoes made! Bri got a pair of boots made, and Marie got 2 pairs of boots and one pair of sandals. They turned out great!

A pair of custom boots like these will only set you back $120. The girls got the high-end options- full leather inside and out. They are amazing! 

Chip scored this awesome robe in Hoi An for about $6! Keeping it classy!

We discovered a Russian Market right next to our AirBnB in Ho Chi Minh City- dangerous! They had stalls and stalls full of bags, shoes, jackets and clothes. I LOVE haggling with people over the cost of things! I happily bartered on behalf of Bri and Marie, although I probably scared them at first. I have to put on my scary bitch face, and then you have to be willing to walk away if they aren't giving you the price you want!

Hard to believe we walked away from this beauty! If they had a different size, Bri would be the proud owner of this amazing winter coat right now...She did end up getting a pair of Helly Hansen snow pants for $30. They had full Burton snow suits (jacket and pants) starting at $70!

Hard to believe we walked away from this beauty! If they had a different size, Bri would be the proud owner of this amazing winter coat right now...She did end up getting a pair of Helly Hansen snow pants for $30. They had full Burton snow suits (jacket and pants) starting at $70!

There were piles and piles of Adidas, Nike, Underarmour, and Reebok clothes and shoes everywhere we looked. There were some great looking North Face coats, and even some Victoria's Spring or Vctria's Scetret underwear hanging around! Marie and Bri picked up some Nike and Underarmour leggings and shirts for $4-$6 each!

I picked up a Frada wallet for 150,000 dong, or $6.60. All of the Louis Vuitton bags I saw looked pretty legit too!

-Cara

Vietnam Summary:

Modes of transportation: Uber, sleeper bus, dragon boat, kayak, motor scooter, van

Total amount spent in Vietnam (including flight into Hanoi): $1419.76

Avg.: $83.52 per day

We were told that Vietnam is cheap, but we were still pleasantly surprised with how cheap. We didn’t hold back from doing things, and while we didn’t go crazy partying or buying all kinds of souvenirs, we did eat a ton and drink a lot more beer than is normal for us. You could definitely do Vietnam even cheaper if you wanted too, especially if you picked one or two cities to visit instead of moving as much as we did. Vietnam is a great place to visit on a budget, and you can live like royalty for very little.

-Jeff

The following is the theme song for our time in Vietnam. HAS ANYONE EVER HEARD THIS SONG BEFORE???!!! I consider myself an avid ABBA lover, but I did not know that this existed until we were in Vietnam. It played everywhere, before and after New Year’s Eve (just the ‘Happy New Year’ part on repeat…)

And we thought the only New Year’s Song was Auld Lang Syne…. 

PS. So many thanks to Chip, Marie and Bri for being incredible travel buddies! As I write this, it has only been 3 days since we were in Vietnam together and both of us have been coming down from a ‘vacation high.’ We aren’t sure if the rest of SE Asia can top it!!! Love you guys!