Yes, we’ve started traveling again, but we enjoyed our Destination Date Nights so much, we’ve decided to continue doing them. This last week we had dinner in Hanoi, Vietnam. This week is the lead-up to Reunification Day. April 30th marks the day in 1975 when the two parts of Vietnam unified under the same government.
Not only is Vietnam a great budget travel destination, it’s also gorgeous and, exports some wonderful things (coffee, cashews, black pepper…), and is very proud of their culture, so you’ll be able to easily immerse yourself when you visit.
Can’t get to Vietnam just right now? Throw yourself an epic staycation instead. Here’s how:
I wanted our table to be very simple and rustic, so I used a linen-colored table topper. I found this great playing cat planter that was actually made in Vietnam at World Market. Since the weather in Vietnam is hot and humid, they have a lot of tropical plants and animals. I added the closest flower I could find to plumeria and leaves that resembled monstera. A Vietnam flag gave a little patriotic flair.
I have quite a few tropical birds for an upcoming event I’m planning, so I also put out a parrot to join us.
I also picked up these fun sun plates and coral rainbow napkins at World Market, and then found matching cups at Target. I completed the look with chopsticks and then we were ready to dine. Both the cups and plates are plastic, making them affordable and lightweight to store.
We enjoyed a light show waterside with a view of Turtle Tower on the banks of the Hoan Kiem Lake (or Sword Lake). This tower is over a 150 years old and was a respite for the King on his fishing trips. It’s a symbol of patriotism and unity for the Vietnamese people. I imagine it’s a very peaceful place to visit in real life.
We listened to some Vietnamese pop music while we talked about Reunification Day and what it means to the people of Vietnam, plus what they do to celebrate the day. This was all a great backdrop for our dinner, which we chose especially from a place across town for their traditional dishes and drinks.
We both had Vietnamese iced coffee, which made with sweetened condensed milk. If you can’t do dairy, you can make this vegan with coconut milk/cream. Then we split the following: Vietnamese-style chicken wings in a caramelized garlic and sweetened fish sauce, Bún Đặc Biệt – a combo platter of grilled beef, shrimp, noodles, spring roll, and a salad of bean sprouts, carrots, and cucumbers – and a chicken báhn mì with yellow curry sauce.
We both have an aversion to cilantro, so I did ask for things without it. All of the food was delicious and more than enough for two people, too. The wings were sweet and spicy, which was unexpected, but awesome.
After dinner we spoke about Old Quarter Hanoi’s Train Street, where the train takes up 80% of the space between buildings. I read an interesting article at the beginning of the pandemic about the struggling merchants along the street that relied on tourism and regular locals to stay in business. The quarantine was very hard on them, but I also learned a lot about the people who ran the small cafes and shops.
We also had dessert: red bean paste sesame balls. This is one of the more easily obtained desserts of the many, shall we call them, unconventional dishes that you will probably find in the region. You’ll find a lot of fruit, tapioca, and mostly-savory desserts. I love a good bean paste though and these were done really well.
The dog came out to enjoy a little bit of staycation goodness (Pippa hasn’t gotten the hang of selfies yet) and then later we watched some walking tours of Hanoi on YouTube.
Ready to take your own Vietnam staycation? Here are some ideas on where to start:
Add some great dishes & napkins on a neutral table topper
A Vietnamese cookbook (if you plan to do an entire feast yourself)
Vietnamese pop music (you can stream it free on Amazon Music or YouTube)
A travel guide to plan your trip. Here are some I would choose:
A Vietnamese game for your family to play like Gourd Fish Shrimp Crab Dice
Flashcards/book to learn some easy Vietnamese words
Or a book full of Vietnamese fairy tales
You can also make a yourself a sightseeing day with virtual tours on YouTube
- Get a backdrop (or two). I have been downloading full res photos from photographers on unsplash and getting them made into tapestries on Zazzle through artist Canadapromo. (my referral code to get a big discount!) The less mainstream your destination, the more you will have to improvise.
- Get a nice vase/planter made in Vietnam
I hope these spark some ideas for you and you have a wonderful “trip” to Vietnam with your spouse and/or family. Immerse yourself in a new culture, food, and language.
Have you ever been to Vietnam or the surrounding countries?
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Want to read more tips for traveling worldwide on a budget? Check out my blog at Shereen Travels Cheap or find me on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also find product and website suggestions, packing tips, current deals and a whole lot more to help you travel better for less!
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