Since I’ve settled into life kinda sorta in Hanoi, I also have something of a routine for eating. I normally do two things around food each day.
Late Breakfast. Around 11am or so I stumble to Joma Bakery, Mint Cafe, or Starbucks or a few other places. I have a piece of pastry and a coffee. Usually costs less than $5.00 except at Starbucks. I study the Google Maps on the free WiFi they all provide and decide what I will do for the day while sitting with the coffee and pastry. I usually sit around an hour or so dawdling and reading. This is a good time to read news, get caught up on facebook or whatever. I may have a general idea about where I want to go in Hanoi with my camera.
Out and About. No food. Usually water. I usually am out from about noon until 3pm walking the city and taking photographs here and there. No eating then. Only buy bottled water and then end up at Hoan Kiem Lake reading on my kindle. At about 4pm its beer time so I end up at a few places that I like for a few beers. Its beautiful then an the day is sliding toward evening. I start thinking about dinner. I often go back to my hotel first and chill for about an hour and decide then what dinner should be.
Dinner. My normal dinners are at street food places where I spend less than about $5.00 for a full plate of stuff. Usually its Pho or Banh Mi or some noodle dish. Tonight it cost me all of $3.07 for a plate of delicious noodles stir fried with beef and a cold Hanoi beer. The place is about a 5 minute walk from my Hotel so getting around to eat is pretty easy. I have a favorite places now that I will go to for Pho and Spring Rolls or Banh Mi. I just sometimes want the expected so I go there. Other times I find a place where all the local people are eating. There’s a place right outside my hotel which has Banh Cuon which is simply delicious. None of this so-called street food costs more than $5.00 for everything including beer or water. Other times, I splurge and get a Pizza or a burger or Indian food. Perhaps twice a week I splurge and spend somewhere around $7.00 for dinner or more even. I don’t keep track besides out of idle curiosity to see what a thing cost. The Indian place I went last night I came away feeling less than impressed. The AC was not on that I could tell and the person tried to talk me out of getting Garlic Naan. I will not be going back there. There are so many choices for food here!
Budgets and Costs
One of the things I had good intentions before leaving in February was finding a Google Spreadsheet to track my spending. I decided to be vigilant and cost effective starting with Vietnam. Japan was hopeless since if I wanted an expensive dinner I could drop a lot of dollar. I never did that though. I ate really reasonably at budget noodle places and often fast food for lunch.
But I had decided I should budget my money and track every expense. After almost two months here, I never did do that. I just spend what I am going to spend on things. I have beer in the hotel fridge, plenty of bottled water and I just ate a delicious street food dinner for about $3.00.
Maybe others are more disciplined than I and can do the budgeting and tracking. I cannot. So I gave up or perhaps I would have made myself miserable. Retirement is not about being miserable and the truth is with the money coming in and what I have, there is no real reason to worry about either splurging or regular meals. Vietnam is a joy for eating and living you see 🙂