As early retirees and nomadic travelers, we do not own many possessions. We also are not big spenders. Nevertheless, our life still feels pretty luxurious on a day-to-day basis. This is almost certainly because we have an abundance of the greatest luxury: time. We’ve been retired for over a year now and it still feels amazing having the flexibility to do anything (or nothing) on any day of the week. Still, when it comes to material luxuries, we have fewer compared to our previous working life. Lately, we’ve started to reverse that trend.
The main reason we can own only a handful of things is because we rent furnished apartments. Although furnished is often a generous description, as it’s a rare stop where we don’t have to supplement what’s provided to reach our desired level of comfort. This is especially true when it comes to the items provided for the kitchen. We like to cook, so that means we end up purchasing essential kitchenware to use during our stay at nearly every stop. We do carry some smaller kitchen items like a cutting board, vegetable peeler, knife, and a couple of kitchen towels between locations, but there’s not a lot of room for more. Most of the things we buy wouldn’t travel well anyway, so we leave them behind when we move on. Over the last year we’ve owned multiple rice cookers, frying pans, and large bowls (among other things) that stayed behind when it was time for us to leave.
Previously, we only wanted to own what we could carry though the airport without the help of a Smarte Carte. This meant that only the most important (or at least, the smallest) things traveled with us. But since our current travel is paused due to the pandemic, being able to carry everything we own is less of a concern. We have started buying more non-essential things that we can’t carry.
Many of these larger luxury items might not be worth the price if we were only staying for a few weeks. However we’re currently measuring our time in months, not weeks. And since we won’t be visiting an airport anytime soon, we can amortize the cost of these luxury items over a longer period making them a better value. (Sorry for the accountant-speak. It doesn’t just go away, you know.) Here’s what our version of a luxurious life in Danang looks like.
Our semi-recent switch in apartments put us right around the corner from a small supermarket that caters to Western tastes called the Moon Milk. Along with the great supply of cheese, meat, and spices, they sell popcorn kernels. This is something we hadn’t been able to find in any of the regular large grocery stores. Katie is a popcorn lover, so when we found kernels available we knew what we had to do. One trip to the fancy mall appliance store later and we are the proud owners of a popcorn maker. And we’ve been using it constantly. It’s delicious!
In previous stops, I had taken to buying juice boxes and popping them in the freezer. This was a convenient way to enjoy a popsicle in the SE Asian heat. It’s normally in the mid-90s (~35 C) and very humid here in Danang, so we get some serious popsicle cravings. However for some reason that I can’t figure out, every juice box in Vietnam comes “fortified” with milk. I do not digest milk well, so these don’t work for me. You can’t buy a kid-sized cardboard container of basic orange juice anywhere. They simply don’t exist. They do, however, sell large containers of 100% juice in a large variety of flavors. Luckily, they also sell plastic popsicle molds. So we have added homemade popsicles to the list. We have been enjoying them so much that we bought two sets of molds, so we often have 8 delicious popsicles ready to go.
So far we’ve tried peach, pink guava, cherry, passion fruit, pineapple, pomelo (grapefruit), mango, and orange juices. We have experimented with adding fresh fruit too, especially bananas. The frozen banana combined with the juice, any kind of juice, is ridiculously good. We’ve also added chunks of watermelon and pineapple. The former is better than the latter, but neither match the creamy goodness of the frozen banana surrounded by sweet juice.
If I had to pick, I would say that my favorite types are peach juice with banana and pink guava with banana. Although the tart pomelo is pretty hard to beat too, especially with some chunks of watermelon. And really, orange juice doesn’t give up the crown so easily. Okay, I’ll be honest. My favorite is the one in my hand. Given all these fun options, it seems all the more strange that it doesn’t come in juice box sizes. Not that I’m complaining, as those don’t come with bananas and that’s the true luxury.
At the Moon Milk where we found the popcorn, they also sell bourbon. That’s pretty unique for this area. There are a lot of scotch whiskys around, but it’s hard to find bourbon. I last tasted that sweet brown nectar in October 2019 when we were in Cambodia. The Moon Milk stocks Jim Beam. Normally I would expect to pay a premium on a rare find like this, but it’s actually at an amazing price of 257,000 VND, or about $11 for the 750 mL bottle. Jackpot!
Since the bourbon is such a rare find, we splurged on a couple of nice rocks glasses to make sure we could properly enjoy it. That’s not something we’d normally buy, but we’re living it up. It’s definitely nice to have an option that’s not a coffee mug. The couple of bucks each were definitely worth it.
After the quarantine ended here in Danang, we ended up changing apartments to one only a few blocks from the ocean. The close proximity means that we’re going to the beach most days now. After getting our fill of the saltwater, we find a nice shady (me) or sunny (Katie) spot to hang out and chill. Since we don’t want to take electronics to the beach, we bought some paperback books. Right next to the fancy appliance store in the local mall is a bookstore with an eclectic collection of English language books. Prices are high, especially since these are not new releases, but considering that time on the beach is otherwise free entertainment, it’s a bargain. Although I may have to work on my selection criteria as some of these picks are definitely not “beach reads”. (Looking at you Taleb.)
Everywhere in SE Asia sells large plush pillows in different shapes. Many are animals, but there are also carrots and bananas and things like that too. Since we’re planning on staying a while, we decided one of these would be a nice addition. We found a giant, and I mean giant, pillow in the shape of a hippo. It takes up at least 2/3rds of our bed, but Katie loves it. Her name is Olive and she’s a sweetie.
So that’s what we’ve been up to recently. Quarantine restrictions have been over for some time, but other than the borders still being closed, most everything has returned to pre-COVID normalcy. We no longer need to get our body temperature taken at the entrance of stores. The mandatory spritz of hand sanitizer has mostly gone away too. Social distancing is no longer a thing for most people. We aren’t even required to wear masks inside anymore. (Although we still do. It feels respectful.) But none of this is a problem because Vietnam hasn’t had any community spread in nearly 2 months due to initial vigilance on the part of the government and people.
We’ve just been hanging out with our popsicles, enjoying the hot weather along with the world class beach, eating popcorn, and drinking bourbon. We’ll be applying for another visa extension soon, so we should be able to continue to take advantage of these luxuries for another few months. Even though we can’t travel right now, I can’t help but be grateful for where we are. It sometimes feels a bit surreal, especially considering that the rest of the world has been locked down with quarantines and undergoing civil unrest. It’s the opposite here at the moment and we are currently living our most comfortable and luxurious retired life.
Wow, this sounds like an idyllic life. I’m sure you know that the US did not take action early enough and our infection rates are rising by the day. Of course there is more widespread testing too, but the rate of positive to negative results appears to be trending in the WRONG DIRECTION.
I would love to take a vacation right now to celebrate a milestone of finally getting my dad’s house sold, but feel like I can’t really go anywhere. Guess I’ll have to wait until next winter when the weather in Florida is more conducive to camping. Right now it is the same as where you are – mid 90s and humid.
It’s been rough watching the US response (or lack thereof) from afar, but it’s still probably better than being stuck in the middle of it. Good luck!
Wish you could take Olive with you when you leave Vietnam!
At this rate, Olive will be with us for a looooong time.
Another great update.
I’m not sure if you tried this and didn’t like it but I’d like to offer making popcorn in a pot with a lid (that comes with a furnished apartment) and some coconut oil if you ever find yourself in another spot for a long time.
Thanks Jeremy. Previously, it’s been some combination of poor quality pots (or none), lack of kernel availability, and induction cookers instead of stoves that we’ve encountered that made us enjoy this purchase even more. But hey, we’re flexible and enjoy these great finds when we can.
You can ship Olive to Michigan when you leave. My girls will promise to love her! I’m happy you found bourbon and a shady place on the beach. Not a bad way to spend your quarantine
If we can’t find any neighborhood kids to take her, she’s yours.
Interestingly the mask that arrived in our mail the other day from Blue Cross Blue Shield as part of a Covid info folder, was made in Viet Nam.
Love your posts and splurge selections!
Great to get a monthly update from DaNang!
Love the stuffed hippo and the popsicle molds! I can tell that you guys are mastering your popsicle game and we might reach out for advice.
5 popsicles here in Taiwan cost less than 1 USD so we are passing on it as they are quite tasty as we’ve been moving pretty fast in June so don’t have space to carry stuff around. But I’m sure our commercial popsicle aren’t as good as the one you guys made!
Are you guys considering returning to the USA once you visa in DaNang will expire? It looks that the situation isn’t that great as I’m writing this. Are you considering other destinations?
We are definitely popsicle masters at this point, although it might cost you if you want to enroll in the full popsicle making course. lol
Right now, we’re still playing our future travel plans by ear. We should receive another visa extension soon that will keep us in Vietnam through the end of September. Then we’ll see. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hang out in a “travel bubble” in SE Asia until a vaccine (hopefully) becomes widely available. Like yourselves, we’re flexible though.
Man, those popsicles look awesome. Proper glasses are pretty much a requirement for the Bourbon. One of these posts I want to here more about the beer availability. I used to brew and helped friends start a brewery, So I like to enjoy the occasional beer.
I just had a brilliant idea. Dian and I should just follow in your wake as you leave this stuff behind.
But seriously, I’ve toyed with the idea of having one checked bag between the two of us for kitchen items (and other things) that we can’t carry on the plane. I think we will start out with carry-on only and see how it goes. So, this post good food for thought.
Very happy to hear things are going so well for you two. I wish we were in Danang with you guys. We have gotten pretty anxious to get going. It has been a while since we have been to a beach destination. However, we are very good at accepting what is put in front of us and taking advantage of it.
As far as covid is concerned in my neck of the woods, things have really improved. The numbers in Pennsylvania continue to drop regularly and my County went into the green phase today. I got up early to hit the barber shop before the crowds showed up. Most people seem to be following guidelines in these parts, however, it will be interesting to see how things go with the relaxed restrictions.
Good to hear from you.
Hi Skip. Thanks for the comment!
Regarding the beer, it’s basically all what I’d consider “hot weather lager” with little variation. There are a handful of small brewers in certain areas that offer better quality (it’d be hard not to be), but it’s not like the US. That’s just SE Asia though. I’m saving up my real beer cravings for Europe.
Regarding baggage, when we left we were “one baggers” and had only a carry on backpack each. They’re reasonably big backpacks (40L I think), but taking few liquids meant they were fine for US airlines. And then when we got here, we have to check them every time anyway because every local airline has a weight limit for carry ons of 7kg. There’s no way we can get our possessions down to 7kg, so we’re now “two baggers”. All our liquids and clothes and kitchen things get checked in our backpacks and we have another small bag for our electronics that gets carried on. Luckily, slow travel means that we don’t have to worry about it too often either way.
Glad to hear your area is doing well with COVID. Hang in there.
Great to see your update – sounds luxurious and glad your are enjoying your time. The small comforts can be so meaningful. Not sure what the expat community in Da Nang is like, but my brother-in-law saw an informal transfer of useful household goods from expats leaving to expats arriving to Singapore. There might be some network to obtain/donate english paperback books, the odd kitchen gadget, and perhaps Olive will find a good home when the time comes.
That’s a good idea. We’ll definitely do our best to make sure these things don’t end up in the trash.
I’m going to have to start making my own popsicles! Those look awesome.
Yeah, you won’t regret it. They’re delicious!