TLDR: I’ve been to several cities around the world, but there are just a few cities I truly love. There are a few factors that can influence my love for the location such as climate, affordability and more. In a heart beat I would travel back to Hanoi, Punta Cana and Madrid. I have realized that many of the places I least expect much from have been the ones that I enjoy.
For details, read below.
I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Vietnam as one of the stops in my Southeast Asia trip. I did not know what to expect of Hanoi, but little did I know it would be a busy and loud city not only with the cars and motorcycles, but also tourists, street vendors and the many locals. It may sound daunting, but the city had an energy that I quickly grew to love.
The food is out of this world.
Prior to this trip, I’ve only had Pho so I pretty much had no experience with Vietnamese foods. I should have explored more because Vietnamese food is delicious like their Bánh mì, Bún chả, Chả giò and more. Oddly enough the restaurants in Hanoi were rated 4.5 stars and up, it was unbelievable at first, but it made sense eventually. Keep in mind American food chain restaurants are not so common, but that’s alright, you will love the local foods.
It’s a vibe.
Hanoi is a social city, every night was like a Friday night. Yes, there were nightclubs, but you could spend a good time without having to go to them. Rather the restaurants would be at full capacity, street food vendors would be busy and people like myself would be sitting along the road just hanging out.
It’s dirt cheap.
I love a good deal, who wouldn’t and Hanoi is the place for that. They already have low prices, but negotiating is a part of the culture. If you plan on making any purchases outside of restaurants such as tours/excursions, souvenirs, taxi services (car/motorcycle), street vendors and markets, negotiate.
To give you an idea of how cheap Hanoi was imagine paying $1 – $7 USD for a meal between 2 people at the many local restaurants. Another example was when I had the chance to eat at a 5 star restaurants, having a total of 2 alcoholic drink, 2 appetizers, and 2 entrees costing roughly $20 USD.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Now I am American-Dominican and it might seem like i’m being slightly bias, but I love Punta Cana. I’ve only been to this popular vacation spot a hand full of times and every time I return I fall back in love with it.
Punta Cana is filled with all inclusive resorts, the choices are endless. This kind of accommodations is perfect to stay within budget (of course, there are higher end resorts, which you can avoid). The way the resorts are designed is impressive with several restaurants on the property, a few pools, walking distance to the beach, performances by the staff and more.
I highly recommend comparing the resorts because they are not all the same such as the type of food that is served, performances, night events and more. Not only are there all-inclusive, but there are adult only resorts as well.
The white sand!
If you love the beach as much as I do, then this is the place for you. It wasn’t until I went to the beaches and lakes in the West Coast that I was reminded to appreciate the warm waters in the Caribbean and the clean white sand. There are several beach locations so I did not experience the crowded beaches, but if you are able to go in their low season (September-October) then you are in luck.
When I was living in Lyon, France I became home sick after a while and Madrid gave me the escape I needed.
Madrid is open late.
It is rare to find cities that stay open late (which is past 21:00 in my book); fortunately, Madrid does. I was so happy to see not only young people, but also the older crowd out and about. The bars and restaurants were occupied not just on the weekends, but also on the weekdays just like Hanoi. This lifestyle has made me question the work life balance I would want, it’s not only about the hustle, but also enjoying your life.
Didn’t expect it to be a big city.
Madrid is a big city and it can be intimidating, but honestly, New York City truly prepared me for this because I was used to this environment. I truly enjoyed the transportation, it was so convenient and easy to use. There was so much to see, it was comforting to me.
It is affordable.
Madrid is so budget friendly. It is common to hear about happy hour which happens here, but there are also several restaurants that would offer massive deals such as 1 euro everything on a certain day on the week. I eventually learned how affordable the living cost were in Madrid.