Ever Heard “Wanna Go Grab a Coffee?” the Vietnamese Way?

I remembered the bewilderment I felt, during the first few months of my stay in the Netherlands, when a Dutch friend revealed to me that going to a café was very different from going to a coffee shop. A café is that place we all know, where you can enjoy a good latte (sometimes not so good) and relax in a comfy sofa. A coffee shop for the Dutch is something else entirely – it’s where you buy weed.

For some reason, that reminds me of the coffee culture in Vietnam. Wanna go grab a coffee?” (“Đi cà phê không?”) is almost like a catching phrase for us Vietnamese, but I can count on one hand the number of times I actually order a coffee when I go out with my friends. We say it so often, whenever we meet someone new, or want to catch up with our friends, or to woo that cute guy we have been staring across the classroom for some times now.

But “go grab a coffee” is not really about the coffee itself (never mind the fact that we have one of the best coffee in the world). No, it’s an excuse. It’s something used by Vietnamese when they want to have a chat that would last a few hours, jumping from one place to another. When I go to a café with my friends, I rarely order a coffee – I’m not a big fan of that bitter and dark liquid that so many people swear by.

Does it matter? The coffee is not the point

Source: Wanderlust Tips

Vietnam as a nation is obsessed with coffee. We farm the beans, we ground them, we invent our own ways of drinking coffee. When I go out in the Netherlands, I’m always greeted with the same menu selections – Espresso, Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato. Times like that, I miss my country’s wide array of coffee. Dark, brown, iced, or Egg Coffee, Yogurt Coffee, Coconut Coffee. Vietnamese people’s creativity with food is endless, and it is reflected in the way we drink coffee, and our numerous variations of it.

You can also say we are obsessed with coffee in the sense that we are perpetually out at a café every other day (or every day, for some people). The past few years have witnessed the bloom of milk tea establishments all over the country. The street near my house now has more than ten milk tea places. However, cafés still maintain their unique standing in the Vietnamese culture. More pop up every day, with unique designs and interesting drinks menu. People go to café for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and through the night.

What do we do there, you wonder? It’s not always about enjoying a good cup of coffee. We’re catching up with our friends, we’re sharing cute cat pictures, we’re working on the next big report.

“Wanna go grab a coffee?” is about quality time with friends and pouring our hearts out over some issues. Who knew that dark, bitter liquid has such power?

Source: Vietname Coffee Shops

So the next time a Vietnamese friend of yours ask you “Wanna go grab a coffee?”, think about the implications behind those simple words. Think about the fact that us Vietnamese tend to be rather round-about and we revel in lacing our true intentions between innocent invitations. Don’t think about how you detest coffee, because you can get anything else in the world aside from coffee, and think about how much you will enjoy your time together with your friend.

Looking for recommendations? If you’re in Hanoi, head over to Hoan Kiem Lake. On Dinh Tien Hoang street, on the second floor of a bag shop, there’s this little nest called Dinh which has the most heavenly egg coffee and a fantastic view of the lake. It’s a perfect blend of old Hanoi charm, good drinks and a chill environment.

Buddha’s Birthday Celebration


Buddhism is one of the most influential religions in Asian countries such as China, South Korea, Japanese, Taiwan and also Vietnam. It has a great influence on the cultural and spiritual life of the Vietnamese. Tourists in Vietnam will be extremely amazed by the number of temples, pagodas, shrines, etc. throughout the country, even in big metropolitan areas, where tourists can also easily spot decades- or centuries- ancient temples alongside 21st century’s modern buildings.

Thiên Mụ pagoda. (Photo: chuanoitieng.com)

Although the era of technology and global integration is developing at a rapid pace, Vietnamese Buddhists ( or ‘phật tử’ in Vietnamese) still retain their traditional religious values. One of three most important and sacred Buddhism’s ceremonies is the Buddha’s Birthday Celebration held on April 15th (also called Mid-April day) in the lunar calendar. On this day, Buddhists have a vegetarian diet, honour ‘tam bảo’ (three precious treasures) and uphold ‘ngũ giới’ (five rules.)

Tam bảo

Tam bảo’ is a Sino-Vietnamese word. ‘Tam’ means three, ‘bảo’ means precious treasure. Therefore, ‘Tam bảo’ is three precious treasures of Buddhism, including Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Buddha is the first treasure. The true figure in human history – Prince Shakyamuni, the son of King Śuddhodana in nowadays Nepal, was the first person to enlighten and teach Dharma. In other words, Buddha found the truth and method of meditating towards liberation to abolish human sufferings in life.

Buddha (Photo: thefamouspeople.com)

Another treasure is Dharma. Dharma is the method of meditating and the truth of enlightenment taught by the Buddha. To attain enlightenment and liberation as the Buddha, Dharma is the only way the Buddhists can follow.

Sangha is the last treasure. This term refers to those who spend their lives dedicated to Buddhism, following Buddha’s footsteps, and practising Dharma. The monks while practising it are always trying to exemplify and teach the righteous deeds of the Buddha to other new religious converters, with the positive desire for a better and less suffering life.

Sangha. (Photo: What – buddha – said.net)

Ngũ giới

‘Ngũ giới’ is five rules for the Buddhists to comply to achieve highest liberation. If all of them are conducted, human’s society will be full of happiness.  Here are the five rules:
1. Stay away from killing: Do no harm people or animals, no matter how weak or strong they are.  When a Buddhist sees somebody doing a harmful act against his/her own kind or other animal species, s/he should stop them.
2. Stay away from theft: Do not commit greedy acts. Do not steal or damage properties, money, food, etc. that belong to someone else or the society.
3. Stay away from sexual misconducts: Do not seduce or force others to satisfy your sexual desires against their wills. Do not manipulate others to commit adultery, and one must stop these acts upon observing the bad conduct is taking place.

4. Stay away from fraud: Do not lie or make up things, because lying with bad intentions creates harmful consequences to other people.
5. Stay away from alcohol and intoxicants: Buddhism believes that drunk people will lose their sanity and wisdom, and they also would be unable to control their behaviors. Consequently, people will easily break four above stated rules and in the end, they will meet their bad karma.

Buddha and Sangha. (Photo:daibaothapmandalataythien.org)

Buddha’s Birthday Celebration in Vietnam.

Because of the importance of the Buddha’s Birthday in the spiritual beliefs of the Buddhists, its celebration is held very solemnly on a large scale in many Buddhism-worshipped countries. On this day, millions of Buddhists in Vietnam will perform rituals such as parades, ceremonies, dropping flower pots to the river, and organizing Buddhism teaching sessions. In addition, the Buddhists erect grand stations and decorate flower carriages to give pagodas.

One of the most important rituals is the “Bathing the Buddha” ritual, which is a watering ceremony on the newborn Buddha statue. The meaning of this ritual is  to eradicate negativity and enhance purity of each Buddhist.

Bathing the Buddha (Photo: daibaothapmandalataythien.org)

Moreover, Buddhists can become volunteers at pagodas by helping with some chores, charity work, cleaning and decorating Buddha altars, and then they can enjoy vegetarian meals together.

Vegeterian meal. (Photo: media.cooky.vn)


















If you have any problem travelling in Vietnam, whether it’s food problem or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more assistance. We will be thrilled to help.

Writer: Linh Dang.
Translators: Diem Nguyen, Nhat Nguyen.

Water Puppetry in Vietnam (Part 2) – How Water Puppets are Produced?

The ingenious combination of hard-to-move puppets and waving water has created a significant attraction to visitors from all over the world to visit Thang Long Kinh Ky (the old name of Hanoi.) Have you ever been curious about how water puppets are made of? If the answer is yes, explore it with me.

In Part I, we learned about water puppetry in Vietnam. You may remember that those miraculous puppets are skillfully controlled under the water. The ingenious combination of hard-to-move puppets and waving water has created a significant attraction to visitors from all over the world to visit Thang Long Kinh Ky (the old name of Hanoi.) Have you ever been curious about how water puppets are made of? If the answer is yes, explore it with me.

Continue reading “Water Puppetry in Vietnam (Part 2) – How Water Puppets are Produced?”

Water puppetry in Vietnam – (Part 1) Wonder Water Puppets

Puppets appear in all five continents and bring the uniqueness of their own countries. However, only by coming to Vietnam can you see a different kind of puppet show.

There is a type of art found in many countries in the world; however, in Vietnam, it has a different style. Looking at a picture below, can you guess which type of art is mentioned?

Photo: Wikipedia.org

Exactly! That is puppetry. Puppet shows appear in all five continents and bring the uniqueness of their own countries. However, only by coming to Vietnam can you see a different kind of puppet show. It is not performed on the ground, but on the water, which makes its name “water puppetry.”

Continue reading “Water puppetry in Vietnam – (Part 1) Wonder Water Puppets”

Layers of Meaning in Đám Cưới Chuột (Rat’s Wedding) Paintings

Đông Hồ, a craft village in Bac Ninh province, has been famous for its folk woodcut paintings since the 11th century. The paintings provide a reflection of contemporary social issues and convey farmers’ desires of a better life. One of the most special features of the Dong Ho paintings is that they are totally made by natural elements with điệp paper (powders of seashells and glutinous rice), and colours refined from various kinds of natural materials.

Continue reading “Layers of Meaning in Đám Cưới Chuột (Rat’s Wedding) Paintings”