You're the Expert Now
Budget Travel editors usually coach readers through their travels, but for the anniversary issue, the tables were turned. Editors posted questions on our blog, and readers weighed in on where to go, eat, sleep, and shop.
Dear BT Readers...
I've heard there's great shopping in Vietnam, including custom-made dresses, leather jackets, and boots. Any boutique recommendations in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, and Hanoi? Laura MacNeil, Associate Editor
In Ho Chi Minh City, don't miss the Ben Thanh Market or the Mini Tax Market, in the center of the city near the Rex Hotel. You'll find unbelievable bargains on watches, backpacks, wallets, and clothing. I got a custom men's suit made from Super 150s wool for less than $200. If you want a unique hand-painted dress or the traditional Vietnamese tunic (ao dai), go to Si Hoang (36-38 Ly Tu Trong St.). It's expensive, but worth every penny.
Hoi An is full of custom-clothing shops, but Thu Thuy is my favorite. I still wear the beautiful silk robe I had made there in 2002 (60 Le Loi, 011-84/510-861-699, thuthuysilk.com). Yaly is excellent! They made my husband's suit during a typhoon when the power went out (47 Nguyen Thai Hoc, 011-84/510-910-474). We found exquisite hand-embroidered silk at a shop called XQ. It has stores in several cities(xqhandembroidery.com).
Ipa-Nima in Hanoi has a great selection of funky, fashionable handbags—most cost less than half what you'd pay in the States. We picked up several to give to friends as gifts (34 Han Thuyen St., 011-84/4-933-4000, ipa-nima.com).
It's best to seek out tailors' shops on your first day; some take more than 24 hours to make certain items, especially on holidays. Bring some of your favorite clothes to the shops to use as examples, and give the tailors plenty of information about what you want in terms of fit, style, and material. To carry all of your loot home, go to the local market and buy one of the zip-top shoulder sacks made out of tarp material. You should be able to buy one for less than $5.
Thanks to these readers for their Vietnam tips: Lanny and Mary Farmer, Clemmons, N.C.; T. Do, Potomac, Md.; Lee Daley, Sausalito, Calif.; Jane Woody, Greensboro, N.C.; Jim Arbuckle, Bellevue, Nebr.; Chris Shearer, Chicago, Ill.; Renée Everett, West Chester, Pa.; Jack V. Owens, Isle of Palms, S.C.; Susan Nguyen, Seattle, Wash.
Dear BT Readers...
I'll be in Denver for three days. Where should I go for my morning coffee? Low-key lunches? Nice dinners? I'd also love tips on which neighborhoods I should explore. Beth Collins, Associate Editor
For pastries and coffee in a fun neighborhood, go to Generous Servings, a café in the West Highlands (3801 W. 32nd Ave., 303/455-9730, generousservings.com). Happy Cakes Bakeshop is right next door. Afterward, you can walk down 32nd Avenue and browse in the shops. Mona's Restaurant has the best orange-brioche French toast (2364 15th St., 303/455-4503, monasrestaurant.com, $8). For a little excitement, eat brunch at Bump & Grind. During the week, it's merely a coffee shop, but on weekends, the kitchen opens up, and the servers wear wigs and stuffed bras and shuffle about in high heels. And they certainly keep things lively: We ordered two Cokes, which were served with two lines of sweet white powder—that tasted remarkably like Sweet'N Low—and a book of Suzanne Somers's poetry to reflect upon (439 E. 17th Ave., 303/861-4841, brunch entrées from $8).
Steuben's serves comfort food at its best (523 E. 17th Ave., 303/830-1001, steubens.com, entrées from $8). Denver has a thriving Ethiopian community, so check out any of the Ethiopian restaurants along East Colfax. The burgers at City Grille are some of the best in the nation, and they're served on buns from Bluepoint Bakery. My favorite is the buffalo burger. The French fries are a great accompaniment, cardiologists be damned (321 E. Colfax Ave., 303/861-0726, citygrille.com, buffalo burger $10).
East Colfax Avenue is undergoing a renaissance and has become quite the hangout spot. For a coffee break, go to Hooked on Colfax (3215 E. Colfax Ave., 303/398-2665). On the same block are three popular bars with great food: The Atomic Cowboy (3237 E. Colfax Ave., 303/377-7900, atomiccowboy.net), Goosetown Tavern (3242 E. Colfax Ave., 303/399-9703, goosetowntavern.com), and Mezcal (3230 E. Colfax Ave., 303/322-5219, mezcal-restaurant.com), which has every type of tequila you'll ever want to try. Just to the east is the largest outpost of the Tattered Cover Book Store (2526 E. Colfax Ave., 303/322-7727). East of Colorado Boulevard, at Elm Street, is Geez, Louise!, a quirky coffee shop with a mannequin mascot who sports a different look every day. This is the second Louise; the original was kidnapped last summer (4924 E. Colfax Ave., 303/322-3833, geezlouisecoffee.com).