Inflation and The Good Life in Vietnam, if You Can Afford It

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Hanoi, VN - It has been months since Le Thi Nu has had breakfast.

A street vendor who travels around Ha Noi on a bicycle selling plastic slippers, high prices have forced her to cut spending on eating, even though a baguette would cost as 15 cents.

Standing outside a crowded restaurant on Quan Su Street, where a bowl of soup would cost more than half her monthly income, she finds it difficult to come to terms with the spending of the rich.

“The money they spend on a meal here may be enough for my family live on for a month,” she said.

Cao Huy Binh and his friends, on the other hand, are unfazed by the high prices as they enter the crowded restaurant.

They order beer, grilled shrimp, fried cuttlefish and chicken hotpot after finding the only empty table near the window.

In the hot and crowded kitchen, a chef pours more sauce into a big wok full of appetizing beef chunks.

Binh, who has made it to the restaurant after being stuck for nearly an hour in a traffic jam in light drizzle, says he meets and eats with his friends at such restaurants every Friday evening.

“It is a way of relaxing after a week of hard work. If I do not dine out with them, I would do it with my wife and children,” he said.

Binh, the director of a trading company, also often invites his business partners to restaurants to enjoy a meal and discuss work. “I could not cut back on dining out, even if everything is more expensive,” he said.

With a basic monthly salary of $1,000 in a country where the annual per capita income is $1,200, Binh and his friends do not mind that their dinner costs nearly $200.

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