For something completely different why not try dining in the dark? This is a truly great experience. You can choose from an international or local menu, and they have a vegetarian option also. It is best if everyone tries the same menu, so that then you can discuss and compare all of the dishes together and see who guesses it right!
It is really incredible when you realise how much our other senses can affect our appreciation of food. If you take away sight, you can’t be distracted by appearance and can only rely on your other senses. This means that in particular our sense of taste and smell are heightened which leads for an amazing culinary experience.
I don’t want to spoil the experience for you, so I won’t go into too much detail, but here is an overview. When you first arrive you will be greeted by the host who is visually impaired or blind. They will give some activities to do, to help you imagine what life might be like for someone who is actually blind. These activities are challenging yet fun and great if you have either a big group or a more intimate couple experience. You also get offered a complimentary drink too (alcoholic or otherwise) which definitely helps calm the nerves!
You have to put anything that might vibrate or cause light away in a locker for the entire time. Another great thing about the whole experience, no phones to distract you. Just the food and the company you have chosen- the way it should be! This also helps the experience be the best that it can and not get spoilt by anyone else.
You will then be led in the dark up the stairs before going into a completely pitch black room. No need for a blind fold! Your host will be stood near you the whole time (but far enough away that you can talk privately) and you just need to call his/her name and they will come over. Before they leave you, they will hand you your cutlery and food and tell you how to eat it. They will also ask how you are feeling and make sure you are OK before they leave you alone in the dark. You will be served five different dishes including starters and desserts. Make sure you arrive hungry as there is a lot of food to try!
It’s fascinating to become aware of all of the emotions that you feel when dining in the dark. There is excitement, definitely some nervousness and fear of the unknown, enjoyment of trying something new and confusion as you try to make sense of the food without your sight.
I was very worried at first that I would knock things over, miss my mouth, drop food on the floor and generally be an embarrassment, especially as I tend to do these things when I have my sight, never mind without it! However, I quickly realised that actually my sense of direction, proportion and distance seemed heightened now that I didn’t have my sight, and I actually found it very easy to find my mouth and avoid knocking things over.
You can lift the bowl up to your mouth and feel whether the dish is hot or cold, and also smell the food to get any idea of what it might be. A big give away is texture. This can help you decide whether you’re eating meat, vegetables, potato or rice. It’s funny how some things will seem really familiar to you, but you just won’t be able to put your finger on it. It can be quite frustrating but that is all part of the fun!
At the end of the evening you will be allowed to guess with your host what food you ate and shown the menu to confirm whether your taste buds are correct!
This place has excellent reviews based on the high quality and delicious food, very kind and attentive staff and overall experience. The staff in particular really help put you at ease and understand that many of us feel nervous and clumsy when our sight is taken away from us. It got my heart racing a bit, climbing the stairs in the dark, following a person who I had never met into a dark room without the use of my eyes.
Another great thing about Dining in the Dark in HCM is that is gives opportunities for blind people to work in the hospitality industry. The waiters and waitresses all really like their job and feel very lucky to have it and it is really nice to be a part of that and be supporting a good cause.
So, if you get chance then I highly recommend this experience. Yes, you can do dining in the dark in many cities across the world but doing it in HCM, where opportunities and funding for local disabled people is next to none and to be able to mix with the local people and talk to them about their stories in a truly unique addition to your Vietnam experience!