Shopping in Hanoi Pt.1

I’ve been here a little over two weeks now.

Tomorrow I start my first teaching job: substituting at the United Nations International School. It’s not an ESL school, but an international school, meaning that they have students from around the world, many of them the children of diplomats and business people here in Hanoi. So for the next two days I’ll be teaching French and Science (ha ha, my two Worst subjects in school:o). And in the next week I’ll be starting my evening job, teaching ESL to local university students. I’m feeling a bit more secure about being here now I’ve some work. This weekend I’ll probably start house hunting again, looking for something close to  the schools. And today I went out and bought a helmet to protect my noggin while zipping around on the xe oms. Which leads to today’s topic: shopping in Hanoi.

This is a city of thousands, if not millions, of small shops. It’s overwhelming. The first few days here I had trouble focussing due to the plethora of stores and products everywhere. Now I’m starting to find my way around and be able to locate what I need. Sometimes with a bit of help from my friends. Some things are cheap, really cheap; others not so.

Here’s a photo of some recent purchases:

A Few Recent Purchases
A Few Recent Purchases

I’ll give you prices in Vietnamese dong and Canadian dollars (roughly 15,000 dong to the dollar).

Starting from the lower left corner and going clockwise: a used Douglas Copeland novel: Miss Wyoming – 100,000 ($6.xx); Stolichnaya vodka – 188,000 ($12.xx); Martini vermouth – 220,000 ($15.xx); Tiger beer (local) – 8,000 (warm), 10,000 (cold)($.50-.65); rope for hanging laundry – 12,000 (.80); Hanoi/Ha Long Bay guidebook (says Lonely Planet but is a bootlegged copy) – 120,000 ($8); Protec helmet (highly recommended brand but not a full bore motorcycle helmet) – 183,000 ($12.xx); Viettien cotton shirt – 445,000 ($30); silk tie – 24,000 ($1.60); legal size document case – 92,000 ($6.xx); and the Wim Wenders box set, 3CDs – 70,000 (-$5).

The guidebook was probably the biggest rip. It’s OK but that’s almost the sticker price. No longer will I buy from street vendors (oh yeah, I forgot the 3 T-shirts I paid way too much for from a street vendor). Vodka’s cheap as there’s probably a good trade agreement with Russia. I’m not sure why the shirt was so much; I bought if from a local department store, not some high-fashion shop. And the tie was from the same store yet seems like a great deal. Next week I’m seeing a tailor about getting a suit made; that’ll be an insight. The helmet seems like a steal (it was on sale from their showroom). I tried the DVDs in my Mac and it spat them out (Chinese boots and probably the wrong format). Nice souvenir though. Beers cheap and if you’re so inclined you can buy the fresh stuff (bia) on the street for pennies.

Don’t worry Sue, I haven’t bought a scooter yet! The more I look into it, the more paperwork seems to be involved. So I think I’ll stick with taxis – especially now I have a proper fitting helmet.

Stay tuned for news of my teaching experiences! (is the vodka cold yet????)

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