It’s taken a little while but I’ve made the move from hotel to apartment. After getting a bit of a runaround from a couple of agents I asked Phuong, my hotel mangeress, to help me. She found a place within two days. It was the first one we looked at but I liked it right away and took it. One of the big features is that it’s much closer to my main school: about a 10 minute bike ride or a half hour walk. The first photo shows its location in the lane – the double green doors on the left (beside the two men walking) are the security doors to get in. I reach through two flaps to open a large padlock and then draw a bolt back. If I want to take my bike in/out I can draw a second bolt to open the other half of the door.
I’m on the third floor so I can see over the wall to the right. Also in the lane is one of Hanoi’s ubiquitous street cleaners. Much garbage just ends up curbside and these people come by and sweep it up. Garbage trucks go along the main streets and empty bins and carts.
The next photo shows the view from the bedroom. This is what may have sold me on the location.
Yep, a pool! And not just one pool, but to the right and down is another, smaller kids’ pool. They belong to a hotel in the next lane over and are available to the public for 20,000 VND a day (just over a dollar). I was a bit worried they might not be open as apparently Hanoi’s public pools close in September, no matter what the weather, but these pools are privately owned and stay open. This morning I saw a few people out there swimming. Don’t know how anxious I am to take my manatee-like body into the public eye, glowing white beneath the milky sun, but I think I’ll work up the courage.
Of course being on a lane means it’s slightly quieter than a main road. Scooters go by, honking as always, and there is construction next door, but in the evening it’s very quiet here. The lane is a bit narrow and twisting for cars to navigate. I’m not sure how the construction crew gets their material here. On the lane are little stores, a couple of beauty parlours, a computer gaming biz, a kindergarten and some tiny restaurants. I haven’t got the hang of the little street-side restaurants yet; I’m still eating at larger ones. Today, however, I’m off to a big supermarket to buy goods to stock my shelves. I’ll be cooking in my own kitchen soon.
The fridge actually has a freezer cold enough to make ice! The stove is propane, the water is hot (if I turn on the heater for it) and so far (keep my fingers crossed) I’ve seen no bugs (although there’s a can of Raid on the counter). Out the window are the neighbours, about four feet away, but the floors are staggered so we don’t see one another, plus there are blinds. There’s a six chair table, an exhaust fan and enough dishes to get started.
The livingroom showing the large sofa with its studio section for lazing out in front of the big tube. I haven’t checked how many channels yet but it looks like a lot. Of course many are Vietnamese but there’s a good selection of foreign channels here. My laptop’s hooked up to fairly highspeed internet; not as fast as home but I can download movies in a couple of hours. Plus Skype with Sue and check the New Hanoian for info and reviews. There’s one air con here and one in the bedroom.
The bedroom is already changed since I took this photo as the landlady had a brand new, big fat mattress brought in. She and her maid carefully wiped down the plastic cover and put it on the frame. Later when we were signing the contract I asked if I could take the plastic off as it’d be hot. No problem. But I went to bed forgetting to take it off. About 3am I woke up drenched in sweat. Off with the plastic and, instead of turning on the air con, I brought in the big fan for a nice evening breeze.
There are two bathrooms also: a small one in the bedroom and a larger one near the entrance. They’re typical of here (or Europe) with no shower stall, just a handheld shower. As the rooms are all tile with drains it doesn’t matter if water goes everywhere. And then there’s one small room with a little washing machine which was the first thing I used here. So nice to actually get super clean clothes, not just handwashed in the bathtub.
After washing I take the laundry to the rooftop to hang. It’s a pretty good view of the neighbourhood from up there. Here’s a photo looking down into the lane, the construction next door, the tennis courts by the pools and the haze beyond.
And finally a couple of photos heading down the lane and out into the busy world beyond.
I step out the door, making sure it’s securely locked behind me (the little old lady on the ground floor is watching to make sure).
One of the narrow corners; gotta watch and listen for motorbikes coming around it.
Coming out into the world beyond – watching for bikes whipping in off the street.
Looking from the corner of the lane westwards, towards school. This was taken around 4pm, so traffic is just starting to build. By 5pm it’ll be thick. Crossing the street, 2 lanes one way, 2 the other, is a zany experience. Just watch for the big stuff: cars, trucks and buses. The bikes will hopefully avoid you. As long as they’re not busy texting someone on their mobile phone and not watching ahead of them :-()
In the coming weeks I’ll explore the ‘hood further. It’s kinda nice being out of the tourist area. It was convenient being in the Old Quarter with all its restaurants but this is the real thing, for better or worse. The apartment’s comfy, ideally located and not far from school and some lakes and parks.