After nearly 40 days sleeping in guest rooms, campsites, hotels, and airplanes we are home. It feels good!
The Hunt is On
We arrived in Hanoi at 10 pm on Tuesday, August 1. It was after midnight when our heads hit the pillows. Some crazy person (me), scheduled an appointment with a realtor at 9 am on Wednesday. Before we even started we were tired. Snaking through the narrow streets of Ha Noi turns you around pretty quickly. It is NOTHING like a grid. The jetlag, layout of the city, and general feelings of being overwhelmed made it all hard to process. In retrospect, we should have spent a day around the pool and strolling around town acclimating before we dove in. Lesson learned.
Our search focused on two areas of the city Ba Dinh and Cau Giay. Huyen, our realtor, showed us nearly a dozen apartments in three hours that first morning. The last one she showed us ended up being our eventual home – though we wouldn’t know that for a few days. Thursday and Friday were booked with other activities, and we needed a real estate break – so we didn’t head back out until Saturday. This time we looked at places with a few other realtors that others recommended.
Those realtors took us to several large complexes in the city. One, named Royal City, was a series of numerous high rises more than 50 floors tall. The marble halls and Grecian statues did not feel like us. Those visits provided the clarity we needed to settle on a smaller building. There was one 2 bedroom apartment in Cau Giay that Huyen showed us that I continued to think about. It was more money than we wanted to spend, but Huyen had seen we were interested and contacted us more than once suggesting a lower price in an attempt to close the deal. After 8 hours of searching on Saturday, we called Huyen and asked to see the Cau Giay 2 bedroom again.
Welcome to Our Home
I am not sure about the city as a whole, but in our neighborhood addresses are based on the large thoroughfares. We live off Alley 100 for Hoang Quoc Viet. If you are interested in our mailing address please let me know. Letters are welcome to come to our home, but the management company recommends we don’t have packages sent here. Instead of sending them to their office, we suggest sending them to David at school.
Our apartment sits in a 7 story building with two apartments on each level. The layout is simple. Our door opens up into a living space which houses an enhanced galley kitchen including a washer and dryer. Opposite the kitchen is a living room with both a sofa and a love seat (this was rare when we were searching). There is a TV stand and flat screen. Between the kitchen and living space sits a solid wooden table with four chairs.
The apartment is run by a management company that owns 8 small apartment buildings in the neighborhood. They also have a hotel nearby. The apartment came furnished. Finding a mattress that I thought I could sleep one was a key consideration while we were looking for a place to stay. The Vietnamese tend to prefer a harder mattress, with many sleeping on mattresses without springs. That is a cultural practice I am not quite ready to embrace. Couches are also generally very stiff. Ours have a bit of sink, but not much bounce.
Small furnished buildings in Ha Noi that rent to foreigners tend to be serviced apartments. Apartments with the appropriate paperwork to rent to foreigners command a higher price (apparently the paperwork is extensive), and therefore, they tend to have more luxury amenities.
Service apartments come with included wifi and cable, a security person 24/7, parking for a motobike, and cleaning services. We also have a water cooler in our apartment that comes with 10 gallons of drinking water a month. City water is included in the rent, but we pay our own electricity.
Our particular apartment is cleaned three times a week. This is going to take some getting used to. I remember when my parents got a cleaning woman about a decade ago to help out when both were working and volunteering more than 60 hours a week. It was a totally reasonable and rational decision. I still felt weird about it. For the moment, I am lingering around the apartment during the day, so it feels even stranger. Vung came from the first time this morning while I awkwardly tried to be busy organizing things. My desire to communicate better with her will hopefully motivate my Vietnamese studies, which have become less frequent since we moved. I hope I get back into that groove soon.
When she left, the apartment smelled like a vanilla rainforest. She might be a miracle worker.
The apartment has a small porch that provides a beautiful view of some distant high-rises and the neighborhood from above. Our apartment is just above the roof line of the closest buildings. This week has been in the mid-nineties, so we aren’t in a position to enjoy it at the moment, but we hope to add a few chairs and plants to the porch soon. I took all of the pictures in this post during our apartment hunting ventures. We are still working on making it feel like our own with the limited decorations we have, but the suitcases are totally unpacked. That feels like a huge victory.
This is our guest room. It also happens to house a desk for us when we are working from home. We look forward to having multiple guests come and visit us while we are here, and we hope you will be among them. The room has an attached shower and sink, with another toilet housed just off the living space.
We hope to see you soon!