There’s No Place Like Splendora

Before I discuss Splendora, I have a few housekeeping notes. You can now subscribe to the blog by entering your email on the side panel and completing registration. You’ll receive a notice via email on days that I post. I still plan on sharing each published blog on Facebook, but the time difference and Facebook algorithms make it hard to ensure everyone sees them. I hope those of you looking to catch every post will find this helpful.

Also, David has launched a YouTube channel with a few videos that about life in Ha Noi. They are guaranteed to make you smile. Check them out here.

Exploring Splendora

St. Paul American School opened for business last week. I shared a brief description of the school on my first blog post in Ha Noi, Who Needs Sleep. Feel free to catch up there to learn more about the school. I hope David will be a guest blogger soon to share insights on life in the classroom.

Last Monday, hundreds of nervous children and their parents came to school for a brief orientation. Since Monday was a short day, I traveled with David to the neighborhood and did a bit of exploring while he was at work. My apologies that I am a week behind posting about the experience – a cold had me sidelined.

On the way to the suburb, life quickly transforms from the hectic downtown streets of the city to wide open spaces. Many cab drivers don’t know where it is, even though it is fewer than 5 km from downtown. On my first trip to Splendora there were water buffalo along the highway at the turnoff to town. Cows wonder near the school regularly from nearby pastures. And yet, it is anything but a typical rural Vietnamese community.

The suburb, which feels more like a Toll Brothers community than a Vietnamese neighborhood, is still under development. At the moment there are three large towers (more than 20 stories tall) of apartments, a community of villas, and a neighborhood of town homes. The School, which opened here a few years ago, is a central selling point of the community. This year a large park is supposed to open nearby and more apartments, villas, and houses are planned.

Known as Northern An Khanh on some maps, Splendora strikes me most as a dream not yet realized:

  • A street sign indicates a right and left turn, but the nine lanes simple emerge and end from a grassy patch of untouched land. Just a hint of what is to come.
  • New construction has a hint of luxury, but crumbling walls underscore the fragility of some Vietnamese construction.
  • Customized sewer covers display thoughtful branding, but few in Ha Noi have ever heard of Splendora.
  • Signs are mostly in English, an indication of the community’s focus on expat living.

I suspect in three years Splendora will be bustling, but for now, it is eerily empty. The area doesn’t even have a supermarket yet, though I imagine it is in the plans. At the base of an apartment building sit its only retail outlets; a handful of shops including two convenience stores, a coffee shop, and some restaurants.

I spent much of Monday sitting in the coffee shop, sipping on ca phe den da (Vietnamese iced black coffee) and fruit juice. A few perplexing visitors strolled past at one point. Were they entertaining children at the school? David said no. So, I am left to wonder, who in Splendora needed saving last week, and were these superheroes successful?

Despite its emptiness, I understand the appeal of living in Splendora. Families can walk their children to school. The air is clean. It is blissfully quiet, almost serene. Rent money goes a lot further here. In fact, several teachers with kids have decided to make Splendora their home.

I look forward to seeing how the community evolves in the next few years as more people move in and amenities are added. Maybe one day we will live here too. But, for now, we will stick to Cau Giay.

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