Having lived in Thailand for 1 year and 3 months, it was definitely time to move on and experience somewhere different. We wanted somewhere similar to Thailand’s cost of living and culture. So after 6 weeks living in Phuket, one of Thailand’s stunning beach destinations, we decided to move to Hanoi in Vietnam.
Flying from Phuket to Hanoi, we had to make a stop over in Bangkok for 11 hours. Such an annoying amount of time, Do we stay in the airport overnight? Or do we book a hotel and checkout at 3am in the morning? Deciding it would be very uncomfortable and strange to sleep out in the airport overnight, we checked into a hotel just 800m from the airport and sought out our nearest 7-11. These little shops are a life saver in Thailand! The humidity can get beyond unbearable at times, so usually we search for the nearest 7-11 and run inside for the aircon! The beauty about Thailand is that your always around 100m from a 7-11, they’re everywhere! Anyway, taking advantage of our last trip to 7-11, we stocked up on Thai ready meals and toasties, anything that we knew we wouldn’t be able to find in Vietnam.
Waking up at 3am and boarding the plane at 6am, we arrived into Hanoi around 2 hours later. Taxis were expensive on our own, so we met some other travellers and got a taxi together. Dropping us off at our guesthouse 30mins later and stepping out onto a busy main road, I realised just how crazy Hanoi is! The traffic here is insane! Crossing the road is so scary, you literally have to look in every possible direction when crossing and walk across slowly to avoid every driver.
What strikes me as absolutely crazy is that most motorbikes here have no mirrors, a taxi driver told me the Vietnamese remove them as they don’t want to be seen as uncool! Although, the only way around is by motorcycle so my boyfriend and I unwillingly rented one for just $50 a month. He loved driving in Chiang Mai, Thailand but here it’s completely different, it’s the opposite side of the road for one! It definitely took some time getting used to, trying not to drive up the wrong way.
After staying in a guesthouse for the night, we went flat hunting. Contacting an agent seems to be the most common way of finding somewhere to rent here. We followed the agent to several properties and found two we fell in love with. Took an extra day to decide which one to go for, but when we moved in, it was definitely the right choice. Much bigger than the flat we rented in Thailand, with brand new furnishings and living by a huge lake, all for under £400 a month. Accommodation is a bit more expensive than in Thailand and you don’t really find the added amenities like a swimming pool or gym but we found a gym just minutes from our apartment so it’s perfect!
There’s a local fruit and veg market about a 2 minutes drive from our place, we’ve taken full advantage of this and actually started to cook more now too. It’s definitely more expensive to eat out in Hanoi than Chiang Mai and to be honest, by now we’re craving some of our home cooked English dishes!
The biggest difference I’ve noticed in Hanoi compared to Chiang Mai is the cultural differences. In Thailand, everywhere we turn there is a Buddhist temple or shrine, whereas in Hanoi it’s there, but it’s a lot harder to find. However, there’s so much character here due to the French ruling years ago. Many buildings have a European design and everywhere sells French baguettes. One of my favourite dishes in Vietnam is Banh Mi, a twist on both French and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s a French baguette filled with pork, pate, fresh coriander, salad and hot chilli sauce, delicious!
We’ve also completed training at our new jobs and are now officially employed again. This time we’re both working in language centres instead of a school like we did in Thailand. Our classes are in the evenings and at weekends so we have all the days free in the week to explore. We work just 4 hours a day in the week and a bit more on the weekend but it’s perfect for me and Lee.
Overall, it’s been a good three weeks settling in to our new home in Hanoi. We’ve got a bike, a lovely apartment and a new job. And it gets even better because we’re off to Hong Kong in two weeks for a visa run!