In total we stayed in Hanoi for 2 months. We rented two different apartments and settled into everyday life. It had always been a dream of mine to live in a different country and while I never imagined I would do so on this trip, it was a really great experience.
Our first apartment was a HUGE room, about the size of a studio apartment in NYC, with a bathroom. We shared a kitchen with two other people and although, I originally thought it would be our own place, we didn't mind. Our place was across the street from a huge, perfectly manicured park nicknamed, "lover's park". Our host (we found the place on AirBnB), Henry, told us it was nicknamed that because couples flocked to the open space for picnics and romantic walks around the water. Henry said he specifically ran around the park daily to meet a girlfriend. Around the corner from our apartment building was a very hip coffee shop, a huge farmers market and the best fried rice I have ever eaten. We loved our little neighborhood. But, it was pretty isolated being about 20 minutes away from the expat district and eventually, being closer to where our friends were beckoned and we left our cute spot for something closer to the main drag.
Our second apartment was just outside the main expat district and when we visited it on a drizzly afternoon, we were overjoyed at the prospect of living there. It was a huge concrete house consisting of 6 floors; each floor had it's own bedroom, balcony and bathroom. The top floor had a washer and rooftop to hang clothes out to dry- per Vietnamese tradition. There was only one other guy living on the second floor but, we were on the 5th and he was never home (he actually moved out shortly after we moved in) so, it felt like we had this huge place to ourselves. The best part was the big, clean kitchen we had in the space! We both had missed cooking (we cooked minimally in the other kitchen because it wasn't very clean) and immediately got to work in our new play area. Guy really took over cooking duties though and I am so glad he did. He is a very impressive cook! I ended up finding a spot at a local gym to teach yoga and on nights when I taught late, I would come home to a freshly made meal being set out before me. It was heaven!
However, this apartment wasn't all rainbows and sunshine. The day we moved in we were told there would be some light construction on the first floor to convert the space into another room. No problem we said. The landlord assured us it would take a two days. Cut to, a week and a half full of strange men dragging mud/concrete into the house to build walls, cutting bricks IN THE HOUSE and leaving the whole thing a dusty mess. We dealt with it for a week and half and when it was over thanked the heavens and assured ourselves it couldn't get worse. Oh, how wrong we were! The landlord then decided it would be a great idea to rip out the 6 flights of wooden staircase and replace it with a marble one. She said it would take 2 days-- we had heard that before. It took them another week. We were awoken every day to axle grinders cutting granite INSIDE THE HOUSE at 7am. Dust was literally EVERYWHERE and shot under our door. It was pure insanity. We texted the landlord furiously and got her to let us pay for only the time the house would not be in construction and we told her that had to stop immediately. The construction had gone on for a week and was going to take another. We put our foot down and thankfully, she listened. It was the craziest experience! Guy could not fathom how wrong the construction guys were doing everything and I could not fathom how a landlord would think it was cool to do construction while tenets lived in the building. Apparently, as we talked about our predicament with other expats, it was common practice.
Minus the dust storm that was our home, we enjoyed our time in Hanoi. I found a really great community within Fitness Village for teaching yoga and for taking yoga. I would highly recommend for anyone in Hanoi looking to find a good yoga and fitness classes spot. Hanoi also has a bustling music scene and Guy dove right into it, happily performing at open mics nearly every night. During the day we would catch up with fellow expats at the local coffee shop, Cafe Thom, where we had the best coconuts and fruit bowls of our life. The fruit bowl had the freshest mango, pineapple, pears, watermelon, dragon fruit and avocado. The avocado really made it. I am drooling now just remember how delicious those fruit bowls were. Plus, that coffee shop is where nearly every expat hung out so, we met so many amazing friends siting along the river.
One of the reasons there is such a large expat population is because of the abundance of English teaching jobs available to Westerners. They are private classes, public classes and tutoring spots available by the dozen. All it takes to get a job is to post in one of the many Hanoi Facebook groups and you'll receive more offers than you can count. A lot of the school classes require a teaching certificate, college degree and previous teaching experience but, there a lot of private or after school programs where all the requirements aren’t as strict. I found a spot at an after school program and was in charge of 8 adorable (and I mean adorable) Vietnamese children under 7. Two days a week I would come in and teach from flashcards provided for me by the head of the center. They were counting flashcards and simple phrases like, "sit down" and "stand up". I would lead them through the flashcards a couple times, play 3-4 games including the flash cards (musical chairs was a crowd favorite) and then at the end we would sing a song made from the flashcards. I "taught"for an hour and got paid $20! It was literally the easiest and cutest job I've ever done. I got hired for the two weeks before their winter break and as I already had a yoga gig lined up, I didn't pursue teaching English further.
We decided to leave Hanoi mostly because of me. While I loved getting the experience of living abroad, I was itching to continue traveling. There were still many places I wanted to see and after two months in one place, I was ready to move. In addition to my wanderlust, Hanoi was also VERY COLD. I had planned on chasing summer while I was traveling so I had no warm clothes. We each had to buy warmer clothes (very easy to do in the Old Quarter as there is literally a street for everything! And a very impressive array of North Face gear) and wore layer upon layer day in and day out. The city was also grey skies EVERYDAY and the lack of sun began to wear on me as well. I typically LOVE winter in NYC and live for snow days. I think with expectation of spending these months of traveling in hot climates, the cold took me by surprise and wore me down. I wanted sun! I waned hot! I wanted India.
And India we found...After some quick googling we headed to the Indian embassy and applied for our Visa's. We booked cheap tickets (thank you Kiwi.com) from Hanoi to Kochi and on Jan 26th we headed out. Bye bye Hanoi, HELLLLO Inida!