I like reading about your adventures in Hanoi. I found a link to your site on Minor Hanoi-ances blog. I am researching moving to Hanoi with my six year old son. I would like to get my CELTA out there and then find work. I am concerned about finding a school for my son on a teachers salary. I like the idea of sending him to one of the French schools. Int’l schools are too expensive. Anyway, any advice for a single mom in Hanoi? Do you know any expat moms I can talk to? Thank you.
Sarah, I have really enjoyed reading your blog, and I subscribed today so that I can keep up with you. Someday in the next 2 or 3 years, I hope to persuade my bạn trai (boyfriend) to bring me to Vietnam for a visit, and reading about your adventures just honestly makes me want that even more. Keep up the good work!
It can be difficult to know what exactly to tell a first-timer. I guess read some background information about Vietnam (even something like the Lonely Planet will help), practice your chopstick skills, take a few Vietnamese lessons (something I wish I’d done before getting here), be patient with the traffic/noise when you first arrive – amazingly, you get over it.
Actually, http://www.newhanoian.com is a fantastic resource that can give you way more info than I could. Particularly the ‘Ask ANH’ section. Otherwise:
Food: delicious – be careful of, but not too careful of, street food. Otherwise, it’s easy to get good, safe international and Vietnamese food. You won’t miss much.
TV: I don’t know, I guess it comes with most houses/apartments, with cable set up already. There are a few English channels like HBO and star TV.
Cell: Can buy one easily at any number of shops around the city. Then buy a sim card, put in the phone and away you go. Very easy, and infinitely better than the US system..
Language: Really hard, but not impossible (so I hear). You can get by pretty well without it as I have, but learning it will make your life easier (and probably more interesting) of course.
Things to admire: The bia hoi and cafes around the city, Hoan Kiem and Truc Bach lakes, getting lost in the Old Quarter, the first time you feel like a motorbike master…
Things to beware of: Not too much. Some friends have been pickpocketed at really crowded events. Some taxis overcharge (especially at the airport – go to the official taxi line or use “Airport taxi” “Noi bai taxi” “Mai Linh” “ABC”). In my experience, most taxis are ok, but I’ve been duped a couple times. Not that big of a deal. Same for buying stuff in general. Just try to get a general idea of how much something is supposed to cost – it’s more of an issue with big purchases, otherwise you’ll just overpay by a few bucks. Don’t get addicted to heroin. That’s always a bad idea. Don’t break any Vietnamese ladies’ hearts. Also a bad idea. (Norms around dating are a little different, so try to read up on that if you plan on dating a local.)
I guess that’s it for now. Hope it’s at least a little helpful!
Restaurants – Ooh, where to start? Puku is a beloved spot for expats and Vietnamese alike. Nola cafe for quiet, arty space and decent food; Quan An Ngon or Old Hanoi for good Hanoian food; chicken street; Tracy’s for a great burger; Ete for that and other food; Foodshop 45 for Indian food – all these can be looked up on http://www.newhanoian.com. For bia hoi, just about anywhere it seems. I still like the ‘beer corner’ in the Old quarter despite touristy-ness. Nowadays I get bia hoi in my neighborhood, but it’s sort of out of the way. Have fun in Hanoi!
Hello! Stumbled on your blog today – I’ve enjoyed reading it! I’m from Australia and have been living here for 15 months. I totally relate your your entry about the Vietnamese confusion on married couples without kids! Try being married 8 years and explaining the no kid situation!
Sarah – you have a wonderful way with words and I’ll take it on faith (I’ve never been to SE Asia ) that your insights are accurate … they certainly (w)ring true … I hope you keep writing after your Hanoi sojourn … you have much to offer!
I dig your blog. As a fellow traveler writer I’m curious if you’ve seen, and/or have an opinion on, budget travel “expert” Matt Kepnes recent article on Vietnam.
You can read for yourself, but essentially he’s written a very whiny post about how terrible Vietnam is, using sweeping generalizations and misconceptions about the country to make his point.
The article is terrible. The writing is pretty bad. The worst thing, however, is how he’s earning revenue by damaging Vietnamese tourism. He is essentially saying, “if an expert like me can’t enjoy this place, what hope do you have?”
I don’t have a stake in this, other than being a world traveler who is offended that another would use such tactics to make a buck.
Anyhow, take a look if you have a minute, and feel free to let him know on his Twitter feed what you think about his approach to funding his travels. He seems to be oblivious.
Thanks for the links. I’ve only had a chance to read Matt’s Vietnam article so far, and I look forward to reading your response. I feel like I need to digest it for a little while before I can form a good opinion about it. I have noticed before that there are many miserable travelers in Vietnam, which has made me think that maybe living here is easier than traveling here. At the same time, I’ve been a tourist in Vietnam and have had a few annoyances, but not many and not more than I’ve had in other SE Asian countries. I’ve also known a lot of people who claim that Vietnam was their favorite stop in SE Asia (these people were part of why I chose it). It seems to inspire extreme responses either way – mad love or just mad. Had you not pointed it out, I don’t think I would’ve considered the monetary incentive to writing a negative piece about Vietnam or somewhere else, so that’s definitely something to think over. It’s hard to say if it was a motivator for someone or not. But alas, I’m off to a meeting, so I’ll have to get back to you!
I just stumbled on your blog this morning. Great information and recommendations.
I’m in Hanoi just for a few days at the end of this month and am looking for any advice on where in Hanoi or it’s surrounding areas to find some rice patties or small river boat rides. I’m a photographer and looking to document some of these scenes as well as exploring the city without some guided tourist trap travel package.
Any recommendations on how to do this would be great.
Hanoi is very photogenic, so you’re unlikely to lack of things to photograph. While not off the tourist path, you should consider taking the overnight train to Sapa, where the mountains and rice paddies and stunning and the locals wear the coolest clothes ever. The town itself is very touristy, but all you’ll need to do is rent a motorbike or driver to go to the surrounding areas. You could always take a bus or motorbike to Thai Nguyen or Ha Giang, too, which are pretty undertraveled and a glimpse of Vietnamese countryside. They might not be gorgeous, but definitely interesting. As for Hanoi, my favorite neighborhood is probably around Trieu Viet Vuong St. (cafe street). The neighborhood around Truc Bach lake is also nice. You could also walk along Long Bien bridge and take the stairs down to the isle below to see the communities that live along the river. Few people seem to go there, but it’s fascinating. That’s all I can think of for now. Good luck!
I didn’t stop to laugh while reading your blog…
The way you describe things and especially the Vietnamese signs post is fabulous.
I have seen millions signs in S.E Asia since the past 6years I’m expatriate in the continent, that made me laugh my a** off… I’m coming to Hanoi to undertake new responsibilities very very soon and will definitely admire this ”chef d’oeuvre” that surely is The Red River Tea room by having a Baker’s 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey as suggested 🙂
All the best !
Are you still in Ha Noi? I be there end of May,i been there few times, always business n stay in hotel, i know nothing about Ha Noi and feel like a total stranger in my own country, u r terrific to live there!!!
I found your blog while researching expat life in Hanoi because I too am examining the possibilities of moving there. I was offered a teaching position paying a somewhat low salary, but I have always wanted to live in Vietnam and understand that the cost of living is low. I would be coming from Shanghai so I am already aware of a lot of the Eastern Asian cultural differences, but am more concerned on the issue of safety. I have never visited Vietnam, but will be going in a few weeks for holiday. I have heard that Vietnam can be unnerving for Americans because of the lingering presence of propaganda and animosity tied to previous conflict. Did you experience any feelings of insecurity while living there? I understand that you are state-side now, but any information would be greatly appreciated! Thanks 🙂
Oh my gosh, Karissa. I’ve been meaning to reply to you for months now, and it slipped my mind. You are probably already happily eating bun cha next to Hoan Kiem Lake. Aside from the crazy traffic and occasional bout of food poisoning, I felt very safe in Hanoi. I heard a story or two about someone getting pickpocketed, but nothing crazy. Trust me, I’m a giant baby, so if I could do it, anyone can. More uncomfortable was just navigating the language barrier, culture shock and the chaotic feel of the place, but you get used to that. I’m sure it’s different now than when I lived there, but as a single person, it was easy to live off a low salary of $800-$1000/month. I had enough to save up to travel the rest of SE Asia, so it stretches pretty far. I never experienced any animosity over the US-Vietnam war. People in Hanoi surprisingly seemed to have moved beyond it to a greater extent than Americans, in my experience at least. I always recommend people moving there. It’s a beautiful place with a lot to offer. Best of luck!
I am also planning a move a Hanoi for a teaching position for 2016-17. Have you confirmed your trip? I will be traveling with my 3 children and we are both excited and shaking in our boots! Plan to read more of Sarah’s blog, which so far has been very insightful. Anyhow, maybe we can speak more about the journey to Hanoi.