To Visa or Not to Visa

There are two ways (that I know of) if you are teaching in Vietnam: With or without the right paperwork.

You can come here with a tourist visa (as I did) to look for work. That visa is good for three months and you *can* work on it, but only for the three months. When your time is up, you are meant to move on. However, there are loads of people here who follow the letter of the law and not the spirit… they leave every three months and return on another tourist visa to continue working in small centers or teaching private lessons. It’s a grey area, and some people have been busted for it. But there are loads working this way.

Why would you choose to work this way?

Well, there are a few reasons.

First of all, I’m sure there are a lot of people here that are teaching without the credentials that Vietnam requires in order for you to sort your paperwork. You need to be from a country where English is the first language, a university degree from one of those countries, a TEFL or CELTA certificate (or equivalent – and with the TEFL you need an in-class component or they may not accept it) and a clean criminal record check.

Also, there is a lot of freedom working this way. You can make your own schedule and take time off from it just by dropping classes or arranging cover. You aren’t bound to one school, program, or location. You also end up making more money because you don’t pay taxes… a reason why the government really doesn’t want you working this way!

It is also VERY easy to find this kind of work. Hell, we were in our local supermarket and a lady came up to offer us work. We only didn’t take the job because she was only offering $17 an hour.

::SIDE NOTE::

Yah, “only”. If you are fully certified up, like we are, getting $20-25+ an hour is the average. The money here for foreign teachers is sincerely excellent. To the point where you may feel guilty, as the salaries for the Vietnamese is not nearly as good. Not even close.

::END SIDE NOTE::

The other option is to go legit. If you have the paperwork you need, there are plenty of established companies that will help you (although rarely financially) with getting your residency and what-not.

Why go legit if it ties you to one company and ends up potentially being less money thanks to taxes? 

Well, for us, not getting deported was key. I’d like to be all honourable and shit and say that it is because we want to be legal and pay taxes and stuff, but that would be a lie. Because we have our cats, and they will be difficult to get out of Vietnam, it would be disastrous if we got turned away at the border trying to re-enter on yet another three month tourist visa. We couldn’t risk it, so we both looked for (and found!) jobs that would help us get the right paperwork.

Even if we didn’t have the cats, we didn’t want the expense of having to fly to Bangkok or whatever every three months.

::SIDE NOTE::

That “expense” is sometimes as low as about $60, with all the airport fees.

::END SIDE NOTE::

More importantly than the expense of the visa run (which is actually more than just the flight – you also need a visa letter and stamp fees, as well as transport to the airport,  and then there is all the shopping I would do in Thailand, etc), there is the stress. You need to sort the visa letter. Depending on your schedule, you may need to arrange cover for your classes. And, of course, there is the increased risk of incident if you are flying so frequently. If you worry about that kind of thing. We just didn’t want the headache every three flipping months. We are looking to be (or at least feel) a little more settled than that.

I’m not condemning the pop-in / pop-out lifestyle of working here. I think for many it is the only option, and for others the most suitable option. For us, we just didn’t want the hassle or stress. In the end, you have to choose what is right for you.

Ridin’ in the Rain

I’m sure I made it clear in my post about renting a bike in Hanoi that I do NOT have much experience on a motorbike. Yet here I am, bombing around a city with insane traffic.

In spite of the traffic, I really enjoy getting around on a motorbike. It is pretty freeing, especially when the main traffic laws you must follow are 1) not driving on the sidewalk (which people still do) and 2) not going the wrong way up a street (which people still do). Other than that (and not having a bazillion people on the bike… which people still do), there isn’t much to worry about. Even the traffic lights and signs seem to be more like suggestions than laws. So I don’t have to worry about breaking laws when I am riding.

I do have a zillion other things to worry about, though.

When I rented the bike, Danny (at the shop) laughed when I said that I’ve never been so spatially aware in my life since coming to Hanoi, even when walking. He laughed because he said the opposite is generally true of the Vietnamese. But so far I haven’t had my personal bike-space invaded too badly.

Although I thought I could handle my lightweight little automatic Yamaha, even in the traffic, I still worried at first about riding in the rain. Not just because of the danger of water on the road, but also because of the reduced visibility. But I was enjoying it, especially because when I got to go a little faster (30km… whoo!!) it felt like I was wearing a cape instead of a flowery unflattering rain poncho. BATGIRL ON A BIKE. So I was enjoying it.

UNTIL TODAY.

There is rain, and then there is RAIN. You know how people say, “God is in the rain”? Well, I’m here to tell you that if that is true, God freaking loves Hanoi. A lot. Especially today.

I woke up and it was POURING rain. Buckets and buckets of rain. And I could hear thunder. Unfortunately I had a meeting at 8am, so I was going to have to go out in it. I put on all my kit and started out.

Despite the raincoat, I was already getting damp just trying to wheel the bike out of our door yard. I got it out, locked the gate, and jumped on the bike. Which then would not start. And then it did, but as soon as I gave it some gas, it would stall.

Remember I know nothing about bikes. But I tried a few more times and it finally decided to catch and go. I rode down our wee lane to the main street… which was completely flooded. I mean, when I put my foot down to navigate the corner slowly, my foot and leg disappeared to more than halfway up my calf. That was the worst flooding I came across, but there were huge, scary puddles everywhere.

My visibility was poor. My eyes were full of rain (as was my mouth half the time). There was a good litre of water pooled in between my arms on the raincoat. Water was coming up from underneath somewhere and I was soaked through.

And then the lightning and thunder caught up to me.

That was pretty terrifying, actually. The thunder would sound simultaneously with the lightning flashes overhead. It was so loud that I could barely hear all the honking horns that are perpetually sounding in Hanoi.

In the end, I made it to my appointment, just two minutes late. I was the first there though, so I suppose everyone had a struggle with the rain today. Hopefully the next ride will be a lot drier.

PS: I am adding a “rain” tag to my WordPress tags. I have a feeling it’s going to come up a lot over the next few months in Vietnam!

Grab a Bike, Rent a Bike

The easiest way to get around Hanoi is by far on a motorcycle. Note I didn’t say “safest”, just “easiest”. I haven’t taken any pictures or videos of the traffic here, because there are a million pictures and videos online (seriously, just Google “Hanoi traffic”), but you can take my word on it: The traffic here is mental. Regardless, being on a bike is usually the easiest and quickest way to get from A to B.

For my first couple of weeks, if I was going somewhere, I was on the back of a Grab Bike. Grab, like Uber, is a taxi service made up of a lot of drivers. Anyone can apply to be a driver, and I’m not too sure what the hire criteria is. But there are a lot of drivers. I started using Grab instead of Uber (or Lyft) mostly on a whim, and whilst I was using a service like this, I was using Grab.

At the beginning, I was highly impressed and loved the service. I would use the app to say where I was and where I was going. The app would tell me the fare (no surprises, no haggling) and how long it would be until my driver was with me. Once I was dropped at the other end, I could pay in cash and rate the driver. Happy days! It seemed like a great service.

Until it wasn’t.

Too many times over the past week I have given myself an hour to get to a location just thirty minutes away and been nearly late. Not because of traffic, because of idiotic drivers. On more than one occasion I have had drivers (sometimes twice in a row) cancel on me after I had already waiting more than five to ten minutes for a driver supposedly only two minutes away. Worse, some of them refuse to cancel (there must be a penalty on them if they cancel too often), forcing me to cancel which bumps me down the priority list. GAH. One day this week their shenanigans meant I waited 40 minutes for a taxi to take me home… less than 15 minutes away. I was getting super frustrated and often sent rant-texts to Dan. Keep in mind that I was waiting either in the blistering heat (41c on day) or the pouring rain. Either way, not happy.

So, see you later (until I’m out drinking) Grab! I decided to speed up my plans to rent my own bike. Now this was an easy process.

Rent-A-Bike had come highly recommended to me, so I decided to check them out. I sent an inquiry telling them about me (especially my lack of experience on a bike!) and asking for recommendations. Thu got back to me in under an hour and had two bikes that she thought would work for me (a Honda Cub or a Yamaha Mio) and said I could pop by to try them out.

Two days later, I was in their shop. And just to underline that I was doing the right thing, the Grab driver that took me there 1) drove right past where I was standing to be picked up, and pissed around the block behind me for a good five minutes while I waited in the rain, 2) said he knew where he was going but stopped to ask directions five times – ignoring the map on his phone and mine, 3) stopped by the side of a random road and told me to get off the bike… to get his raincoat, 4) didn’t bother checking the address once we were close but rather just kept pointing at buildings until I finally had him stop in front of the right building, and 5) didn’t have any change, at all, and made me ask Thu for change. YARG.

Thu, Danny, and (I believe Chris?) were all in the shop when I arrived. At first, Danny said I should probably talk to one of the others, but when I said how much of a noob I was, he got up to help me. And help me he did!

We talked about which bikes would be best for me, dependent on my skill, usage, and budget. I was well-pleased that he kept my finances in mind because money is tight tight tight at the moment.

He thought it would be best if I started with the Yamaha Mio, an automatic bike that was in my budget. It isn’t really built to carry two people, but as I doubt Dan will be comfortable riding with me for awhile, I wasn’t too worried.

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My Mio!

Knowing that I was new, Danny (from the shop, not my husband – this might be confusing!) took me down to a quieter road. He talked me through all the controls. We went for a short drive while he explained how to drive. And then it was my turn.

I sat in front and him behind me. He had me start the bike but then he reached around me and took the handles. He got us moving and told me to take over. This was awesome, as I was most nervous about starting out. His way meant I could get a feel for the acceleration without spinning out from a dead stop. He was very calm and talked me through turning and how to deal with cars driving straight at me in my part of the street (that actually happened). I was feeling confident and comfortable after our lesson so we went back to the shop.

Danny then offered to have me try the Cub and any other bike I was considering, but I was honest and said I thought the Mio, being an automatic, was probably the best one for me. The Cub is a semi-automatic, but until I really get used to the traffic and riding in Hanoi, I think it is better if I have less to think about! Even though I declined trying the other bikes, I was told I was welcome to come back any time and give them a try, or to switch up the bike if I was so inclined.

We wrote up the paperwork, and although it made a mighty dint in my rapidly dwindling funds, I can’t say it wasn’t fair. To rent the bike is $55us a month, with one month’s deposit, if you rent for two or more months. So, two months plus a deposit. Additionally, Rent-a-Bike offers something that is nonexistent in Vietnam – insurance on the bike. For the cost of a month’s rent, I get a year’s coverage for loss, theft, and write-off. Instead of paying the cost to replace the entire bike (yikes), I only have to pay 30%. Hopefully I’ll never need it, but isn’t that what one always says about insurance?

Fees paid, I also purchased a phone holder (so I can get directions) which they installed. Thu went over the controls again and showed me how to lock the bike as well as where to fill the tank. I was given a printout about parking, police, and other exciting (read: scary) things about riding a bike in Vietnam as well as a rain poncho (having just bought one, I’m using their poncho as a spare/bike cover).

Overall, it was a great experience and I felt like they were really attentive. I also feel assured that should anything happen, they will be there for me whether I need information or assistance. If you are looking to rent in Vietnam, definitely check out Rent-a-Bike!

Raincoat on, borrowed helmet on, I walked the bike into position, hopped on, and rode home. Tonight I will be really riding out in it (my work tonight takes me into the very busy Old Quarter part of Hanoi) and I can’t say I’m not both nervous and excited. Adventure!

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Interviews, Demos, and Offers (Oh my!)

I promised in the job hunting post that I would talk a little more about the interview process, demo classes, and offer experience here in Hanoi. So here we go!

Interview Process

I would say that at least 75% of the times I sent out my CV I was contacted for next steps in the process. There is definitely a need in Hanoi for teachers who are qualified (this means you have a Bachelor in something, a TEFL Certificate or better, a clean police record, and ideally some experience) so the response rate on my applications was quite good.

I’ve only done a handful of interviews, and they have been interestingly different.

The first interview was with an individual who had found my CV on vietnamworks.com and wanted a private teacher to run classes for his team at work to help them improve their business English. We met at a coffee shop and had a chat. Arranged the class days and times, as well as pay. Talked about what they wanted to learn. That was it. Job sorted.

The second was with an agent. I didn’t realise it was an agent when I sent my details – it was a reply to a person posting on Facebook with a gmail account. When I realised they were an agent, I thought about backing out (you apparently do not want to go through an agency / recruiter here) but thought it would be a good idea to practice interviewing. There wasn’t really much of an “interview”. I filled out a form, gave a brief spiel about myself, and then we went on to the demo lesson (more on that below). After the demo she said that there was no way they could pay me enough. Upon asking about the hours and calculating the pay per hour for the job, she was right. So I left.

Next was a Skype “interview”. I use the term very loosely here. The guy asked me one question (“tell me about yourself”) and then the rest of the time told me what I could expect during the training week and what I would need to do to prepare for the visa process. It wasn’t an interview, it was an offer. It felt like they were just throwing teachers against a wall and seeing who stuck. Although the money and hours would have been alright, I felt as though I would go mad with boredom teaching their program (it was highly, highly structured), so I declined that job.

After that I met another individual who is in the process of building her school. It was more like a traditional interview, but it felt like we were already working together before even 15 minutes had passed. She asked about my availability almost right off the bat and was trying to work in a schedule, so I felt like I had the job before we even really started. I have accepted working with her as our teaching philosophies are well-matched. Right now I’m only scheduled for one writing class every Saturday with her students, but she’s trying to arrange more classes that fit with my schedule.

Another in-person interview with a bigger company that was a little more interview-like again. There were some interview questions, but often I felt more like I was interviewing them, and not the other way around. Afterwards I was invited to do a demo class (more on that below) after which there was more discussion about what my role there would be like. It is the company that I am currently in process of signing the contract with, as I’m very interested in the role that they are offering. More on that once it comes to fruition – I don’t want to jinx anything!

The last interview that I did was by far the most professional, robust, and difficult. It had more typical and expected questions (including the stupidest interview question in the world – “tell me your strengths and weaknesses”) in addition to some pretty tough questions about what you have done or would do in class. They were only tough because if you haven’t done your TEFL course, you would have NO idea how to answer as the answers were highly dependent on the TEFL lesson planning format. Such as describing your lesson using the TEFL lesson planning stages. I must have done well with the interview as I was offered a position (which I’ve had to decline as I’ve decided to take the other role). I thought it was strange that they didn’t ask for a demo lesson after how robust the interview was, but they didn’t.

So, as you can see, there is quite a difference in what you can expect in a job interview here. Seriously from “you’ve got the job, this is a formality” to some fairly tough questions in an interview lasting almost two hours.

The Dreaded Demo

I think demo lessons is what I was fearing most. Especially since I have never taught in Vietnam before. Would my style and experience from Korea fit? What kind of lessons would they be looking for?

First thing to know about demos – they are typically under 30 minutes. It is rare you will be asked to do more than that, unless it is with a very prestigious and well-established company. If a private individual asks you to do a three hour demo lesson (as one did with me, saying it was “usual”… um, no it isn’t) you should either a) insist on being paid or b) run away. Three hours (or even one) isn’t a demo. That’s a lesson. And you should be paid.

My first demo was with the agency interview that I mentioned above. I wasn’t expecting it, they didn’t mention a demo until after we had our brief interview. I thought about declining it (wasn’t very keen on working with the agency anyway) since I had been given no notice of a demo, but thought it would be good practice before I went on to other things. She gave me four flashcards (doctor, nurse, driver, singer) and told me to demo a 10 minute lesson on those cards. The “students” would be three years old with some basic English skills. I could have some time to think about how to do the lesson.

I thought about what I was going to do and made a quick plan. I ended up only demoing for the one interviewer. I simply ran through how I would teach those four vocabulary words – having loads of kinder experience it wasn’t too hard. She loved it. Immediately after she said that there was no way they could pay me enough and that was that.

The other demo was a 30 minute lesson. I was emailed a few pages of a textbook and told to choose one section to give my lesson on to high school students. I had a couple days to prepare. When I went in, there were five employees as “students”. I ran through the lesson I had prepared and they were very happy with it. This is with the company I am accepting the role with.

There really isn’t much I can say about doing the demos. If you are given the time, definitely prepare and write down your plan. Sure, you might be able to “wing it”, but having an outline will keep you right and definitely make you more impressive. The only other advice I would give is this: Treat the interviewers like you would students. At one point in my second demo, two of them were talking to each other after our pair work as I was trying to speak and move the class along. I spoke to them just like I would students to get them back on task. I think that may have impressed them more than anything else I did!

The Offers

What I’m finding most amazing about the whole process is how so many “interviews” are actually job offers. I’m getting the sense that really solid, qualified candidates are a rarity in Hanoi. There are a LOT of people here looking for work, but they aren’t always the people companies are looking for. So often if you are good on paper and then show up and aren’t a complete mental, you’ve most likely got the job.

For privates, you will probably agree there and then what the lessons and pay will be, so that generally is the offer. For the bigger legit companies, you’ll be emailed an offer with a contract to sign. I would highly recommend reading those contracts carefully.

In general, this has been my experience in Hanoi. It has been easy enough finding work, now the trick will be making work, well, work. The big company I’ve accepted probably won’t start being a paying job until August or September, as they place teachers with the public schools. The two small jobs I have are small. I need to fill up the rest of my schedule, but I am in limbo waiting on the big company and one of the privates to see what the schedule will be. I’m going to try to get it sorted by the end of this week so I can start bringing in the money. But more on that in another post!

Apartment Hunting

I am afraid my post on apartment hunting in Hanoi isn’t going to be dreadfully informative. Perhaps more illustrative of just how damned easy it can be to find decent housing in this city.

Like when job hunting, Facebook groups are the place to be when looking for new digs. But not always in the groups you would think. There are a handful of groups dedicated to housing, but posts for apartments and houseshares crop up all over the various groups dedicated to Hanoi.

Long before we moved to Vietnam, Dan and I had been watching the groups and various posts about apartments. We had a good idea of where we wanted to be, what we wanted to spend, and what we thought that much money should get us.

In Hanoi, foreigners tend to gather in just a few districts, with Tây Hồ and Ba Đình having the highest concentration of them. You can imagine then that an area like Tây Hồ also has the highest concentration of westernised shops and facilities. It also means that rents are often a little higher in these areas, but then again, the housing is also a little more modern.

Dan and I decided that we would focus mostly on Tây Hồ, not because we love other foreigners, but because we thought it would be nice to have a newer place and liked the idea of being close to the lake, even if it isn’t the kind of lake you would want to swim in (although I have seen some brave, brave souls swimming and fishing in it).

Our next consideration was price. We settled on an amount of $500(usd) a month. Which buys more than you would think in Hanoi. What you get for that amount varies, from bachelor-style places to two-bedroom flats, from everything included (except electricity, which is rarely if ever included) to little included, from fully kitted to sparsely furnished.

For our $500, we wanted at least one bedroom, everything included (except electricity, but a cleaner needed to be part of the deal), a balcony, and a washing machine in the apartment. Other than that, we were pretty open. So I began the search.

The first thing I did was post in a group on Facebook which is just for women in Hanoi.

::SIDE NOTE::

I also had joined a ‘ladies only’ group in Seoul, and let me tell you, that group and the one for Hanoi are by far the most supportive and helpful groups on Facebook.

::END SIDE NOTE::

I asked the group if they had the contact details of an agent that they’d used and trusted, so I wasn’t just going with randos that were posting apartments on Facebook. The group responded with a good handful of names and numbers, and a couple of people even sent private messages. One of these girls asked where I was looking and my budget. When I told her, she said there was a flat going in her building for that price, would I be interested. She said the building was all foreigners, and the landlord was a great guy. I said I was interested.

Long story short, Dan and I came and looked at the apartment. It was everything we wanted so we gave Dave – the Irish landlord who owns the building along with his wife – a mini hold-deposit (he said $100 would do, we had $65 on us, he accepted it) and asked when we could move in. That was a Monday. We moved in on the Saturday.

We are very happy with the flat, and still surprised at how painless it was to find a place with everything we wanted for a good price. We are even pleased that we are on the quiet side of the lake (more to the north west, the action is more around the east) and it isn’t too noisy down our little alley.


I suppose if I was to give any advice it would be this – reach out to people that are already here. Have an idea before hand your budget and what you expect and want for that money. It is possible to negotiate down a price here as well, and you’ll probably get a better deal (like in so many places in the world) if you deal directly through the landlord and not through an agent.

One last thing – prepare to pay a month’s deposit and at least one month’s rent (some places ask for two or three months in advance). Although we wouldn’t have agreed to three months in advance, there were lots of ads requesting it. Just a head’s up.

Job Hunting in Hanoi

The two questions I get asked after I tell people I’m moving to Vietnam is: Do you have a job yet? What about a house lined up?

The answer to both prior to arrival was no. Unlike Korea, where you must have a job in order to get your visa (as the latter is tied to the former) and your employer arranges your housing, for Vietnam I was coming in with nothing but a hotel room booked for a week.

Now, from what I understand it is possible to line up both a job and an apartment before coming into the country. But I’ve also heard that it isn’t a great idea unless you’ve been here before, or possibly if you have friends here that can help sort you out.

Why is it not a great idea? Well, jobs and apartments seem very easy to get here. So why would you sign up for something without knowing what you were getting yourself into?

I’ll talk more about my apartment hunt in a separate post. For now, I’ll focus on how I’ve been job hunting.

For months leading up to leaving, I’ve been lurking on various Facebook groups trying to see how often jobs were posted and the kinds of offers being made. There are a good dozen groups that are just for job hunting in Hanoi. One often leads to the other, and all of them have thousands of members. Just try searching groups for “Hanoi”, “jobs”, “teaching”, or some combination and you will find a handful of them. Once you join one, you will often find the others as people post in multiple places. I haven’t found any one better than the other, although there are a few where it is rarer that people post.

There are also websites that you can check out – Craigslist Vietnam, The New Hanoian, and VietnamWorks, just to name a few. I did get an offer before I ever got to Vietnam via VietnamWorks, but overall I haven’t found as much on these sites as I see on the Facebook groups.

On the Facebook groups you will see schools/academies, individuals, and agencies all posting. Keep an eye on the posts and you’ll get a feel for who’s who and what’s what. I’ve been told to avoid agencies, but they can be hard to spot sometimes.

The other kind of posting you will see on these groups are teachers posting their availability and basically asking for work. I actually keep an eye out for these, not just to scope out the competition, but also to see if there are any good offers in the comments! I’ve gotten at least one interview this way.

In my first week, I’ve been contacted half a dozen times and I’ve already done three interviews with a fourth and fifth in the works. I’ve already verbally agreed to take one group on as a class, and I’m holding off on an academy’s offer until I finish with the interviews I have in the pipe. The other interview was with an agency. The job wasn’t right for me (even she said the salary was way too low for me) so I declined. I’m fairly confident that had I been less picky about where and with who I was applying, I could have been working already this week. There are definitely cover classes I could have picked up.

So if you are thinking of teaching in Hanoi, there is definitely a need for teachers here (especially qualified teachers!) and work is plentiful. I would recommend signing up for the various Hanoi Facebook groups before you even leave and start getting your finger on the pulse of the job scene here.

In another post I’l talk about my interviews, demos, and the offers that have come through. There have been three so far, and they’ve all been very different, so I’ll probably dedicate a post to each one.

Waking Up in Hanoi

On my first full day in Hanoi, I got up fairly early and grabbed breakfast before I headed out for a massage. This is something I had been looking forward to for a long time. In the last decade I’ve probably had two massages, as I’ve not had the cash for real ones and my husband doesn’t like to give them (should be a divorceable offense, good thing he’s awesome in other ways).

Breakfast was at the hotel on the main floor. It includes eggs, toast, coffee (or tea) and fresh fruit. It isn’t a spectacular breakfast, but it is free and fills the spot. I’ve been pleased with it each morning. Belly full, it was time to head out into the heat (oh the heat!) to a massage place I had read about online. Unfortunately, I had awoken too early and the place wasn’t open yet. Not sure what to do with myself, I headed on to grab some “egg coffee“, a specialty in Vietnam.

I went to Cafe Giảng to give this a try. It is supposed to be one of the older cafes and still run by the same family. I was ushered upstairs to a small table and ordered my coffee. It came quickly and looked much better than it sounded.

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I gave it a stir and gave it a sip. I know it sounds strange, but it was honestly delicious. To me, someone who usually drinks their coffee black, this isn’t something to drink every morning. But I would definitely get another cup of it. And at just 25,000d (about $1.10usd), it was a reasonably priced treat.

From Cafe Giảng I headed back towards Van Xuan on Ly Quoc Su in the Old Quarter. I did some research and I wanted cheap but awesome. Which is what I got. My hour long full-body massage was only $9. It was definitely not fancy; there is no spa music and I was in a room with other beds and other people getting their massages, too. But the girl doing the massaging did a great job and I was happy with it. I think next time I would go for just a foot massage instead, as it looks like it would be just a thorough with more focus on the feet, which is always so heavenly.

massage

After the massage I went back to the hotel for a shower. To say the least, I have showered a tonne this week because I am the sweatiest person on the planet. I certainly hope I acclimatise to the heat and humidity here before it really kicks off next month.

I was met at the hotel by Zach, a friend of a friend from Korea. An American teacher having lived in Hanoi for nearly a decade, my Korean friend thought he would be a good person to be in touch with. She was right; Zach was awesome.

We went for lunch at Xôi Yến, which is apparently well-known for its sticky rice. It was a very tasty dish.

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Xôi Yến was extremely busy, so once we finished eating we went across the street to Cộng Càphê for coffee, which I have since found out is a chain in Hanoi. It is very cool inside, but I only nabbed one quick picture before we sat down with our coffees and started chatting about everything I could think to ask questions for, from sorting garbage to which district to look for housing in.

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Zach put up with me for over two hours and was an amazing source of information. I was very reassured after speaking with him about getting on in Hanoi. I was feeling guilty for taking up all of his day, however, so I said my good-byes. He offered to give me a ride back to the hotel, but I was happy enough to walk as I am still trying to get a map of Hanoi etched in my head.

I walked about the Old Quarter for a bit, looking for a pharmacy. I had woken up with a severe headache (no doubt brought on by travel, dehydration, and lack of sleep) and wanted some tablets. Pharmacies here are everywhere though, once you know what to look for. There’s not standard symbol so it took me awhile to recognise them. I bought my tablets (which happily I haven’t even needed since) and walked on.

I decided that I would get a manicure and pedicure. My nails were a mess as I hadn’t dealt with them all the time I had been travelling. I was hopeful for upcoming interviews, and I didn’t want to be a mess for them (what a great excuse!) so I did some quick looking online to find a decent place to get them done.

In one of my numurous Hanoi Facebook groups, someone had recommended Van Nguyen Hair Salon, so I headed there. When I saw the prices, I decided to get a hair cut (also desperately need) as well.

For a pedicure, manicure, sweet-ass head massaging shampoo of awesomeness, and a haircut I spent less than $18. With a tip. I’m enjoying this city!

Back to the hotel and grabbed another shower. Then out again to meet my friend Juu and her family, who just happened to be travelling through Vietnam and had arrived the day after I did. They invited me out to dinner, and had chosen Avalon BBQ Garden. It was delicious and the night views of the lake were amazing.


It was a great first full day in Vietnam. So much good food and good company.