The first evening after Matty and I moved into our new apartment in Saigon I saw a dead rat and ate fried pigs skin. That may not quite conjure up the romantic image of a city laced in the faded grandeur of French colonialism, but then again on our first day in Nottingham we had a bike stolen – and trust me, it was not Robin Hood.
And so here we are. After almost seven months on the road, I now have a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and wait for it – a plastic tub to keep my make up in.
After unpacking our few belongings, which took no longer than 20 minutes, we threw our backpacks up into one (of the many empty cupboards) we have above our wardrobe in a triumphant ceremonial manner and stepped out onto our balcony to have a Bia Saigon.
Our new humble home is in “District Three” of this huge, bustling and to be quite frank, mental, city. We had two criteria when house hunting: firstly, to find somewhere close to downtown and not in an expat area so we could experience real Saigon life and secondly, somewhere that would not cost an arm and a leg. Because no one could do without them – especially when there are so many motorbikes to dodge in the streets here.
We viewed about four shoeboxes before finding what was to become our little pad on Nguyen Phuc Nguyen street – and no – I still can’t say it and make myself understood to taxi drivers. So I just carry it around on a little piece of paper like an evacuee hoping to get back there… at some point.
It has the finishing touches of a “bachelor’s pad” and we have our first ever TV in seven years. Matty loves it.
But my favourite place in the apartment might just be the balcony. When the dodging of hundreds of motorbikes at any one junction all becomes too much, this is the place to hang out and admire the work of southeast asia’s finest electricians and smog artists.
Unlike the British high streets, the streets in ‘nam tend to sell just one ware. Take a left out of the door and you’ll find yourself on motorbike helmet and crockery street, take a right and you’ll find yourself on shirt street where there are racks of shirts to be bought for a few dollars. But take a right and left – or a left and right – and you’ll find dozens of street food stalls that from hereon shall be described as “restaurants”, clusters of small plastic tables and chairs that will be described as “bars” from now on, and a strangely high proportion of women walking the streets selling quails eggs.
And so it was that I stepped over a dead rat as we chose the “restaurant” that would serve us fried pigs skin.
“At least it’s dead,” said Matty, ever the optimist.
Yes – I think we will be happy here. Street food tales to follow x
If you’re looking to rent an apartment in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) on a short-term basis the best advice I can give you is get there and contact everyone you can find. Through the power of Google and Craigslist we emailed dozens of agents with our criteria and had viewings lined up for the next day – the situation changes every day and most of their websites are not uptodate. We said we were only interested in a three month contract so we can establish the area and what we want long term. Many agents were ok with that – but expect to pay a little bit more as a result. Within six days of making inquiries we had moved in. Here’s to hoping we find some work that quickly… 🙂