Moving into a New Apartment in Saigon

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.


Matty doing his black-leather-couch-pose


I’ve never failed to fill a wardrobe before…


The token kitchen – with street food at our doorstep for about 75p a plate, this is not going to see much action

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.


Stainless steel tables and plastic chairs are making a comeback. Fact.



# A room with a view

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

 Travel Tips

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… 🙂


Travelling The Silk Road: Our Planned Route

In just a few months time we shall be embarking on a trip that, although may seem a bit ‘off the beaten track’ today, is actually one of the most ancient and well trodden routes of the world. The Silk Road, or pedantically speaking – The Silk Roads (as there are actually dozens of different routes) – is the journey the silk took overland from China, through the ‘stans of Central Asia and into the western world, hundreds of years ago.

People spent their entire lives traversing across barren deserts in the scorching heat, warming up their icy, cold fingers in snowy mountains and stopping off at little caravanserais (aka traveller inns) for a shot of belly-warming vodka, before moving onto the bazaars to shift their goods. Actually I’m not sure the vodka bit is true at all, but there sure seems to be a lot of the hard stuff on the road now, and Matty has his eye firmly on the brandy kiosks of Kyrgyzstan that seem to be almost giving the stuff away at about 20p a shot.

So, in April we are giving up our little house in Nottingham to travel as the silk once did (but in reverse order). And we will be doing it all with our good friend Donagh, also known as the Mongoose (a nickname he has not just earned but OWNED when his wild side emerged on many a drunken night). Allow me to introduce him…


The Mongoose enters a cave in Lebanon… I have some much more entertaining photos of him, but I shall break you in gently.

So, it will be me, Matty and the Mongoose taking on the Silk Road.


The Route

We shall be travelling from Hyson Green (our much loved inner city streets of Nottingham) to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, where we shall be working for about a year or so, if all goes to plan.

From Hyson Green we shall be taking the tram to Nottingham Station, and the train to London, before embarking on the Eurostar to Paris for a swift lump of cheese and bottle of wine. From there we will take the night train to Munich, before stopping off at Salzburg in Austria, Budapest in Hungary and Bucharest in Romania, on our way to Turkey.

Then it’s onto the Silk Road. We wanted to visit Iran, but following the savage burning and prompt closure of the British Embassy there we thought it may be somewhat ill-advised so instead, this will be our Silk Road:


When I tell people I’m travelling the Silk Road, I get a fair few blank faces. And if you’d have asked me a year ago I would have met your gaze with equal blankness. But after a little bit of reading (combined with some artistic licence), this is what I am expecting… and the reasons for visiting each country:

Georgia – For its green valleys, mountain scenery and other such beautiful things.

Armenia – For the Cognac (and a ‘riot of flowers’ according to the Lonely Planet).

Azerbaijan – To understand what is ‘not Asia nor Europe’ and cross the mythical-sounding Caspian Sea.

Turkmenistan – For fabulous gold statues, ever-burning gas craters and bugged hotel rooms.

Uzbekistan – For majestic cities, brawling bazaars, ancient desert fortresses and a shrinking sea (fact).

Afghanistan – For the scary armoured vehicle ride to Mazari Sharif (the Mongoose’s current place of residence).

Kyrgyzstan – For horse treks, hunting with eagles and crying ‘wow’ a lot at stunning scenery.

Tajikistan – For the world’s most remote mountain-top road trip (the Pamir Highway) and hospitable home stays.

Kazakstan – For the leafy city of Almaty that sounds too much like ‘Oh Matty!’ to risk missing.

China – For the ‘Desert of Death’ aka ‘The Point of No Return’ or the name it goes by on most maps – the Taklamakan Desert. We don’t talk about this. And of course Xi’an where the Silk Road ends.

So there we go, that’s our journey. The journey taken by hundreds of camels years ago, as they travelled nose to tail, pulling large, heavy caravans through swathes of deep, dry desert sand for miles and miles. Am I scared? No, not at all.* Bring it on.

Follow our journey on this blog. I may do some geeky posts about gear and what to pack before we set off but you can ignore those and join me for the ride from April 22nd if you fancy it.

*I might be a bit scared… Crossing the desert of death in 40+ degrees does sound a little scary, right?