Back to Hanoi

The winter in Hanoi can be surprisingly brutal. In December it’s usually quite nice, 40 – 68F with mostly clear skies; quite cold for a tropical city. The Christmas trees of December give way to the citrus trees of Tet, and for this year – the city looked particularly beautiful for both holidays. However, either in January or February, a layer of thick cloud rolls in and locks the city in its damp cold grip for months. The streets are moistened with either a light drizzle or a thick mist that mixes with the soot which settles out of the air. This is just enough moisture to form a film of grey slime – making driving very hazardous by bike. I haven’t seen the sun for weeks; in fact it seems almost a distant memory.

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Hanoi? Why am I talking about Hanoi when I was just living in Da Nang just a few months ago? In the autumn of 2013 I was living in Da Nang – five minutes to drive to the beach, fifteen minutes to drive to a mountain rainforest. I had a three-bedroom house which I shared with a lap-warming cat in a quiet neighborhood. I had friends and work colleagues which admired me, what would cause me to leave this place and put my weary feet once more onto the path to Hanoi?

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Regardless of the wonderful lifestyle I enjoyed in the most beautiful city in Vietnam (Da Nang), all was not perfect in paradise. Although the cost of living is very cheap, there’s a reason for that – there isn’t much money to go around. For me this meant there weren’t very many good paying jobs; I found myself working six days a week, only a few hours a day. Sure, I could pay for rent and food, but I really couldn’t save up much and the schedule meant I didn’t have time to take even the shortest trip out of town. Although work was easy enough, I realized this was precisely the problem: I wasn’t challenging myself nor improving myself professionally. In short, Da Nang is a great place to hang out and lay low for a while; but not a good place to advance one’s career. It’s a place more appropriate for a retiree than a young professional of any sort.

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So with much regret and resignation, I began looking for another job. A job in a city I knew would pay more and have more room for growth. That city had to be, naturally. . . Hanoi. So in late November, I saddled up my cruiser and took the Ho Chi Minh Road away from my “Palm-Lined City by the Sea”; back to Hanoi. There is no beach to relax on, the roads are narrow and rough, the air is dirty, and I live in a studio apartment: no cat either. Yet, I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Best of all, the job is challenging, pays 60% more, and I work only four days a week. How sweet is that? I’ve decided that this next year in Hanoi will be my “Year of Decision”: either I will commit myself to living in Vietnam long-term, or I will move to another country. Who knows, maybe I will end up in India as originally planned, four years later than expected.

Whatever happens, I’ll always be glad to have lived in Da Nang. It’s such a beautiful place – so it was worth trying to “make a go” of it. But the most important reason was family history. In 1972 my father was stationed in Da Nang for several months with the Marines, so from the early age of five – my first memories about Vietnam were stories from Da Nang.  In 2004, I decided to see some of the places my father had seen in his youth while in the Corps; so I took a short trip to Chiang Mai Thailand. It wasn’t the little sleepy town from Dad’s description anymore; but the city wall was still there. After that city I decided, “When I get the chance, I’m going to see the other place where Dad hung his helmet – Da Nang.” Nine years later, I not only visited the city Pop had seen forty years prior – I was also able to live there. Fortunately, I was able to be there not in a time of war and destruction, but in a time of peace and in a vocation that I believe helped improve people’s lives.

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About asienizen

I lived many years in Indonesia during my childhood. I moved to the USA as a young adult, and after 6 years in University, I moved west - back to the East. I've always told myself I would write a record of my life as a resident alien in East Asia, here is my attempt at that idea. I will usually put up an entry as often as I can, sometimes of the events of the week, sometimes a thing of interest that I saw. I will try to put up as much video and pictures as can be done, provided I can figure it out.
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One Response to Back to Hanoi

  1. Jakob Enevoldsen says:

    Good luck in ‘noi……..hope to see that city and all the other sights later this year…….you definitely need to get another cat…..can’t live without cat…….:-)

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