For the last week I’ve been trying to find a new place to live in Hanoi. Not that there’s anything wrong with where I’m living now, you understand. In fact I seem to be moving out of a rather nice house, living with nice people! But alas, my bessie mate Jess is coming back to Hanoi in February, and my other mate Paddy is looking for somewhere new to live too, so we’ve decided to chuck in together and find a place.
I love looking for houses. I like seeing different places and imagining what it’d be like to live there. I did it loads at home, of course, and went from top-end city centre apartments to small, unappealing student hovels. In the process I ended up living in some pretty nice places. I’ve got quite experienced over the years looking at places to live, and thus I thought it’d be relatively straight forward to do here.
…At least, I did until I realized what a tremendous ability the Vietnamese seem to have to take something pretty nice and just completely fuck it up. I’ve seen almost 20 houses and apartments over the last week. And God help me, I’ve just been left bewildered by the whole thing: none of them have quite come up to standard.
Some of the houses have been non starters anyway. Many have been dusty and shoddily maintained, with random bits of wire sticking out of damp dappled walls where lamps and air conditioning units should be, with showers that involve simply a shower head coming out of the sink in the bathroom, and with prison cell like bedrooms of the sort that generally lead to Amnesty petitions.
Call me high brow, but there are easier ways to find a prison cell to live in than paying for the privilege.
Other houses have some redeeming features, and actually some are remarkably nice in parts. But they go and let themselves down by just doing bizarre things. One house I saw last week had a very comfortable, modern looking living room, and a frankly stunning, well equipped kitchen. But then it went and let itself down by installing in one of the bedrooms, behind a huge glass wall, a small nature scene complete with astro-turf, a large plastic deer and a white picket fence. It was little short of utterly terrifying, imagining waking up to find Bambi staring back at you.
I mean, all we’re after is a small, comfortably furnished, modernly decorated apartment, which isn’t terrifyingly noisy and which features broadly inviting cockroachless showers, comfortable sofas in front of TV sets younger than I am, bedrooms that wouldn’t give Terry Waite flashbacks, and which don’t feature fake wildlife kneeling contemplatively on plastic grass.
Apparently, so far, that’s just too much to ask!