Monday, 13 August 2012

Early days in Hanoi

We've been in Hanoi for three and a half weeks and it's starting to feel like we are finding our feet in this city. We've found a house, although we are still in a hotel for another week as we wait for our things to arrive by boat. Lily is enrolled in school and starts this Wednesday. She's made several friends, all of whom will be at the same school with her. We've also found a nanny for Charlie and she's great. So all up things are going well.

Living in a hotel for so long has been odd. There are upsides to it. Many of the guests here are longterm residents and there is a real sense of community. It is also well set-up for families with kids. There are two playrooms, a large outdoor playground, a kid-friendly pool, and more high chairs than tables at breakfast. The kids have been enjoying the ready-access to playmates, the playroom, the pool and the seriously-friendly staff. Nonetheless it has been a bit crazy-making being coped up in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. The heat and the regular downpours have made getting out and about less than appealing at times.

Jetlag has exacerbated Charlie's tendency to wake up at the crack of dawn, but at least this is totally normal over here. The footpath outside by the lake is packed with people exercising - walking, running, riding, or doing callisthenics and tai chi. They also swim or row in the lake. Peak hour at breakfast is from 6-7:00am and the shuttles to work leave before 7:30am. As a morning person, this all appeals to me. It's nice to have company when I'm at my best. It must be tough for night owls.

We've ventured into town a few times - down in the main tourist area and into parts of the old quarter. But the bustle and the heat make it hard for the kids and so real exploration hasn't been possible. I'm looking forward to having the chance to get stuck into that on my own. In the meantime we have explored more of our immediate surroundings in the relatively suburban Tay Ho (Westlake). This is an area just north of the centre of town where many expats live (amongst many Vietnamese too). There are more trees and less traffic, and more shops geared towards our indulgences (mini-marts with treasures like tahini and Vegemite, pricier furniture shops, boutiques with 'Western-sized' clothing and the like). On Saturday mornings there is even a Farmers' Market stocking organic veggies and ethically-raised meat. Sometimes I feel bad for living in such a strange bubble, but then I register the culture-shock that Lily is already experiencing with the lack of footpaths, the language-barrier and the dust, and I think that we have made the right choice.

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