Sunday, 8 June 2008

4th Floor apartment in Ba Dinh quarter, Hanoi

We're now in an apartment (4th floor, 134 Quan Thanh in the Ba Dinh quarter) and enjoying life in Hanoi as we'd planned. The apartment takes up the entire floor, except for the stairwell and lifts, so has windows facing all directions. It is fully furnished, has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, internet access, air conditioning and is cleaned 3 times per week. We moved in on Tuesday, a week after we left Canberra and a day after we started searching.

The location is terrific, about 2km from the centre of town and 300m from Truc Bach lake, a small lake that is separated by a causeway from much larger West Lake. The lake shores are ideal for my early morning runs. There are lots of restaurants, both on the street and more formal indoor ones, and a large fresh fruit market nearby, with a supermarket less than 10 minutes walk. There are innumerable cafes, bars and other shops selling every type of good and service. The apartment is a short walk from the museum and embassy area, with many colonial era buildings.

We've also agreed to house-sit a house and cat for a month from 19 June. The house is about 4km from here, and is a typical 4 storey Vietnamese residence, with a small frontage. The young American couple who are renting it are returning home for a holiday.

It's a week since we arrived in Hanoi and the first few days were busy searching for and selecting the apartment, meeting the American couple and agreeing to look after their place, renting a motor scooter, and making arrangements for the apartment. Just paying for the apartment took time, as the lessor wants to be paid in cash, and for the amount of cash required I had to have my passport and spend an hour at the bank. We've also set up our computers in the apartment, connected to the Internet.

We're enjoying exploring parts of Hanoi we haven't seen before spending many pleasant hours walking around the city, including the streets near our apartment. The Temple of Literature is one musuem we've visited. It was built in 1070 as the first national centre of learning or university. We also have the Quan Thanh Temple, an even older structure, several blocks west of here, and after which our street is named. Our plans are to start exploring further afield next week.

Yesterday evening I ran with a local group, the Hanoi Hash Hash Harriers. I left home at 1:30pm and didn't get home till 9:30pm! It was really too far for a run, but was a good social outing as well as a tough run in wild forest. First I had to get to the bus that took us to the run, then a 2 hour bus ride, in a tiny, 40 year old bus with a bout 40 people crammed in. I sat on the floor! The people were friendly: the majority were Vietnamese, with the oldest 75, with many expatriates from Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Germany and Belgium - at least they were the ones I spoke to. We passed through a lot of rice farms and small villages before arriving in a hilly, forest area. After drinking a couple of bottles of water we set off for a hard, hot 8.6km run.
At half way there was a welcome drink stop, more at the finish. Then came the beer, stubbies of Larue Beer! This is a tradition with Hash House Harriers around the world, and not ideal after running up and down hills in 36ยบ and very high humidity! A beer truck took all the bottles of water and beer out in large eskies because there was no where to drink out in the bush. Carolyne & I will see if we can get out to the same area for a walk at some stage.

There's a second group, the Red River Runners who also run on Saturdays, but more seriously than the HHHH, and they don't drink as much beer! They also run in Hanoi. While you don't get to see the countryside, it takes about 2 hours rather than 8.


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