Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Comparing Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh (well sort of)

I have been asked by Nevada Sam to compare Hanoi and HCM. I have been thinking about this question a lot, but am finding it quite difficult. When I first got to Hanoi it was my first time living in a new country for a prolonged period of time. I spoke no Vietnamese and was seeing things with very fresh eyes, although I had been to Vietnam before, I had never been to Hanoi or taught anywhere for a long time.

But let me try and see where this goes… Well I’ll start with the obvious: HCM, or as most people call it, Saigon, is far larger than Hanoi, has far more cars especially, and traffic in general. As the roads are generally wider, the traffic moves quicker than in Hanoi, so it has taken some getting used to. Atm (at the minute) I am not renting a motorbike as I did in Hanoi as I spent three weeks in Cambodia over Christmas and New Year (which I really enjoyed) and spent most of my available money. So am a bit borassic.. for those who don’t know Cockney rhyming slang borassic lint means skint or broke…

Hanoi is cold now! Although it gets up to about 20C during the day, it still feels cold, especially when on the motorbike or if you are out of the sun. HCM is hot all year, around 33C during the day, falling to no lower than 25C at night. The heat can sap your energy, if you are busy.

In Hanoi, initially, I paid $9 a night for the Prince Café Hotel, which was a bit basic, but had internet in the room, which is important to me, was up on the 5th floor, had a full-size glass wall one side which was extremely draughty, was in the Old Quarter, not far from Hoan Kiem Lake and the owners name was Nunh, who became a good friend and who ended up wanting me to rent or buy a hotel with her, which she would run. The hotel in HCM is $10 a night, is run by a lady called Nunh! Is right in the centre of the backpackers area, with a big room, fridge, hot shower, big bed, wardrobe, air conditioning, is on the 1st floor, next to the reception, which can make it a little noisy. I also have internet in the room. So, altogether, very similar, apart from the heat. One difference is the TV channels here in HCM. There is no CNN and BBC World picture is blocked but the sound is audible.

HCM is a huge city, far more modern than Hanoi, with no Old Quarter and looks in some places almost European, except for the millions of motorbikes, with its many expensive department stores/malls, shops, wide roads and posh, expensive looking cars. It has few, if any lakes unlike Hanoi, but does have some nice, well maintained, although well-hidden parks. Hanoi has the Red River and HCM has the Saigon River, so not much difference there.

When I first got to Hanoi I used to walk miles trying to learn where everything was. The Old Quarter is extremely complicated with its tiny similar-looking streets so took me weeks or months even to understand. Since I have got here I have walked miles again most days. Because it’s a bigger city it takes a lot of understanding and I am far from knowing where roads lead, but I find walking is the best way to learn a city, before renting a motorbike, so you can recognise some of the buildings when you get lost. So I am still at the walking stage atm and quite enjoying flip-flopping along mile after mile.

Loneliness was a bit of a problem when I first got to Hanoi. I don’t make friends with people easily; I suppose I am a bit shy and like to know people before deciding to give my friendship or not. Not everyone gets my sense of humour, way of looking at the world or disbelief of god, etc. After a while I started making friends and ended up with some great friends who I hope will be friends for life. At the moment I am at that early stage. I have a few friends who I knew in Hanoi who have moved down here too, which helps, but one has no phone so I have lost contact with him (Julien, who I went to Vinh with), another has been ignoring my txts, don’t know why (but she is North Vietnamese, so probably didn’t need anything) but she rang today and wants me to teach her and a colleague, English. And she knows where Julien lives, so hopefully I will get back in touch with him now…

With James, or Shaky, as he is known to his friends down here, due to his uncontrollable shaking hands, I am working on the website CheapHotelsCambodia.com, which is not online yet, but should be in the near future. We have taken pictures of a lot of hotels and guest houses in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap/Angkor Wat and should have done Sihanoukville (but I couldn’t be bothered to get my arse off the beach to take the pics…)

As for the difference between the Hanoian people and the Saigonese, it is a little early to judge. I know the Hanoians very much live by the saying “save money, make money”, and down south they are more into spend money to make money, hence the city being far bigger and more prosperous. The police are not as strong down here either. In Hanoi, where the government is and most of the police are supposed to come from, they close almost all the bars and clubs at 11.30pm every night. In HCM, I have been told this doesn’t happen, although I can’t really judge because I haven’t been out that much late at night due to lack of funds or anyone to go with…

I am not sure this blog has answered Sam’s question, but it is more what has been on my mind lately and probably partly answers it and I will get back to it when I have more experience to judge.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

NUNH! I think that is hilarious...and always a good sign.

Great piece, enjoyed it tremendously. You are doing exactly what I hope to be doing soon....

I can understand the differences in North/South (saving $ vs spending $) partly due to political pressures. Heck, look at North/South Korea.....although probably a bit of a stretch....

Keep the reports up and remember as George H. used to say: All Things Must Pass.

Nevada Sam

Doug said...

Good stuff man, keep it up!

Gary said...

Doug,
Just wanted to say Hi, sorry it took so long getting back to you. After my trip to Vietnam, I returned to the states and back to work and never got to say "Thanks" for all you did in making my visit over there. Hope to return again this year, looking at August/Sept, time frame.
Gary Evins

Anonymous said...

The blind being led by the blind!
What a bunch of Sad Ass Dorks you all must be!

Anonymous said...

"The blind being...."

Huh?

Who are you, what are you and why are you here?

Nevada Sam

Anonymous said...

YOU!!
Im a guy who doesnt have to name myself after a Steve McQueen character in a western.
I also have more T.I. in Vietnam than you and the rest of the Dorks will ever have All Together!

ManinVietnam said...

Anonymous said...

"The blind being..."
"I also have more T.I..."

You are a guy who doesn't have the guts to name himself at all. You are a guy who gets satisfaction from dissing others and thinks that makes him look big.

So take your T.I. (whatever the fuck that is) and go shove it where the sun doesn't shine.

Because this blog is for discussions between grown-up people, not for a moron with an ego the size of a 747.

Anonymous said...

T.I.=
terminal incontinence

Nevada Sam

Anonymous said...

Next time I am near Pham Ngu Lao I will look you up.Nobody could miss that Stupid Face.If you do not want to wait, come over to the Q.I am there every nite after 10.You do not need to ask for me, as I said NOBODY could miss your stupid face.Your rant does not make you smarter but Dumber.TI,that means time in for a British Dork like you!There are lakes in Saigon!They do enforce the closing time at bars that do not pay!The backpacker ghetto is open because they ALL PAY!The Blind leading the Blind.Hope to see you soon!!

Anonymous said...

And here we have one more example of the differences between HCMC and Hanoi: Hanoi does not attract nut cases like the guy who's harassing you. On the other hand, HCMC offers the kind of loose environment where these loonies can basically do whatever they want with no fear of consequences (other than getting bashed over the head from behind). They can live and act in ways that would never be tolerated at home... the classic definition of a loser. The "Q" is the Q-Bar, a known hangout for pathetic, lonely westerners.

gmralston said...

About the BBC and CNN, you can get them quite easy. You need to go to the Saigon tourist cable office, pay a refundable deposit of 500,000 for a vtech box to unscramble the picture. Your monthly bill will be about 20000vnd more.

gmralston said...

oops, just occurred to me that you in a hotel at the moment so what I suggested is impractical but so you know when you find your own place. Enjoyed reading you post. Your right about spending and saving, down here it earn then spend and enjoy (well the locals I know anyway)

ManinVietnam said...

"About the BBC and CNN, you can get them quite easy. You need to go to the Saigon tourist cable office, pay a refundable deposit of 500,000 for a vtech box to unscramble the picture. Your monthly bill will be about 20000vnd more." gmralston

Thanks for that GM. I am currently looking for a house and housemates, so will definitely do that when I move in.

Virgo_The_Perfectionist said...

Hi
You have not written about the food. Also which city is costly. Actually I am supposed to go to both the cities for some months but I am not getting paid well in HCMC. So if you can provide me the details about cost of living in HCMC & hanoi, it will be very helpful.
My email id is ashwanijain@gmail.com

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