Monday, February 25, 2008

Our New Apartment

Here we are, back again posting about another new domicile. I have lost track of the amount of houses, flats and apartments we have lived in over the past six years. The long wait is over, we moved in to our new place over the weekend. It is a fifth floor walk up and my legs feel like I ran the Boston Marathon. We will take a little video to show off the new diggs, but essentially it is a one bedroom apartment with a bedroom, (shocking eh?) kitchen and living room. The view is worth mentioning as it looks over the community of Tay Ho(West Lake) and the lake itself. It still has that new car smell as the paint was barely dry when we moved in. There are also brand new appliances that make us happy and the couch is not wicker or rosewood, so that is something. A Japanese style bed and huge closet make up the bedroom with a computer desk in the corner. All and all I am very happy with it. The only problem is they are renovating the building right next to us and it is 10 hours of construction daily until completed. Oh well, you can't have everything.
Peace out yo!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

House Hunting in Hanoi

TET is a strange and unusual holiday that all but shuts down Hanoi for almost two weeks. This left it impossible for me to pursue employment or housing for that period of time. Also, the real estate situation is unique as well. How it works here is that you need an agent that is your go-between lessors and lessees. Without an agent there is no way to view or acquire a place to live. Also, owners have to be licensed to rent to foreigners and the agent makes sure everything is on the up and up. In the past month we have gone through 7 different agents and seen a bevy of overpriced, wholly unappealing flats, apartments and houses for rent. The utter rubbish we have been exposed to in potential living arrangements has had a debilitating effect on both myself and Karen. It has been one bitterly disappointing showing after another. The expectations of these lessors are so inflated that we have walked out of showings laughing out loud at prices asked for small one bedroom apartments throughout the city. So discouraging has this effort been, that I am ready to simply pack in the search and continue to live in the hotel. As of this writing we have come close once to paying too much for a decent, but small, apartment that was snatched away from us at the last moment. Right now we are no farther ahead than we were when we walked off of the plane and into the taxi a whole month ago. Pray for us. We need all the help we can get.

The Re-Arrival

We have been back in Hanoi for exactly one month today. We arrived late at night on Jan 21st and within minutes encountered our first example of ineptitude by the Vietnamese. We went to a booking agent in the lobby of the airport to obtain transportation and lodging. We dickered over prices until finally settling on a price for a hotel (18$) and a taxi to Hanoi Centre (10$). We had discussed a couple of different hotels before settling for the one we did. She wrote the name of the hotel on our receipt and the address for the driver. We loaded our luggage into the taxi and settled in for the 30 minute drive to the Old Quarter. After thirty minutes of non-stop honking from our driver we found ourselves in front of the hotel. We showed the receipt to the girl at the front desk and she nodded that this was the place. We unloaded our baggage into their foyer and walked up to the front desk, passport and receipt in hand. Upon closer inspection by the staff they noticed the name of the hotel was different and we were in fact, not at the right hotel. After thirteen hours of traveling we were not impressed with this revelation. They apologized for the misunderstanding and asked us to come back and stay with them some other time. They also advised us their rate was 15$. We assured them we would be back the next day. We called another taxi and waited about ten minutes for it to show up. We loaded our bags into the back and gave him the proper address which turned out to be exactly a block and a half away. Once again we unloaded our baggage and checked in to the proper hotel. The room, of course, was on the top floor of a five floor building that lacked an elevator. We lugged our luggage up the five floors, took showers and immediately went to sleep.
The next day Karen went off to work at 7:30 am and I checked out of the hotel, packed our luggage into a taxi and drove the block and a half back to the first hotel to save a few bucks a day in rate. Once again I found myself on the fifth floor, but with nobody to help me lug the luggage. After settling in to the hotel, I called Danny, our Motorbike lessor, and set up a time for him to drop off the bikes. He advised he would drop mine off that very day but we had to wait for Karen's automatic as he didn't have any on hand. He dropped off the bike and the Hotel manager informed me he would have to charge a dollar a day for parking for the bike. The hotel was now 16$ per night. The rest of that day and evening went by without any major problems. The next day I got a call from Danny saying he had a MIO for Karen. He dropped it off at the hotel and the manager announced it was a dollar per bike(17$). Another day went by and we had a late dinner keeping us out until almost ten O'clock. When we arrived back at the hotel the owner was there and asked to talk to us. He informed us that he would have to ask us to leave the hotel because the staff quoted a price that was too low. He also said they didn't have room for two bikes. This turned out to be utter crap, as he was just offered more money for the room from other tourists. Once again, Karen went to work in the morning and I went out looking for Hotel Rooms. Four hours and many viewings(always on the top floor), I was exhausted and finally decided on the Sunflower Hotel, where we had stayed for ten days before we left. Their price (20$) per night. I went back to the other hotel and packed up all of our stuff once again and carried it alone down five flights of stairs. I called a taxi and headed over to the Sunflower. Upon arrival there, the staff came out and grabbed my bags and brought them up to the fourth floor, room 401 where we have been ever since.
Welcome back Merlins.