When we started sketching out our trip, we planned to stay in a small boutique hotel in the Old Quarter. Then Hanna received an invitation from the administrator of the International School to stay at the family’s villa in exchange for taking care of their cat. This was a huge blessing. Not only would we save the expenditure for two hotel rooms, we would not have to check in and out for our trip to Mai Chau, be away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Quarter, have room to spread out and facilities for laundry and cooking, with the added bonus of a kitty to play with!
The villa was located in an area known as Ciputra. Many of the villas are occupied by executives of foreign companies. Most of the International School teachers live in apartment buildings nearby.
The villa had three floors. The ground floor consisted of a living room, kitchen, dining room and half bath. The second floor contained two master-style bedrooms, one of which was set up as a study. The third floor had an open living area, two bedrooms, a bathroom, a laundry room and a loft that was used as a play room. There were nice touches such as marble tile floors and a small swimming pool in the back yard.
There seemed to be electrical switches for everything.
Nighttime winter temperatures in Hanoi range from the high 40s to low 50s. Most homes do not have furnaces; residents rely on clothing layers and extra quilts instead. Our villa had the luxury of space heaters in the living room and master bedroom – more switches.
Hot water is delivered through an in-line heating system rather than stored in hot water heaters. There is yet another switch for that, then a short wait before washing dishes or taking a shower. (Phil did not hear this bit of advice before his first shower. Based on the primal screams from the bathroom, it must have been quite invigorating.)
Despite Vietnam’s humid climate, the majority of homes have only a washing machine. Clothing is hung out on porches to dry. This may take several days. Hanna’s clothes were often still damp when the house helper brought them back to her. We were again fortunate that our villa was equipped with a clothes dryer, but even a small load took nearly two hours on high to dry.
LCMS rented a room for Hanna in a home near Hanoi University of Science and Technology. Her landlords both spoke English very well; the husband had a government position and the wife worked at the Canadian Embassy.
Hanna’s landlords bought the property to live close to the wife’s parents, tearing down the existing structure to build this house. Located in an alley, the houses are extremely narrow, but tall. This house has five stories. Just behind the gate there is a utility room where they park their motorbikes and bicycles.
Hanna’s room was the rear half of the first floor. It was about the size of a typical dormitory room in the United States.
The second floor is the family’s living space with a living room, kitchen and dining room. The third floor has two bedrooms, one for the parents and another shared by their son and daughter. The fourth floor has a laundry room and a couple of rooms used for storage. The fifth floor is currently vacant. In a few years the children will want rooms of their own and one or both of them will move to an upstairs room.
These are representative of the nicer residences in Hanoi. On the other end of the scale, some street vendors live in their storefronts. We also saw rudimentary rural huts that I will share in a future post about our side trip to Mai Chau.