House Hunting

As best as I can work out, there are four main types of permanent accommodation for foreigners who wish to reside in this country. Hotels, which can vary from about US$10 per night up to US$300+ per night for 4 star accommodation. Serviced apartments, which seem to cost anywhere from US$1200 per month and upward depending on the size of the apartment, facilities in the complex, position etc. Houses/apartments, which vary from one bedroom up to eight or more bedrooms and can be tenement or free standing villas and sharing house space with a Vietnamese family.
Cost of sharing varies according to the size/space available, but we were offered the top floor of a house and the ability to share the family kitchen downstairs for about US$250 per month. However, it became clear that we would also be required to spend some time teaching English to the two children in the house and in fact it was suggested that if we wanted to earn extra money at nights the lady of the house could arrange for people to come over and we could conduct English classes there.
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This idea was tempting as the rent was cheap and it would have been interesting to live with a family here, but the desire to have our own space was an overriding factor, so we decided to look for a house.
We viewed only three houses before deciding on the second one that we were shown, and the process was the same for each one. We had contacted an agent by e-mail prior to leaving Australia so, on the last day of the Tet holiday I rang her and made an appointment for the following day. Additionally, we ran into an Australian guy in an ex-pat bar who introduced us to his Vietnamese girlfriend who is also an agent. This lady (Lian) showed us one house and the other (Wan) showed us two. In each case there were careful arrangements made, as either the owner of the house or a relative of the owner was present to show us through. In all three cases the owners were female and they had either a male or female chaperone with them. Wan had arranged to meet us in the foyer of our hotel and from there we caught a cab to the houses. She was dropped off at the hotel by a male on a scooter (who we now think is her husband but we are not sure). This guy arrived at each house before us and became a part of the process as well. Are you starting to get the picture that there are a lot of people involved here?? For the negotiations of the house that we have now leased there were, Lisa and myself, Wan and her man, the female owner, her daughter and a man who I now realise is the owner’s husband. All seven of us sat around in the living room discussing the lease terms and other things. Most times there were at least three people talking and we were all competing with the soccer, which the men had put on the cable TV. Very tiring process!! But fun and all conducted in good humour.
I will write more soon on the house itself and the myriad of things that we have to remember just in order to live there. Oh yes, in case you are interested, the house has three levels, lounge/dining/kitchen/bathroom/laundry on the ground floor, two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the first floor, an office/third bedroom and rooftop garden on the top floor. It’s a bastard if you get right up to the office and find that you have left your reading glasses on the kitchen table. Our new address is
337/14 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Phoung 5, Quan 3, HCMC.

I will tell you all about the house and our new neighbourhood ASAP