Our first apartment in Hanoi was short-lived. Enticed by the modern Ikea style of the furniture, open plan, 3/week cleaning and 24/hr security guard, we signed up for 3 months at a distance after coercing our friend Thomas to visit a half dozen places. On arrival, all of these things greeted us…but a few weeks in we realized something interesting:
We dreaded going back.
How could this be? It was quiet, relatively nice, furnished…and yet we felt kind of low whenever there. We started looking at other places, but they all had the same components. Modern Ikea knockoffs, a modern floorplan and architecture, everything taken care of. Sitting in a cafe called the Hanoi Social Club, we romanticized how great it’d be to live in a place like that. A place with wooden shutters and patterned tiles on the floor, an apartment that not just acknowledges the place in which it’s located but even celebrates its history.
And then we happened upon the house on Da Tuong. Down a little alley full of food stalls, a bit closer to Hoan Kiem on a street not full of karaoke bars, an old yellow building, thick cement walls, green shutters, gardens, balconies, and a private gate in cerulean blue behind which our motorbike sits. It’s beautiful. The kitchen has a full stove and oven, something unheard of in a city full of apartments with two burners and no counter space or ovens to speak of. There are fans, and wide open windows. There are no screens, which means a mosquito net over the bed is a necessity. The furniture belonged to the landlords father, and the landlord is in his 80s…so it’s dark wood and glass, all hinting at an era before the air conditioners and international cable packages.
So…welcome to our house. There’s a guest room, a guest bath, a guest balcony, and a little dog who will decide if she likes you when you get here.