Visiting Vietnam for a short holiday is far different to living here. Unless you have an insider’s view, that is.
My husband David and I love Vietnam. And when it comes to finding a place to call home here, we’ve been spoiled for choice since the day we arrived. We loved Nha Trang’s spectacular bay, ringed by a long expanse of golden-sand beach, sparkling turquoise water and lush green islands that seemed to shimmer in the distance.
When I talk to friends who’ve never visited Southeast Asia about my life in Vietnam, they’re often surprised by some of the things I take for granted. Reliable WiFi in every cafe and restaurant, modern shopping centres, cinemas that show English language movies, even an ice rink. But that’s Vietnam for you…full of surprises.
Most people who think of Ho Chi Minh City imagine streets teeming with motorcycles, the clank-clank-clank of new hotels and skyscrapers going up and a never-ending whirl of locals and tourists caught up in the energy and excitement of big city life. And you can certainly find that here. But there’s so much more to Ho Chi Minh City…
“Is this the biggest Jesus in the world?” That’s the question I found myself asking as I marvelled at the imposing statue standing 32 metres tall and spanning 18 metres wide, perched high on a hilltop before me. This impressive Christ the King statue is even larger than Rio de Janeiro’s famed Christ the Redeemer but, as it turns out, it’s not quite the world’s biggest Jesus, it ranks third.
Back in 2005, when my husband David and I first arrived in Vietnam, it was not with the intention of living here. We had just begun what we thought was a round-the-world trip and Vietnam was only our third stop after touring Hong Kong and China.
It’s a balmy day, perfect for a stroll. A gentle breeze ripples through the trees lining the wide, leafy boulevard I’m walking down. The scent of freshly roasted coffee drifts out from chic cafes lit by twinkling chandeliers, and glittering designer boutiques lead the way down to the riverfront.
Hoi An is just 30 minutes south of Da Nang. This small city is home to about 300 expats, including many Australians. Hoi An is full of businesses that cater to the large number of international visitors who come to see its historic communal halls, temples and residences—preserved for centuries following the 16th and 17th century settlement of Chinese, Japanese and European traders.
My husband, Tim, and I were 44 and 49 when we left Australia with a plan to travel for a year then work for a year. That was in 2010. Six years, and many adventures later, we’re semi-retired and teaching English in Vietnam.
When visiting Hoi An, Vietnam, there are some obvious must sees and do’s. You must visit some of the old cultural sites in the UNESCO World Heritage Ancient Town and you must have couture clothing and shoes made for a fraction of the price it would cost you to buy them back home.