“Living in Da Nang is fun!” says Carol Mitchell, a 63-year-old counsellor who moved to this progressive central coast city in 2015. She and her husband Dan, a family practice physician, lived for a year in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, before relocating to Da Nang—a decision they are both happy they made.
Dan works in a private hospital in the city while Carol busies herself with an English club for Vietnamese professionals, as well as taking classes to learn Vietnamese and to master sign language. She also teaches English and volunteers at Happy Heart Cafe, a popular Western restaurant that employs deaf and disadvantaged youth.
Their life in Vietnam is fulfilling. Carol says, “I like to have the opportunity to invest in people’s lives, learn about their lifestyles and I hope to expand their world a bit through knowing us. I’ve found that the Vietnamese are quick to embrace you.
“When we were in Hanoi, I taught English, and many of those kids and their families have become our closest friends in Vietnam. When we moved to Da Nang, we were purposeful in choosing to live in a local neighbourhood and we’ve made several Vietnamese friends as a result of that, though I’ve also made expat friends from Australia, Israel and the United States.”
Carol and Dan maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, something Carol says is easy to do in Da Nang.
“It’s a really good lifestyle here,” she says. “The Vietnamese diet is really healthy and they don’t eat many sweets, so it’s a positive change for us. I don’t eat meat, but there’s something like 37 vegetarian restaurants in Da Nang.
“We’re more active here, too. We tend to do a lot of walking along the beach or riding our bicycles to get around. We might also ride our bicycles up into the wooded hills around Son Tra (Monkey) Mountain.”
Da Nang’s great choice of restaurants and stunning
natural scenery lends itself to a fun and active lifestyle.
“The weather is great—it’s frequently hot, but that means that we can swim year-round and since we’re both avid swimmers, that’s nice for us,” says Carol. “We don’t have a pool at our apartment complex, so we bought a membership at the Pullman, one of the nicer hotels in Da Nang. It costs $70 per month per person and includes the use of their pool, the exercise room and a weekly manicure.”
Carol and Dan’s apartment is just a 10-minute walk from one of Da Nang’s best beaches. The apartment is modern, spacious and built to international standards. It has two bedrooms, a full ocean view from the living room window and a view of Son Tra Mountain from the bedroom. “Our monthly rent is $983 and that includes everything but some utilities,” Carol says.
Altogether, the couple’s monthly budget runs around $2,100. “Back home, we’d have to have a car; we couldn’t get around with just bicycles. Everything costs more there, too. We’ve really gotten spoiled by the prices here; we get sticker shock whenever we go home,” she says.
Carol says that the biggest expense they have is flying back home twice a year. That aside, their living expenses are low.
“We’ll go out to dinner sometimes at Madam Lan’s, one of my favourite places in Da Nang. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s like street food in a permanent location. Dinner for the two of us, including drinks, will cost about $13. Sometimes, we’ll go out for regular street food, too. I’ll order my favourite noodle dish, a vegetarian version of bun thit nuong, for just $1.30.
“People really want us, as foreigners, to have a good experience here and they go out of their way to be helpful to us and to show us a lot of friendliness, care and concern,” Carol says.
“The younger Vietnamese people really enjoy getting to know people of my age. They want to spend time with us. It’s a young environment and it keeps us young. Life here isn’t as complicated as it was back home and that agrees with us.”