The Hunt Is Over

Just when you think nothing will happen – something does. We had resigned ourselves to the idea that we wouldn’t find an apartment anytime soon and were ready to hunker down in the hotel for a few more weeks. But, when it happens it usually happens fast and this was no exception. You have to be ready to jump on it or you’ll lose it.

On Friday we went out to look at four more places. Number 1 was in a small building just outside the downtown area. Up to this point everything we had seen was in a high rise building, so this was definitely different. The entrance was simple, an open ground floor like most Vietnamese houses, but the stairs leading up were polished granite and the elevator was shiny brushed stainless. It was a good start. The broker, a French ex-pat, was showing it to a young French couple at the same time, so we were all moving around in the space checking things out. I couldn’t gage their interest, but they were taking pictures and talking quietly as they moved through the place. I liked it immediately, and I hadn’t felt that way about any of the 10 we had already looked at. Marilynn, on the other hand, freaked out and stopped looking as soon as she discovered that there was only one window in the whole place. It was an interesting dynamic in the car as we went off to look at the next three apartments.
Number 2 was a real dog – it looked and felt like a high rise cellblock – all concrete (with mold and mildew), no decoration, and locked sliding gates covering the unoccupied unit doors. We didn’t even go in to the available apartment. It was too depressing. We stopped at Number 3, didn’t even step inside the building, and agreed with the broker to skip Number 4. By the time we got back to the hotel, Marilynn had reconsidered Number 1 and we decided to move on it. I thought the French couple might have tied it up, but they hadn’t and we set up an appointment with the landlord on Saturday.
Vietnamese houses, and this is basically a house that has been converted to apartments, are tall and narrow with common walls. There are 5 units in the building, all occupied by ex-pats – 2 French, 1 Dutch, and 1 Mexican. Our unit is on the second floor and has 3 common walls, so the only natural light is in the room fronting the street. It’s a bedroom with an en suite bath. The rest of the house is all behind that bedroom. There’s a living room/dining room that is open to the kitchen and behind the kitchen is the second bedroom. A second bathroom adjoins the bedroom, and that works well for us since if we have guests the two bedroom/baths are on opposite ends of the house.
It’s not perfect, but it meets our non-negotiables – built to Western standards, a reasonable and equal distance from work and the downtown core, basic furniture with built-in wardrobe closets, and 24 hour security. Once she looked at the apartment without the one window block, Marilynn saw that it was going to be fine. I think we can put some lipstick on it and she is already thinking about where to begin.
We signed the lease at 3pm yesterday and were looking out from the colonial-style rooftop bar of the old Caravelle Hotel at 7 celebrating the end of phase one of our life in Saigon.


  1. Jack,

    Well, I never planned to join Facebook but I wanted to see pictures of Viet Nam!! Where are they???? I want to see the windowless apartment especially!

    Your journey sounds trying but fruitful. I love your descriptions. Your writing is colorful and fun to read. I really got a laugh out of your original visit to the apartment.

    We are enjoying a spectacular week end. I am staying home and learning to enjoy it. Life is slowly coming back together — different but good.

    Kathleen had her surgery Wednesday and is home and doing well. Annie and Muna are taking good care of her.

    Lots of love to you both–


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