Renaissance In Hanoi, One Of The Most Complex, Most Vibrant, Most Forward-Looking Places On Earth
“Perhaps no other city on the planet offers the complexities found in Hanoi,” begins Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice in her full report on living and retiring in this city featured in this month’s issue of the Overseas Retirement Letter (in subscribers’ e-mailboxes yesterday).
“Breathtakingly beautiful, at the same time graceful and gritty, it seems as if every neighborhood, every street corner, every peasant, every sidewalk vendor, every uniform-clad schoolchild, and every narrow building begs for a photograph.
“Arising jubilantly from the ashes of war, Hanoi is regaining its place in the world. The post-war Socialist-Communist way of conducting business has gradually given way to a new economy. Now, for all intents and purposes embracing a free market society, the cultural and traditional capital city of Hanoi is thriving and maturing, defining its position in the global community. The frenetic pace of life and the teaming streets filled with unbridled energy make Hanoi one of the most exciting and interesting cities on earth right now.
“Throughout all this ongoing and rapid change, the people of Hanoi have retained their ancient traditions. The scent of incense drifts to the street as ancestors, heroes, and gods are venerated at the altar inside almost every home. Each year, thousands of fish are released into every river, lake, and pond in the city by those who believe that, by freeing a fish, they will receive good luck in the coming year.
“Celebrations are many and are commemorated with robust enthusiasm. Every adult is an entrepreneur of some sort, and the air crackles with energy and commerce.
“If Hanoi is a savory feast for the eyes, then it is a veritable smorgasbord for the ears. The roar of tens of thousands of motorbikes, spatulas slapping at sizzling woks, a cappella folk songs sung to gurgling babies, hammers shaping tin sheets and long stalks of bamboo, squealing schoolgirls, and the cries of vendors hawking their wares can be overwhelming at first. But it doesn’t take long for all these sights and sounds to transform themselves into something magical: a heightened sense of the world that keeps even long-timers in awe.
“Hanoi, a gem among all cities the world over, is the culmination of the proud independence and resourcefulness of its original Viet inhabitants and centuries of Chinese influences combined with decades of French rule, all now interwoven to form a unique blend of religion, culture, and heritage. Here, Europe and the Orient come together. Vietnamese herbalists and acupuncturists practice their skills in architecture inspired by the French, and baguettes and coffee are as popular as fried rice and tea. In many ways, Hanoi has been the cultural and political heart of Vietnam for a millennium. Founded just over 1,000 years ago (1010 AD), Hanoi has time and time again found strength in adversity and is today blossoming into a thriving metropolis.
“On top of all that, Hanoi is also a very affordable place to call home. You can rent a comfortable, fully furnished apartment in the city starting for about US$400 per month. You could also easily spend upward of US$1,500 per month, depending on your location and desired amenities. The Tay Ho District (West Lake, an area with an established expat population) is a good place to look for something both comfortable and affordable.
“A reasonable overall budget for living in this city is about US$1,100 or US$1,200 per month, including rent of US$500.”