10/11/2017 – Present
After our visa run and a week’s training in Hanoi we moved to our new home: Thái Nguyên. About an hour north of Hanoi, Thái Nguyên is a small city known for it’s tea plantations and university. We didn’t know much about it, but we were excited to get out of the intensity of the big city for a while.
We’ve been here for about three weeks now and overall it’s been pretty good. However, it is worlds apart from our experience in Ho Chi Minh City. Firstly, we work much less here so have lots of free time. I felt like I didn’t even have time to breathe in HCMC so it’s nice to be able to cook, do yoga and workout. Much more chilled.
There are hardly any westerners here (so there’s lots of staring!). We’ve gone from having a big community of foreign teachers at our last job to just four of us. Some days I do miss having lots of people to hang out with but it’s nice to have the opportunity to have more local friends.
Following on from that note, not many people speak English here (apart from the kids!), so it’s definitely more of a challenge to do things. We are starting Vietnamese lessons after Christmas so hopefully we’ll be able to communicate better soon.
Another big difference here is the food. I think food is just better in the south in general. However, we have a kitchen in our new apartment so have been loving cooking for ourselves again after three months of eating out in HCMC. Buying food is interesting though, we live next door to a massive supermarket but it doesn’t sell vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, rice or any real food at all. Obtaining these things requires us to go to a market which shuts 11am until 2pm for nap time, which isn’t great as now we work evenings we are not morning people!
Getting fish at the market was also an experience for me. All the fish are alive and you have to pick one and they kill it for you. That’s definitely something I’ll have to get used to.
We’ve had some interesting food here to say the least. An example is the food we had at our welcome dinner when we first got here. All of the staff from our office went out for a big meal, it was lovely to have everyone there. The food consisted of frogs legs, ground bird (which is surprisingly nice) and intestines.
A highlight of my time here so far was International Teachers Day, which seems to be a big thing here. We woke up early to go for lunch (because everyone wakes up so early here, lunch is at breakfast time for us) at our Viet Mom’s house because she had cooked us snake. I never knew there were so many variations of snake; snake bones, snake skin, snake meatballs…
There was also lots of shots that day from 10am on, Vietnamese people love their shots! Snake blood shots (snake blood with rice wine, yes it is gross) whiskey, homemade rice wine, vodka. Later that evening we went for another meal with the whole office. It was hotpot, which is basically where there is a pot of boiling water on the table and you put your own noodles and meat into it. More intestines. More vodka shots. Then onto karaoke, which we already knew was a firm Vietnamese favourite (can’t say it’s mine though!).
One more difference: the weather. Whereas Ho Chi Minh City was hot and sweaty all the time, it does actually get cold here, it can go down to 10C. Much to my dismay as I have no clothes for it. I had to buy some jeans and a jacket (all in a size large – Vietnamese sizes are tiny!).
So in conclusion, I’m having the complete opposite experience to what I had in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a lot smaller and although there are less things to do, I’m enjoying having some free time to relax and do things outside of work. I do need to learn Vietnamese pretty sharpish though!
Have you ever thought about teaching English in a small city?
If you want to see more photos of my travels you can go look at my Flickr where I upload them all