Welcome to my new house!

As far as I can tell, the new place doesn’t have a mail slot in the front doors. There’s certainly no room for a package in there, I can tell you that. 

As for the front doors themselves, they’re HEAVY mothers – both of them are extremely solid in their construction! The outer doors slide and the massive inner ones swing open to allow motorbikes to be parked in the garage (which is right on this side of these doors in this picture. I’m standing where 5 motorbikes could fit parked across. The doors are the width of the whole house.
As you can see from the photo at the right, this area near the doors reaches quite high, although not up into the second story like the space above the bike storage goes. That’s a metal frame that is holding wooden shingles. 
By the way… this is not a hermetically sealed living bubble, by any means, like the homes we like to tell ourselves are impenetrable back in the US (as if). But honestly, I haven’t seen a ton of bugs (or animal life of any kind) here in the city. There are a few small ants that are in the house – like, REALLY small – but if you keep the place clean they don’t hang around. And we’ll get to my little house lizards in another post – as soon as I find out what they are!
So, walking directly into the house and looking upwards toward the back of the structure, you see the kitchen balcony overlooking the bikes. I guess so you can see who’s coming in? Hello down there! Or, What’s for dinner, roomies?!

On the ground floor, up several steps from the dirt that the motorbikes bring in, is a small, relatively dingy common area. It’s got a sofa, some stools, and a couple chairs, but honestly it’s pretty horrible at this point.

This rock wall with bamboo whatevers are the most interesting part about the room, so I’ll just put those here and show you the rest of the room when we’ve done something with it, or trashed it beyond repair – whatever happens with these new roommates (who can tell at this juncture? ha ha).

There’s also a “guest toilet” on this level that lacks hot water (which basically means it doesn’t have a shower) and smells GAWDAWFUL. They’re disconnecting the fan from the light so that they can run the ventilation continuously. All I can tell you is that if you’re my guest, there is no way in hell I’d ask you to use this bathroom, currently – even if it means climbing the three flights of stairs to the one next to my bedroom. Sorry, but it is FOUL!
Climbing a flight of stairs that looks just like this to…

…The kitchen!! You can’t tell from this angle (or maybe you can, and I’m just getting used to it) but everything is half the size of a normal kitchen. It’s completely jarring at first, because from over here, it just looks like it’s farther away. 
Who knows, maybe the perpective trick is to make you think there’s more room here! Whatever it is, it’s going to be interesting to use with 4-5 roommates. We’ll have to stagger our breakfast calls, for sure. And roommate dinners? Not unless they’re on the roof! (I do NOT have a problem with that, btw.) Anyway, I’m excited to put it to use! Gotta get a few cheap pans, first…
Next up? ART. Wait, “ART.” No, forget the period, lose the caps, “art.” Or perhaps more accurately, “Something – anything – to cover the metal plate in the wall. Here. This puzzle will do. Put a frame around it.”
Whatever it is, it’s both hilarious and disheartening. I can’t argue that it goes with the color scheme of the house, though, and… somehow… there’s a certain cheeriness it emanates. Maybe it’s just the fact that someone tried just a little bit.
Shudder. Ok, until we find something better, or less terrible, it can stay.
Looking back to the alley and the front door/garage below before we go up to the third (or second, if you’re in certain buildings in HCMC) floor. This is what we were looking at earlier, the little kitchen balcony.
The light isn’t super great in here, but these are the windows and chandelier level with the kitchen. It’s fairly pretty, and the chandelier appears to be another one of the old wooden or metal ones, similar to the one I saw in my old hotel.
…ascending more stairs to the 3rd (2nd VN) floor…

…One of these bedrooms next to the top of the stairs (there are two more identical ones on the 4th and 5th floors, so get ready for…. PICTURE RECYCLING…)…
As you can see, it’s pretty tiny. All of the rooms have air conditioning and beds and furniture (this is before we got furniture for our rooms, and before my roommates moved in). This is the smaller of the two sizes of rooms. I got one of the big ones, along with my roommate Yona.
Notice the railing to the side in this picture on the left. The same railing and hole goes through every floor, including the kitchen, to the ground floor. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Whatever this glass thing is, it’s on this floor, too. At the opposite end, overlooking the Alley and right above the chandelier in the garage (yes… those words in that order just came out of my mouth) is Yona’s room. She was already moved in when I took all these photos, and I didn’t want to ruin her privacy which is why I don’t have a pic of it. However, I should note that her room was clearly once the Master Bedroom and has a crapload of awesome shelves and a WARDROBE in it, which is more furniture than all the other bedrooms have put together. Lucky you, Yona!
There is also a bathroom on this floor, but besides the fact that it doesn’t lead, it’s identical to mine. Moving on.
Ascend once more to the 4th (3rd VN) floor!
One more depressingly small and coral painted bedroom – at one point a baby’s nursery, I assume, given the number of posters of babies on the walls. Although a few DO have “lovely baby” written on the baby’s face, which is either English practice, weird, or both.
There are open windows everywhere, as I mentioned. I’ve never seen them closed, even when it’s down-pouring (like it is right now, about 5:20pm). The breeze and noise of rain through the house is refreshing after the heat of the afternoon.
Turning down the hallway – passing the railing and obligatory access chute to the floors below us – we find my bathroom, a coral gem of Vietnam.
I shot a pic of the floor so you could see how much room there is(n’t) in the bathroom to turn around. And do you see that drain? …Yup!
It’s another water heater/shower! I’ve discovered that these are the DE FACTO way you get hot water in almost all but the most modern/expensively retrofitted buildings, even businesses. They’re everywhere, in a million makes and models.
This particular one is labeled a “Fuzzy Logic System,” which I find hilarious and endearing. It might be a sign of terrible things to come, but in the meantime I’ll pretend it’s a prop from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and wait for it to do something dryly witty (ironically, perhaps, it’s also the one place I can’t bring my towel – there’s no place to hang it so it won’t get wet).
Coming to my room, we are greeted with this sight (unless my Finding Nemo windowshade is down).
I have three windows that open to the outside, and my room looks across the alley (maybe 10 feet away) from the neighbor’s balcony. It was disconcerting at first, but they’re almost never out there and if I’m in my room at night I pull Nemo down to protect me from curious eyes. 
My room is about 8 feet by 10 feet, and I’m paying $200 USD a month. I’ve got a twin bed that’s as hard as a rock, a cheapo bed frame, and a plastic spraypainted purple and green “wardrobe” for hanging and folded clothes.
Still holding out for a shelf! But actually, with the wardrobe, things have gotten a lot better. Not having my clothes and everything scattered on the floor is a huge weight off my mind.
Yes, those are three bags of Lipton sides that I packed in a weird panic on the day I left America. Yes, two of them are labeled “AsianSides” and Yes, I’m aware of the deep, deep Western-ness of bringing pre-packaged asian style noodles to Asia, where I can get something twice as healthy that won’t kill me for 4 times as cheap, literally less than 20 steps in any direction I leave from my house. Yes. I know. 

I’m going to enjoy the HELL out of those Lipton sides.  
You can see here how the purple wardrobe (again, I use that word “wardrobe” so, so lightly) has successfully contained the majority of my crap. Luggage is under the bed (there’s a surprising amount of room under there when you have very little to store!) and dress shirts will be hung as soon as I get hangers. The suit is hanging off some wiring (don’t do this at home, kids) – when the previous residents left, they took all the mounted wall fans with them, leaving exposed wiring all over the house.

You can kind of see the AMAZING Finding Nemo windowshade in this picture, but if you missed it, check it out here in all it’s faded glory!

You can also see from this last picture that I’ve got almost an entire wall free now. I want a desk. If they don’t find one for me, I’ll dragging one home from God knows where. Don’t tempt me! You know I’ll do it!

And yes, this picture actually takes in the entire wall. There’s another habitation direction on the other side of this (and on every side of our house, actually, except the front). It’s not a lot of room, but this is more than I need to be productive, have alone time, and live my life here, for now.

I will have to resist the urge to ‘nest.’ Fortunately I’ve been shedding things for a year now, living in smaller and smaller bedrooms, and it’s led me here. I’m ok with that.

And yes, ANOTHER set of identical black stone stairs! They’re quite nice – unlike the stairs at my last place, these don’t feel like they’ll give way at any moment (FEEL? You mean DO give away at any moment, right?!). In fact, the entire structure seems very solid. I don’t know the particulars, but it seems likely that this is a brick building encased in concrete (what many, many of the homes and offices in town are built of). I actually saw them doing it a couple weeks ago at a school that’s being refurbished, and now I wish I’d gotten a picture!

We’ve now reached the fifth (sigh, 4th, Vietnam, we know) and final indoor floor of my house.

Oh look, a third tiny, tiny room (these were going for $180/month. My $20 extra dollars got me the window wall, a slightly bigger room, and the windowshade. BOO YA I say!). Ho hum.

But look over here! Here’s that chute I mentioned, that goes all the way from the top to the bottom. And there’s a pulley directly above the center! How odd. For beds? For bookshelves? Dumbwaiter? Kids? I guess we’ll just have to go up there and find out!

Turning to the left…

… the entrance to the rooftop gardens! This has GOT to be my favorite part of the entire house (maybe excepting the kitchen, but I’m suddenly less excited about that now that I remember I have to buy cookware). It’s badass. Come on out and take a look with me.

 There are shrubs and greenery everywhere! I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of the stuff right in front, over the alley, but there’s more than just this stuff in the photo up here.

In fact, we have some kind of fruit bush that is producing now, and which I have no idea what it is. But I saw our landlord eat it, so I know that at least it won’t kill Vietnamese people who moved to France for 6 years and then recently moved back. Now I can cross that off. I’ll do a post as soon as I figure out what it is! More tests are clearly in order.

There are all sorts of things up here, and I’m hoping to do a search-and-catalogue of what plants we’ve got very soon. I’ve been watering them all on dry days (less and less of those, though, as we head into the wettest season) and I want to know what we’re relaxing among!

The landlords brought over a nice metal table and porch chairs this weekend, so we’re all ready to use this part of the roof.

This is also where the laundry is located. I haven’t tried it yet, because I haven’t bought hangers yet (wow, thinking back all those hangers I left in my last room… shucks). You can see the drying rack in the picture above, on the left side. Can you make out the tiny, individual circles that line the undersides of those bars?

This is a standard feature here – no one has dryer machines, and when they put their clothes outside it is usually WINDY, and occasionally VERY WINDY. Hanging the hangers in their individual little circles prevents them from being blow together. Smart design! And it looks nice, too.

And now, up one more steel ladder that’s bolted into the tile floor and the roof above (the last flight of stairs, I promise!)…

And we get to the place where I took my panoramic shot the other day. It’s beautiful up here. We’re still waiting for guardrails (no drinking without guardrails!) but when we’re able to be up here and feel safe we can create another garden and hangout spot up here. I, for one, am extremely excited.

Yes, this ladder is made of bamboo. STRAIGHT UP BAMBOO, YO. I have seen dozens like this, and not a single regular ladder since I’ve been here. (Come to think of it, I’ve really seen a lot of ladders in the last month. Weird.) Even on really nice corporate looking construction sites. The Asians have probably figured out how to grow just pure ladders at this point, I shouldn’t be surprised.


To my immediate right, and which you also might have glimpsed in the Pano I took, is our house water pressure. These are on the top of almost every building I can see from here, and I assume this is what the pulley was for. The former resident’s family name (maybe? I assume? Or possibly the former operating water company?) has been painted over.

And that’s it. That’s my whole house. Now, 1 ladder and four flights of stairs later, we’d make it once more to my garage/living room and decide what to do from here. But would we walk? Don’t I live far away from the nightlight still?

Oh yes, I should have mentioned – this new house is in the center of the city! Everything is reachable from here – drinks, eats, sights, and parks. I look forward to exploring that and reporting back on more of the unique and awesome stuff I find in Ho Chi Minh City!

Thanks for coming on my VERY TALKATIVE tour with me!

Love,
Ben