We have been living in Vietnam now for 11 weeks, 7 of which have been spent in our new home of Hai Phong. (The time is going so quickly!!)
Hai Phong is the 3rd largest city in Vietnam with a population of just under and is the most important sea port of the North. Compared to Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi it’s a lot less crazy but a bit more ‘wild’… you really feel as though you are in the ‘real’ Vietnam. You will see things that really do make you think about things and that can be quite confronting such as the dog and cat meat market, the fried bug counter at Big C or the skinned baby bird on sale in the supermarket! Or experience what it is like to be a ‘one of a kind’ as I have my legs, arms and hair stroked WHILE eating dinner more than once (and not by Andy!) and a few other moments which make you want the ground to swallow you up! Compared to the other two the foreigner count is also very low, putting us back into the ‘celebrity’ status of local whitey! It is somewhat similar to our home in Thailand although not as quiet!
Cost of living
The main difference between Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh and Hai Phong are the prices. While we were living in Hanoi we thought it was super cheap… we could get some Pho for 40,000, however here in Hai Phong average meal is 20,000! Day to-day living is generally super cheap….
- Meal – 20,000₫ ($1, £0.55)
- Bottle of Pepsi- 6,000₫ ($0.28/£0.17)
- Cinema 80-120,000₫- ($3.75-$5.60/£2.20-£3.30)
- Glass of Beer- 5,000₫- ($0.21/£0.14)
- Buy a scooter 125cc 2nd hand 4,000,000₫-6,000,000₫ ($187-$281/£110-£165)
- Full tank of fuel- 140,000₫ ($6.50/£3.85)
- Utilities per month (water/electricity/internet) 400,000₫ ($18/11)
- Swimming pool 20,000₫ ($1, £0.55)
We do have 2 Western restaurants of Texas BBQ and New Delhi so you can go and pig out on Western delights such as French fries, hamburgers, ribs and Indian food although you will pay the money for them at $12 a meal… might not sound much but when your usual meal is $1 it is quite a jump!! We also have a few KFC’s in town if you need a fast food fix!
You can’t (and wouldn’t want to!) drink the tap water here but you can buy a water purifier at Big C for about 150,ooo₫ ($7) which will clean the water and make it ok to drink! Other wise to buy water is only a couple of cents
So as you can see it is pretty cheap to live here which means that you can save quite a bit of your salary.
Hai Phong City
Around the city there are a few things you can see and do, there are some
pagodas and temples you can visit… Including the pagoda that is under construction despite being started 3 years ago! You can also visit the famous statue of the Warrior Woman who discovered the city. It’s not as crazy as HCMC or Hanoi but still pretty busy. It’s more of the real Vietnam and here you will be a local celebrity as they don’t see many Westerners!
Hai Phong is super close to Cat Ba Island which is part of a Ha Long Bay so you can take trips there on days off. Once at the port it’s only a 50 minute speed boat to the Island. If you want to go straight to Ha Long Bay it is only 2-3 hours on the bus and Hanoi is about 2 hours away in the opposite direction so we can head to the main city for a weekend if we want!
There is also an airport here which serves HCMC and Da Nang so you are able to travel to HCMC in the South or Da Nang in the middle during holidays without spending 30+hours on a bus!
Things to do
Drinking is a big part of the culture here so you are not short of bars and Hai Phong is actually famous for its beer, there is a brewery in the city which you can go and drink at it is unbelievably cheap and the beer is beer is actually called Hai Phong beer, you would miss the brewery if you didn’t know where it was as it looks just like a big pub on the main street!
There is a local gym which is just near our accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool just across the road beside the football pitches. You can also go swimming in the indoor pool at Sea Star hotel which also has a Jacuzzi and sauna and is not as crowded as the outdoor pool which is only open in the late afternoon.
We also have CGV cinema which always has the latest English films on and a bowling alley. If you want some beach time we are also a short drive away from Do Son beach where you can spend a day off relaxing with a coconut to keep you cool!
You need to be a bit creative with your time here as there are not masses of things to do but if you can fill your time it is quite an enjoyable and peaceful place to live!