Cau May Street
Sa Pa (or Sapa), is a frontier town in north-west Vietnam. It is the capital of Sa Pa District in Lào Cai Province. There are several ethnic minority groups living in this area, such as Hmong, Dao (Yao), Giáy, Pho Lu, and Tay, so the town is a home to one of the main markets where they come to trade.
The district is famous for the Hoàng Liên Son range of mountains, the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. Vietnam’s highest mountain, Fan Si Pan, is a part of this range, at a height of 3143 meters above sea level. Sapa town is placed at an elevation of about 1500 meters. Continue reading
In November 2015 I packed my things into a big suitcase and moved half across the world to Thanh Hoa city in Vietnam to live and work here as an English Teacher. I still remember the mixture of fear and excitement I felt as I prepared for my big move, for my first English teaching job, for my first time living abroad on a distant continent, in a completely different culture. I was scared but also proud of myself – I had already lived abroad before and now I was going to make my big dream of living and traveling in SE Asia come true. I was doing what I had set out to do a couple of years ago – I was creating a life for myself that I could continuously keep falling in love with.
As with all the places I’d been to before, I was curious to discover how this new place was going to change me, what kind of relationship I was going to have with it. I’ve always thought of places as people – friends, lovers, family. Each place felt personal to me in a different way.
Soon I discovered, however, that just like with people, not all relationships with places are the good ones. Upon my arrival to Thanh Hoa, I felt immediately that this wasn’t a place for me. I couldn’t quite define the feeling or understand it, but it was there, it was palpable, and I didn’t feel good about it. I tried wandering the streets like I always used to do to get the feel of the place, but nothing around me felt right, I felt disconnected and distant from everything that surrounded me. During those first few weeks, I couldn’t bear the thought of being stuck here for an entire year. I was terrified. Continue reading
I’ve never really traveled or lived in a place abroad that I so strongly disliked, so this was a first for me. As I didn’t have much experience teaching English before this job, and since I’m not a native speaker, finding that first big gig abroad was somewhat limited for me. So after spending three months looking for jobs in Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam, when this gig came up, I was already frustrated and scared that I wouldn’t be able to get anything else soon, and I wanted to leave home so badly. So even though I predicted that Thanh Hoa city would not exactly be budding with other expats, travelers and interesting experiences, I decided to accept the job. Continue reading
During the first month of my life here, I tried the best I could to find a small apartment for myself to make it my home. I was looking forward so much to renting my first ever apartment! But while in some bigger cities in Vietnam this task would’ve been a piece of cake, it was hard to find a place like that here in Thanh Hoa. The staff from the school and some Vietnamese friends tried to help me, but all they could find for me were big old dusty 3-storey Vietnamese houses with four of five bedrooms. I didn’t need a place that big, and I had no friends who could share a house with me; the only people who shared a house were working for a different school, and I wasn’t able to move in with them. So living alone in a hotel room for the same price seemed like a better option than living alone in a huge, empty house that I would have to clean all the time and also pay extra for the bills. Continue reading
Upon my arrival to Vietnam, the biggest shock was the traffic, even though I read about it and saw the pictures. Still, it was incredibly terrifying to me. I am a nervous driver with almost no experience, so the thought of getting on a motorbike and trying to ride in the crazy, hectic streets here didn’t seem like a good idea to me. The traffic in Thanh Hoa is not as bad as in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, but it is still completely different than back home. People here drive like the street belongs only to them and don’t really follow any reasonable rules. Continue reading
The girl on the left is Annie, a dear colleague and friend, the kindest and most helpful person who never hesitated to offer her assistance both with work and private matters. Thank you for everything Annie, you are the queen!
I am a type of person who doesn’t have a problem of letting other people take the lead if I think that they’re doing a good job. But most of the time I prefer to do things myself because when someone else does them it rarely turns out the way I imagined it or it takes a lot of time to get it done. Living in Thanh Hoa required a lot of help from local people due to the language barrier. From getting food delivery, or buying and fixing things, to visiting a doctor who doesn’t speak a word of English, there were many small, everyday life things that I needed help with or at least some translations. Continue reading
We all need money, that’s the reality we live in. But while for some people having a lot of money might be among the top priorities, it has never been like that for me. I have realized this here more than ever – even though I had a good job that paid enough so I could cover all my living costs, live comfortably, and still save enough money to travel after just 8-9 months of work, I wasn’t satisfied. Continue reading