Sunday, 06 May 2012 15:11

Through the Keyhole

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We all know what our own homes are like, but what about everyone else out there? The residents of six properties let us take a peek behind the scenes. Words by Stephanie Cantrell


The Room

Resident: An Tran Trong (waiter and student)

Location: A room in a house in District 4

Rent: VND800,000 a month

Moved in: January 2012

The Search

“I looked around a lot before I found my place,” explains An. “I work in District 1 but housing is expensive and hard to find in my price range, so my friends showed me lots of places in District 4, which is close to my school and cheaper. Most of the places I looked at involved sharing with lots of people, which I didn’t want. Finally I found the place I’m living in now.”


The Space

“It’s very small and simple,” says An. “The last owner stuck cuttings from magazines all over the wall, which gives it an interesting look. I like it here because the owner is like family to me, which makes for a nice living environment. I also work very late hours as a waiter and lots of landlords insist that you come home early. Here, I can come home anytime I want — three in the morning, four in the morning —and no one minds. The location is ideal for me as well because lots of my friends live in District 4.”


The Building

The building is a private house located down an alley in District 4. The owner and son live in the house and there are two rooms available for rent.


The Row House

Resident: Phan Thi Phuong (vegetable stall owner) and Le Kim Minh (government office worker)

Location: Two-room house in District 4

Rent: VND2.5 million a month

Moved in: 2010

The Search

“We used to live on Co Bac in District 1,” says Minh. “Two of our sons met a volunteer at a shelter who offered to help us with our rent so we could afford to live here. We looked around for a cheap place and eventually a friend introduced us to this house, which was the cheapest option for us.”


The Space

“It’s very small, but it’s good to have our own place,” he adds. “We have eight children so it’s crowded, but we like the area — it’s quiet and there’s no crime. The location is what we like most about the house. We could move somewhere cheaper if we were willing to live further out of the city, but our children need to be close to school. We might have to move soon though because the owner wants to sell the house and we can’t afford to buy it.”


About the House

The house is small with two rooms and a shower. The second floor is accessed via a steep staircase. The house is located within a maze of alleys in the heart of the district. The alley itself is quiet and not crowded, but the surrounding streets bustle with market stalls selling rice, meat, vegetables and household goods.

Heading South

Resident: Michael Hardy (owner of Em Oi shop) and Loan Hardy (senior consultant in commercial leasing)

Location: Three-bedroom apartment, Hoang Thap Apartments, District 8

Rent: VND9,450,000 a month

Real Estate Agent: Savills

Moved in: 2010

The Search

“My wife and I used to live in District 4 and were completely spoiled by the central location, so when we started our search for a new place, I was stuck on staying in District 4,” says Michael. “One day we decided to go for a drive, after months of looking in District 4 with no luck, to check out the new bridge and road heading into District 8. Once we saw Hoang Thap, we immediately called a real estate agent and got her to show us the different floor plans. We knew right away that it was the place for us. Even though it seems pretty far out of the city for some, it has great roads leading to and from town and it's far enough away to be pretty quiet."


The Space

“We have a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment that's almost 100sqm,” says Michael. “My favourite things in the house are kind of corny. I have a vase from Mexico that I bought when I was 17 that I love way too much and I have a swinging sticks kinetic sculpture that I saw in the Iron Man movie and had to have. The biggest drawback is not having a proper balcony. I have found myself leaning out the windows at times just to get that balcony feeling! We have a view of Nha Be area with RMIT fields to the left and the red bridge on Nguyen Van Linh. Overall, it's great.”


About Hoang Thap Apartments

Less than five minutes from Phu My Hung, and 15 minutes from District 1, Hoang Thap is a 14-storey building located on a 3,000sqm campus. Services include high speed Internet and facilities include a garden, a water clock and ample parking.


Jus Off The Centre

Resident: Michael Halloran, Bryna Greenlaw (both English teachers)

Location: Two-bedroom apartment in Binh Thanh

Rent: VND14.7 million a month

Real Estate Agent: The Nest

Moved in: March 2012

The Search

“Bryna and I were working in Korea when we decided to come to Vietnam to do a CELTA course at ILA,” explains Michael. “The school forwarded us some information about living in Vietnam, including a list of estate agents’ websites. We have a dog, so it was important for us to find a place with enough room for her. We decided to go with The Nest as the properties on their website were within our price range and seemed to come as close to our ideal as possible. We checked out several properties in District 5 and Binh Thanh. After looking at a range of options, we were happy to meet our agent again at one of the properties we liked in Binh Thanh. After ten minutes in it, we decided we didn’t need to review the other apartment and placed an offer. That was just over a month ago, and we’re quite happy here.”


The Space

“Coming from the box-room world of Korea, our new apartment seems like a palace, with two en suite bedrooms, a large living and dining room and a small kitchen,” gushes Michael. “We really like the living room space. There’s a large bookshelf, a couch, coffee table, two comfy chairs and a dining table as well as a flat screen TV, all of which came with the property. We have WiFi and it’s usually a decent speed. Also, a maid cleans the apartment six days a week and that’s included in the rent. The only downside is that there have been maybe four power outages since we got here. But we have board games and candles, so we’re set up for such disruptions now.”


About the Building

The apartment is located on the fifth floor of a six-floor house, close to Saigon Pearl and The Manor where they can access the facilities available there for a membership fee. The street itself is quiet and ends with a cul-de-sac. The landlord lives in the building and both his adult children speak good English.


Close To The Airport

Resident: Chinnawat Teeraphatpornchai, Operation Program Manager

Location: Two-bedroom apartment on Phan Dinh Giot, Tan Binh

Rent: VND16.8 million a month

Real Estate Agent: None, recommended through a work colleague

Moved in: 2007

The Search 

Before moving to his current apartment, Chinnawat stayed in another apartment in Phu Nhuan. He was looking for a new place in Phu Nhuan and District 3 because it’s halfway between his office and the city centre. Luckily, he found this apartment in a couple of weeks. The beauty of this one is the location — just a five-minute walk to Chinnawat’s office. For him, it’s very convenient because he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time travelling between work and home.


The Space

“It’s a good sized apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen and dining area,” says Chinnawat. “Generally I’m quite happy here. There’s a 24-hour security guard, cleaning and laundry and the rent has remained stable since I moved in. There’s also a beautiful view of the sunset behind the airport. One bad thing is the restaurant opposite, which can be a little noisy at night.”


The Building

The seven-storey building has offices for rent on the first three floors and six apartments on the other floors. The landlord also stays in the building. There is car and motorbike parking and a service elevator.


The Penthouse

Residents: Tom Borthwick (geophysicist) and Sheila Borthwick (school teacher back in Canada)

Location: Four-bedroom Penthouse in Riverside Apartments, An Phu

Rent: >VND100 million a month

Real Estate Agent: None

Moved in: 2010

The Search

“We lived in Villa Riviera before here,” Tom explains. “We found it to be a little too isolated. Sheila and I don’t ride bikes so we had to get our driver to take us on the smallest trips, like to the shops or supermarket. Riverside is a much more convenient location. It’s within walking distance of shops and cafes, and our son can walk to school. So when a place became available we moved in.”


The Space

“We feel very fortunate with the amount of living space we have here,” says Sheila, of the 350sqm penthouse. “It’s easy to entertain and all our friends who’ve visited have loved it. The high ceilings create a more open atmosphere and I love the big patio. The view’s great.”

“We also love the service here at Riverside,” adds Tom. “It’s completely stress free. Whether it’s a problem with the Internet or a light bulb fixture, someone will come right over to fix it.”


About Riverside Apartments

Set in a quiet riverside complex in An Phu, it offers a range of units with varying bedroom numbers and types of living space. Residents can also take advantage of the on-site gym, pool, tennis courts, restaurant, shop and café.

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