Across the lane from my apartment, there used to be this gorgeous villa. A family lived there for awhile, but then they moved. And then in moved the construction crews. I woke up one day to men on the roof taking off the tiles and then endured weeks of jack-hammering as they destroyed the cement roof to make way for two more floors. The sign above the gate says “Office Space and Serviced Apartments Coming Soon!” I’m sad to see the unique architectural features of this villa disappear into boxed frames and rectangle windows.
Fact of the matter is, Hanoi is one big construction zone. Everywhere you look there are buildings being torn down, built up or even changed. It’s part of a very enthusiastic master plan to make Hanoi a major metropolis. One has to wonder how this will all pan out. One of the buildings that went up next to my friend Mette’s apartment building didn’t get authorization for the sixth floor they built, so they had to take it down a floor! Can you imagine?
My neighborhood is a mixture of old French villas, traditional Vietnamese houses and newer apartment buildings (like mine). With more and more foreigners moving to Vietnam and moving to my part of town, Tay Ho (West Lake), these type of construction projects are only going to continue. In fact, since I moved into this apartment (#2 since moving to Hanoi), I have had ongoing construction next to and near me everyday.
I’m fascinated by the way home and apartments are built in Vietnam. There is such a lack of order, no concern for safety, and construction sites are just an utter mess. I’ve taken photos before of construction in my neighborhood, and have also been in the habit of taking a photo of this villa every few days or so. Here’s a few to show the progress.
It’s Sunday, I’m trying to work on my website, to relax, and to write. I was hopeful this morning because I woke up to a rainy day. Hopeful that that would mean a quiet Sunday. But the rain is on pause for now, and all the little construction elves have come out to make as much noise as possible and drive me absolutely batty. This is one of my favorite things about construction in Vietnam….A truck arrives, blocks the lane (it’s a tiny lane) and all the motorbikes trying to pass believe they need to honk their horns the entire time they are squeezing through whatever space is left for them to squeeze through. Then, the back of the truck is unlatched and the entire load of gravel is dumped in the driveway of this villa. This sound can best be described as rocks being scratched on a chalkboard…about a million all at once.
Then, the workers pull up these little wooden carts and shovel the rocks into the cart, making sure to give their shovels a good scrape against the pavement.
The jackhammers have started up again (they are destroying the roof of the villa) and I am considering two options 1. Blast my TV volume or 2. Put in the ear plugs.
I’ll say it in Japanese this time cuz I love the word, “URUSAI, URUSAI!!!”
p.s. As I am about to publish this entry, I am now at my desk, which I moved into the bedroom. Someone banged around on the floor above me for an hour. And now the neighbors are in their swimming pool and the kids are screaming and squealing. I seriously want silence. Quiet. Peace.
I’ve said on any number of occasions that if you were to ask me to describe Vietnam in one word it would be “loud.” I really don’t understand how an entire nation of people have become comfortable and unbothered by all this noise. A year and a half later and it still drives me nuts.
You remember that when I first moved into this apartment, construction began right next door. I was woken up around 6:00am every morning to banging and pounding right on the other side of the wall of my bedroom. And that was seven days a week for five months. FIVE.
I’ve mentioned on Facebook about the neighbor who had a rooster which took to crowing at 3:30 in the morning. I’ve never been so happy for someone to get rid of a pet. Although I still wish that the neighbors would get rid of some of their dogs. The reality about that, though, is that usually if an animal has been silenced, it also means it’s been eaten. Yes, the dogs too.
My friend Mette, who’s apartment looks over West Lake, has endured about two years of construction noise and had her west-facing windows completed blocked by a new building constructed next to her. That same building and another next to it have essentially blocked my view of the lake. Mette and I can no longer wave at each other!
There is construction happening all over my neighborhood as older buildings get torn down or villas get renovated so that foreigners will come in and rent these places and the owners can make oodles of cash. My rent is $1000 a month plus utilities and quite frankly, for Vietnam, I think this is bullshit. My apartment is nice and I’m lucky it’s well constructed, also lucky I have nice owners, but still, $1000 for a 1.5 bedroom apartment is nonsense. Add the fact that I’ve never had so many problems sleeping and I think I should be paid to live here. Jeez!
Now the villa across the way is being renovated and from 6:00 in the morning until late at night, there is noise. Big, loud, obnoxious, makes-you-want-to-scream, head-banging noise. It’s everything I can do not to yell “SHUT UP” from my windows!
I haven’t been getting good sleep lately. The pattern of sleepless nights started about two weeks ago. There are about three dogs in close proximity who wish to be on American Idol and they belt out their numbers from about 10pm to 6am. I’m pretty sure they are following the real American Idol because they sound an awful lot like they are trying to master Hound Dog. (It was just Elvis for those of you who don’t follow.)
There is lots of construction going on around my house and at 1, 2 and 3am they use the heavy machinery they can’t drive through the streets during the day. That accounts for drilling, driving, grinding and I think a bit of gyrating hips.
Motorbikes whizz past and horns honk away. Ladies on bicycles announce by chanting what they are selling or that they are recycling stuff or picking trash up. Today, it was all of the above plus ear-piercing national music blaring over the community loud speakers. (Which oddly enough made the dogs bark AND howl.)
Last night I went out with my best gal pal, Mette, and after a leisurely dinner, walked around the corner to Tunnel Bar. We talked, saw some friends, swayed to the music of guests DJ Farai who is leaving Vietnam after a two month tour. Fun. And I rolled in at 2:30 a.m., much later than my intended, “I’m not up for a big night tonight.” When I fell into my pillows, I begged and pleaded with the ceiling for good sleep.
Sunday being the ONLY day to myself, I don’t set an alarm. And really, I don’t need to because everyone else in the ‘hood will wake me up, well earlier than I want to wake up anyway! This morning was no exception. And truly, it’s starting to drive me batty!!! I may begin a coalition for silence or something. Maybe I’ll call it Project Lets Hear The Birds Sing or something. Project Remember What Silence Sounds Like. Project PEE – Protect Everyone’s Ears. Anyone? God a good name? Post it!
I should say here that the noise factor in Japan was minimal, except during local elections, when the candidate and uniformly dressed wavers would ride around in vans announcing the policies of the candidate and ever-so-politely (using the most formal Japanese) ask for support. That was always annoying on a Saturday morning. And while it was a bit loud, I never seemed to grow tired of who I called the Potato Man. The Yakimo truck. Small trucks drove around the town selling roasted yams. Each truck had a potato song and it always gave me a good giggle. “oishii (pause) oishii.”
My apartment building is surrounded by buildings in construction. This is a source of huge frustration and many sleepless nights at the moment. Not only will these new buildings out the back of the house be blocking my view of the lake, but the construction practices in this country are totally ridiculous! Cranes and heavy machinery are brought in only in the middle of the night, as that is when the streets are free enough for such large equipment. So 2am is a busy time on these sights. And on any given day (including Sundays, my ONLY free day of the week), the banging starts easily at 6:30 a.m. I can even hear the building on the other side of the neighbors…which doesn’t say much for the thickness of the walls here!
What I can’t get over, though, is how poorly these places are built, the danger with which the workers surround themselves (welding with no mask, bamboo scaffolding, climbing up things with no harness, tools and trash strewn all over the site) and how little is learned from one project to the next. I’ve never seen people build a floor, and then tear it down because of a change of plans, or make a nice big opening for a window only to fill it in again and move the window to another part of a wall. It’s really pretty amazing. I’m thankful this is not an earthquake zone, as these places would crumble to bits in a heart beat! The construction is pretty shoddy. There is no framing, no insulation, no drywall, no stucco, just good old-fashioned brick-laying and sandy cement.
It all makes me so grateful that my house is at least pretty sound….sealed windows with screens, no leaks, no plumbing or electric problems…this building happens to be pretty decent. Not without imperfections, but it’s certainly qualified as a nice apartment.
No matter what, though, after seeing the manner in which these places are put up and finished off, I cannot at all believe that they can charge the rent that they do here in Hanoi. The average two-bedroom apartment is now about $1500 a month. And because we foreigners will pay this, the Vietnamese will continue to tear down old and beautiful villas to put up 4 – 5 story apartment buildings. With the location of my house, and the projects surrounding me, I think the two to my right and the two here in this photo may well be the last of the bunch in the neighborhood. But I won’t hold my breath!
If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you’ll know that I have complained from time to time about the construction next door to my building. It’s family of the owner of my building, and so at least I can sort-of negotiate construction start times, but with my absence for two weeks, the crew fell quickly into old habits with starting construction this weekend before 6:30a.m.
What I don’t understand is that they bang about for 30+ minutes and then I don’t hear any banging the rest of the day. I’m nearly convinced that they do this on purpose just to get a rise out of me and are laughing on the other side of the wall.
I took some photos for you so that I could show you the skill and ability of the local workers. Mind you, this building is being remodeled, so there are some addition head-shaking points to ponder, but I think you can see that construction sites in Vietnam have a long way to go! Materials and workers as well…
I wish I were hilarious enough to make this stuff up. But unfortunately, this photo is the reality of my life at the moment!
To put it in a nut shell…Big rain storm. Lots of wind. Crappy building. No over-hang on the roof to protect this back wall. More rain. Rain, rain, rain. Unsealed walls. Walls absorbed the water. Water came through to the inside of the house. So wet, it ran down the walls and flooded the floor. My maid (bless her) freaked out, but cleaned it all up and did good by putting all my belongings in the guest room.
I’ve ‘evacuated’ the master bedroom as it is so humid in there with those wet walls. I’m living in the guest room with all my belongings. Cursing the management for their lack of care in fixing this super huge problem. Laughing at them because the crew that came today did not install an over-hang on the roof, but simply put a sheet of metal over the corner of the roof. Not a permanent fix, but what the hell do I care.
Found a nice agent who will take me to look at more places this Wednesday. Found one house online that I really like. Hopeful. Will keep you posted. Too much drama to write this out like a normal person. Tired of this nonsense and so very ready to move on. I have so much work to do, I don’t have time to deal with the apartment drama crap! I really hope the house gods like me!
On the Bright Side,