Friday, December 16, 2016

Prices in Hanoi

I just ordered food online for the first time. Apparently that is a big thing here, but I hadn't done it before. I found a site called (the link I included is to the English version of the site) where you can select your area of the city (in Hanoi and several other cities in Vietnam), and it will show you all the restaurants you can order from. In my area there are over 400 restaurants that deliver. Many of them don't even charge a service charge to do it; you can just order for the price on the menu. But some do charge a small service charge, or have a minimum order for no service charge. They delivered pretty damn fast, too. I went downstairs to wait for them, and they were there shortly after I went down. Tipping is not big in Vietnam, but I gave the guy a tip. Vietnam is not one of those countries where people get insulted by a tip, but it is not expected.

I've also seen online discussions about services you can set up to deliver you meals on a daily basis, tailored to whatever diet you have. Some of them will prepare meals for you and deliver them for about $3 a meal, and you can often get them cheaper if you order two or three meals a day.

Prices for just about everything in Vietnam are way cheap, compared to Western standards. And there is usually a bifurcated pricing structure for a lot of things. Expats will often pay a lot more for stuff than Vietnamese; for example, expat rents are a lot more than Vietnamese will pay. But even though you're being charged more, it is still a fantastic deal. You can often get in on the cheaper deal if you move into a room in a house that has mostly Vietnamese living in it, but even then, the person who let you in on the deal is probably charging you a certain percentage higher and pocketing it. At least I would hope they would be.  In some Southeast Asian countries, some of the separate pricing structures are fairly overt. When I was in Bangkok, to visit the Royal Palace, there was one lowest price for Thais, a little bit higher price for non-Thai Asians, and a higher price for everybody else. If you go to any of the street markets, the prices for goods are fluid, and you are expected to bargain, and the merchants will definitely settle for higher prices for expats. But you will still get very good deals on a lot of stuff, and it is the cheapest way to buy food, but you have to go to multiple locations for your food. The locals are plugged into the delivery system, though, and get all kinds of stuff delivered.  

Many things do have fixed prices, particularly in a store.  If you go to a store, the stuff on the shelf will just be the advertised price.  But prices can vary wildly in stores for the same items.  The supply chain here seems to be much more individualized here.  There were some favorite sesame candies I had when I first got here, and I bought them two of three times, but then they disappeared from the store.  Then, a couple weeks later, they reappeared briefly, but I haven't seen them again since.  

I've never seen a single semi truck in Hanoi.  I don't think a semi could fit down most of the narrow streets they have here.  Some streets are so narrow, the handlebars of my motorcycle barely clear them.  And I've seen some streets that I can't even fit my motorbike on; you can only walk, and if somebody is walking past you the other way, you have to squeeze past them.  Most deliveries happen by motorbike, so smaller quantities are brought with each delivery.  But they can pack an amazing amount of stuff onto a motorbike.

To give you some idea of pricing here, my apartment is $180 a month (I'm going to quote prices in US dollars here). But you can get a serviced penthouse apartment in the richest area of town for about $600 a month. Actually, my apartment is in the wealthiest area of town (Tây Hồ), but in the less expensive side of it.  Most things are very cheap here, but a few imported foods, vehicles, and electronics are the same price as in the west. All the backpackers buy $200 motorcycles to ride around Southeast Asia with, but I bought one that was nearly brand new (just 1700 kilometers on it, just enough to break in the engine) for $600. You can get by well here, with a lifestyle similar to the one you might have in the US, for example, for $500-600 a month. You could probably live like an upper-class person for $1200-1500 a month.  I don't know why buying a bottle of Pantene or Tresemme shampoo costs only about a buck here when it cost so much more in the States, but it does.  At home, I always buy the discount brands, but they don't really have those here for the most part.

The average salary here in Vietnam is about $150 a month. But English teachers can make $20-$30 an hour; more than most doctors, and that money goes a long way. The hunger to learn English here is ravenous. Also, teachers have very high status here; there's even a national holiday called Teacher's Day.

It's a little strange to see that here in Hanoi, they have these little RFID tags on things like chocolate, coffee and cheese that have to be deactivated at the cash register before you can walk out of the store with the product. They have the big plastic ones that have to be removed with a hand-held machine on things like imported whiskey and imported butter. Back home, I wouldn't have thought of these things as high-value items, or particularly prone to theft, but here, they must be considered so, or they wouldn't take the time and expense to do that.

I saw someone advertising for extra jobs for their maid today, who charged $2.50 an hour. I think if I hired a maid and that was her rate, I would probably pay her more.

The weather has been really nice here lately. When I had left on my visa run to Thailand, it was coolish here, but when I returned, it had warmed up a little, but not to the sweltering humid heat of the summer when I first got here. But in the last couple days, it turned a little cool again, and has been slowly moving a teeny bit warmer. Still, I haven't needed a heater at all yet. I didn't even think I had one at all until I noticed on the remote for my air-conditioner that it has a heat function on it, so I guess I do after all. I mentioned in a previous post that it is really compact and efficient, it is a Panasonic so it is a Japanese model.

I'm continuing my work on my Vietnamese flash card deck, and I'm up to about the letter “H” now in words from my first-and-second year wordlist, and adding other stuff that I run across. I figure I'm about a quarter of the way done, maybe. Maybe I'm a little less than halfway done on adding entries, but then there is going to be more processing to do. I don't want it to be so big that it becomes difficult, just want it to have enough words to lead to the possibility of simple fluency if well-learned and practiced. And I also want to have some simple sentences and phrases for essential things, and to work in and reinforce some of the single words.

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