Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Emoh Ruo

During the many, many (shameful) months when we didn’t update this blog, we moved house. With our stream of visitors drying up, we didn’t need such a big place, and when Nathan submitted this poem to Hanoi’s haiku project, we knew it was time to find a quieter spot.

It is a first-floor apartment, in a small block of only three apartments. When you walk in the door, you arrive in our bedroom, which doesn’t feel as strange as I thought it would.

Maybe the upside of living in that nine-square-metre roomette in Paris is that every subsequent apartment seems spacious.

In our bedroom, there is a little desk:

I haven’t had a desk in my house since I finished university, not thinking I needed one. But to sit at your desk and write an email, well, it instantly becomes a more important email than you’d write sitting on the couch. You can even be watching pug videos on YouTube, but if you’re at your desk, believe me, it feels significant.

If you don’t have a desk, you should get one.

The window looks out onto a beautiful tree, which according to conflicting sources, will get either red or yellow flowers in either Spring or Summer. I once saw a man break off a fist-full of leaves and eat them on the spot, so whatever kind of tree it is, it’s delicious. It is also the current home of some rare and endangered Vietnamese wildlife:

This is the kitchen/living/dining room/only other room:

As you can see, it has columns. If your house doesn’t have columns, you should get some.

It also has a television:

For two people who have claimed not to need a television for the last few years, Nathan and I certainly seem to enjoy having one now.

When you don’t have a television, all your guests will observe this absence and spontaneously start talking about how they don’t really need a TV either because they barely watch it at all. Any vegetarian will be familiar with a similar phenomenon, where meat-eaters, upon learning of your dietary preferences, will – unprompted – start telling you how they’re practically vegetarian themselves. So, you’ll be pleased to know, we’ve swapped being holier than thou with watching pirated DVDs of B-grade movies.

This is our table:

At night, we can watch the rats doing acrobatics on the electricity wires while we eat our dinner. Bet you can't do that.

And this completes the 360 degree view of the room:

On the shelf is our new collection of “lật đật” or roly poly dolls:

These Russian dolls were the hot-ticket kids’ toy in Vietnam before the country opened up to the west. They’re now only sold as nostalgic collectors’ items.

There are also some familiar faces our guests will recognize from the old place:

Maybe it’s just in comparison to our old place on Quan Su - which we began to loathe by the end, as one does when you’re moving out – but I really love this place in a way I’ve never loved a house before. It feels like it’s ours; that we have created a little haven for ourselves in a city where we don’t really belong.

And you can come visit our little sanctuary any time.


  1. Wonderful! Light-filled! Spacious! I sound like a real estate ad. I heartily endorse it.

    I want a roly poly doll (actually when I saw the photo of the living room I immediately wanted to know about them and then there was a close up!). Fulfilled.

    Nod nod about the TV and vegetarian thing.

  2. Lovely. And that pink thing in the tree looks both rare and delicious, you should eat it immediately.

  3. I KNOW roly poly dolls! They had them here too! Those Ruskies...

    For the past 5 months were are also tv free. The comments we get though are somewhat different.


    Friend: "Get out. No way! We got three and I can't fall asleep without one being on".

    Justyna: Yes. But you're handicapped.

  4. I didn't have to live there, but I thought the old place had a great charm.

    The new place, however, is magnificent. We'll have to invite ourselves around in the next few weeks. Perhaps chocolate could seal the deal?

  5. wow guys!

    It looks like an amazing place. The fake (i'm assuming) hard wood floors give it a really warm serene feel.

    And it's so true about the television and vegetarian thing!

  6. New place looks excellent!

    I felt the same way when I first got a desk... yet to discover the joys of columns... something to look forward to.

  7. hahaha! I think I am one of those people you speak of.. I'm practically vegetarian. I only eat red meat when I'm out!
    I love the new house. Do you still have warm communist messages to wake you up in the morning?
    Hope you're well

    Suga xxx

  8. Hey Suga, you'll be pleased to know that the Communist morning messages are as loud here on our island as they were on Quan Su! Though we do miss out on the stirring music, unfortunately.

  9. lovely pad guys! hey i think that tree might be a Delonix Regia, aka Royal Poinciana or Flame Tree. The fern like leaves, almost like a jacaranda give it away. the flowers will most likely be red and it will be amazing when it flowers :) i don't think it's edible though!
    "In Vietnam, this tree is called "Phượng vỹ", or phoenix's tail, and is a popular urban tree in much of Vietnam. Its flowering season is April - May, which coincides with the end of the school year in Vietnam. Because of this timing, the flower of Poinciana is sometimes called the "flower of pupil", and often generates strong emotions among graduating high school pupils, as the Poinciana bloom when they are about to leave their school and their childhood behind."

  10. Awesome house. What does the lion painting say? I've been staring at it for like, 10 minutes.
    The West Lake Review

  11. Deb: I think you're right about the tree! Flame Tree - just like the Cold Chisel song! Nathan and I had a good old chuckle about how the tree "generates strong emotions" as seriously every type of tree in Vietnam "generates strong emotions" of some sort (be it the season, the colour, the smell etc). They are a symbolism-loving people. Thanks for the info!

    Zac: The painting is a tiger and it says "Canh Dần" for the year of the tiger.


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