Following a highly successful 25-year career as a singer/songwriter and musician, Keith Hancock pulled out of the rat race and moved to Southeast Asia in 2008. First living in Thailand, he moved to Cambodia and then relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in early 2013.
I have lived in Southeast Asia for the best part of a decade now. I came to watch a football match in Bangkok in 2005 and knew instantly that my life was going to change. During the next three years I had 14 holidays out here and decided that it would be more cost effective to move. For the last 4 years Saigon has been my home and I don’t want that to change any time soon.
For this, my first article for AsiaLIFE, I thought I’d reflect on the changes that come with living in a foreign country. The biggest change is, for me, the weather. It is so nice after suffering long, bleak, miserable, English winters to never have to worry about what to wear. I don’t even own a coat here. I never wear shoes and socks and I love the freedom that guaranteed warm weather brings.
The food was a big shock to me. I lived in Thailand for almost 5 years and ate native every day. Coming to Vietnam I have found it a lot harder to find Vietnamese dishes that I really enjoy. However, in recent months things have improved, as I have been introduced to some great little eateries on Vinh Khanh in District 4 and along the river on Truong Sa in Phu Nhuan. Barbecued meats, fish and seafood abound, and the atmosphere is most entertaining.
Owning a motorbike has been a pleasant surprise. I thought my biker days were long behind me and whilst it’s only a Nouvo, the schoolboy in me still thinks ‘Sons of Anarchy’ as I poodle down Dong Khoi at 30 kph. My friends back home think I’m crazy; what they would do if they saw the traffic here. I quite enjoy the organised anarchy of Saigon’s streets. There may well be traffic laws of some sorts, but it is the law of the urban jungle out there, and Saigon is all the more enjoyable for it.
The first choice anyone has to make when relocating to Saigon is of course in which district to base oneself.
Do you want the authentic Vietnamese experience of District 3, 4 or Phu Nuan? Would you prefer the more Western existence offered by Districts 2 and 7? Or is it going to be a mix of the two found in District 1, and coming at a cost?
For me, District 2 has provided a good life balance. There is enough old school Vietnam, but with many modern plusses, and the air quality is definitely better than that found over the Saigon Bridge.
Last but not least, are the people; what a wonderful experience it has been so far. The people of Southeast Asia are among the friendliest and most generous of heart that I have met anywhere. The expat community is also, for the most part, an extremely agreeable bunch. Life is sweet and I would recommend the move to anyone.