At the end of November last year we left on a plane bound for England, thus completing our 3 month trip to South East Asia having made our way through Thailand, Cambodia and ending up in Vietnam. We witnessed many incredible sights, experienced wonderful cultures and religions, and made an array of new friends both local and fellow traveller. However it was a Vietnamese woman we met in a Saigon travel agency that would go on to have the greatest of impacts upon us and our lives. Her name was Van, and she had big plans for us.
Our time back in England was magical, Christmas time was descending on the country and so my partner and I took some time out and spent as much of our time with our families as we could. They were keen to hear our many travellers’ tales and see the photographs we captured, however there was a keen curiosity within them to discover our future plans. Was it time to settle down in England and find a home? Or had we caught the travelling bug? For us it was the latter, a rather easy decision to make. We hadn’t even scratched the surface of this beautiful planet we live on, not by a long way.
Back in Vietnam our friend Van was making her way from Saigon to a new life in the central city of Da Nang in order to work for a beachside hotel. Managing the hotel was her aim, and due to the emergence of tourism in the city, and more specifically tourism from Western countries, the hotel had many projects perfect for two English travellers looking for a new challenge in a country that was not their own. The opportunity to live and work in Vietnam was too good to turn down, especially seeing as it was going to be in Da Nang, a city full of energy with a bright future. Having been there on our trip through Vietnam we fell in love with the friendly people, white beaches, mountains, and the incredible fire breathing Dragon Bridge.
Our first jobs for the hotel:
- Design, and then run, a pub catering for mainly Western tourists and expats living in the city.
- Interior/exterior hotel photography and website redesign.
Within three weeks of making our decision we were on a plane back to Vietnam, and the reality of the situation was really beginning to set in. On Valentine’s Day night we arrived in Da Nang in a state of pure exhaustion, we left England on the 12th and arrived on the 14th. Two days of travelling were over, and in those two days we had visited 5 airports in 4 different countries, which included the United Arab Emirates and Brunei, all in the name of saving a few quid.
So there we were, back in Da Nang, full of excitement, enthusiasm and creativity, our new lives were on the verge of beginning. A lovely little apartment room within the hotel awaited us, and we instantly settled in to our new surroundings, it all felt too good to be true. The first few weeks we were allowed some free time to simply enjoy the city and discover more about our new home, however we also used this time to scout out potential bar or pub competition, for which we were given a budget for. So yes, we were paid to drink!! Not all our time was spent drinking however, many hours of our time during this introductory period were spent researching, putting together presentations, designing floor layouts, as well as building a new website and creating promotional material.
We were ready, ready to get this pub going, ready to start photographing, and most of all ready to make this venture a success. Before any of this could begin however we were required to have a meeting with the hotel owner to discuss in detail our ideas and designs, how we were going to put them in practice and so on, and of course our salary. Let’s just say this meeting did not go so well, discussions got heated, the majority of which we could not understand due to the owner’s lack of English the ideas and designs were all good, everyone was happy there, the stumbling block though was money. Our main source of income would have been a 30% profit share from the pub we would run, now that would have been 70% for the owner and 15% each for myself and another for my partner. This was no guarantee of a wage and the response to our request of a fixed monthly wage was 4,000,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong), which roughly equates to around £150 per month. Combine both our wages together and that still would not have realistically been enough for us to even rent an apartment, so it’s fair to say that at that point the negotiations were over. Oh and to add insult to injury he had no interest in us doing any website design or photography!
The meeting was tough on us, it was both mentally and emotionally draining and we left that office with few options and little money to our names, the only silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud was another hotel owner we were introduced too. This young Vietnamese gentleman was different, he spoke and understood basic English, was friendly and welcoming whenever we met him, he seemed to grasp Western culture and best of all he appeared eager for us to work with him.
After some official meetings with him, the job on offer, as well as pay structure, was laid out on the table in black and white before we had even begun any form of work, one of the many lessons we learned from our dealings with the previous hotel owner.The work required of us was not quite designing a pub, it was more customer service based, however this was certainly better than no offer at all. My partner was happy to work for this particular hotel doing whatever was necessary in order to gain funds, however me and a drastic situation change have never worked well together, so my thoughts were of home.
Just a few days later I found myself on a plane headed for China where I would then pick up my flight back to England, home. So here I am in Haikou, China writing this in a hotel room awaiting my flight, however I am not waiting for a flight to England, I am going somewhere else. (Insert Eastenders ending theme tune here (English joke, sorry international friends)).
Where am I going? Well I’m writing a whole new blog post dedicated to that very subject, so watch this space!