After visiting 8 countries in 6 months with no job and no plans, I was faced with one really important question…
Where the hell did I want to live after is done?
Should I just go back home and pick up where I left off?
Or should I take this opportunity to experience an entirely different way of living in another country?
For a single guy in his early 30’s who just quit his job to travel, these were some really big question to keep in my mind while backpacking around Asia.
I wasn’t really serious about moving abroad at first, but it was in the back of my mind.
Mostly the idea of living in Japan.
I’ve always dreamt about a life in Japan and how amazing that would be!
Speaking the language; eating the food; making all sorts of new friends.
Then all of the sudden there I was.
In Tokyo, Japan 1 month in.
Eating the food.
Making all sorts of new friends!
“I could TOTALLY live here” I would tell myself.
Fast forward 5 months later. My mind was made up…
I moved to Da Nang, Vietnam!
Why Da Nang, Vietnam?
Vietnam wasn’t even on my mental radar before I landed in Asia.
I never even heard of Da Nang until a few days AFTER arriving in Vietnam.
And yet somehow this city wooed me enough to completely change all ideas of where I wanted to live.
How did a city and country I know so little about, with its hot and humid weather, communist views, and cool straw hats convince me that this was where I needed to live?
Allow me to explain:
1. Beautiful natural scenery
My very first experience of Vietnam was of its capital; Hanoi.
A city rich in culture and as busy as NYC.
It definitely was a bit of a culture shock at first.
After spending a few days there, I eventually made my way over to a city I heard a lot about in Hanoi. Da Nang.
Unlike the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, Da Nang was a lot quieter and unique in many ways.
I found white-sand beaches, fresh water lakes and rivers, beautiful mountain ranges, and a city with an impressive skyline and just so much to do!
I relaxed along the beautiful beaches of My Khe sipping my coconut juice working on my laptop on the city wifi. I rode my motorbike along Hoàng Sa road through the mountains towards the famous Lady Buddha and gazed at an amazing city view from up high. I crossed some of the coolest looking bridges ever towards as I made my way to the city.
I could hardly believe I found all of these things in just one city.
And if that wasn’t good enough, the city of Hoi An was just a 30 minute drive away. If you don’t know, Hoi An is another charming city with historical buildings, rice fields in the countryside and even more beaches to chill at!
2. Opportunities of abundance
Vietnam is a developing country.
Year over year, Vietnam has had about a 6% GDP growth rate year over year.*
Inside Da Nang, I could literally see that growth which seems to be happening faster than other cities in Vietnam.
Resorts and Hotels are being constructed left and right. Shopping centers are popping up around town. What’s even more interesting is the number of discount airlines that have recently begun offering direct flights to Da Nang from places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.
Tourism is huge here!
Since I began traveling back in March, I exclusively used AirBnB for my accommodations. That opened my eyes to the huge opportunity in hosting travelers and scratching my itch to meet people from around the world.
But even besides the tourism and hospitality industry, there’s an endless stream of opportunities here in technology, software, and manufacturing.
Wherever there are problems, there are business opportunities.
And Vietnam has many….
As a foreigner, you can come out here, meet some of the locals, build close relationships, and get help to start up your own business. (It seriously can be that easy if you try)
Another huge perk of doing business in Vietnam is the low cost of labor in comparison with other more developed countries. You can easily build a team to take your business from idea to the market. The key is to hire slow and fire fast. (I plan to talk more about that later)
I suggest you come out here and start building your network. Don’t just meet expats and other business owners, but meet the locals who can provide you with a lot more insight about what really goes on in the city. You’ll need all the help you can get!
3. The people
To continue what I was saying a second ago, making friends can make or break your plans of living abroad, no matter what the city or country.
If it wasn’t for the family I met through AirBnB, I would not be here in Da Nang running a guesthouse of my own.
Thanks to this wonderful family, I was able to stay in a nice house for very cheap while I looked for places to rent. They showed me around town, taught me to buy groceries from the local markets, and even how to cook delicious Vietnamese meals! (Fish sauce is king)
I quickly made more local friends, through Facebook groups and even while chilling at cafes sippin’ on that sweet sweet càphê sữa đá (coffee with condensed milk). Everyone is always excited to share information about their home town while practicing their English.
Now life isn’t always sunshine and roses (that’s a saying isn’t it?)
You will certainly find people, mostly vendors and service people, who will try to take advantage of the fact that you’re a naive foreigner. You may get overcharged for things from time to time. It happens. $1 usd can sometimes provide enough for two meals and then some, so there will be those who try to milk you if you’re not careful.
Although the majority of people I’ve met in Da Nang have been extremely friendly and helpful. More so than other cities in Vietnam.
Just get used to spending time in a cafe. It’s totally normal to just sit around chatting for 2 hours with no real agenda besides kicking back. (Make sure you don’t do this too much if you’re really trying to start a business though…trust me)
For the most part, you’ll find Vietnamese people to be very open, eager to get to know you, loyal, and always willing to help you out.
4. Cost of living
Today I ate out for breakfast, ate out for lunch, visited 3 coffee shops, and filled up my scooter with a full tank of gas.
Total cost for the day: $15
And I don’t do this all the time.
Compare that with my 1 lunch in San Francisco which would sometimes cost more than $20. (I know, I know, you can’t compare these two cities…but it’s crazy to think about!!!)
I used to be a huge coffee addict, spending $4 twice a day on grande lattes from Starbucks.
Now, though I’m still an addict, I only spend a little more than $1 for two coffees!
Yes…that’s a good thing!!!!!!!!!!
If you were to buy groceries to cook at home, you will find yourself spending about $10 a week on fresh-ass foods!
To fill up your motorbike, it’ll cost about $5 and that might just last you about 2 weeks if you’re driving local.
Then there’s the cost of rent!
What I payed for a single room in a 3-bedroom apartment with 1 tiny bathroom shared with 3 other dudes in Oakland, California I now pay for a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom Bungalow just minutes away from the beach.
Now obviously the pay out here is extremely low. That’s why you should be focusing on making money online in my opinion. Find ways to continue making USDs and/or EUROs and live like a king here! (More articles on making money online later)
5. The food though
Seriously….the food though.
Da Nang is unique in that you’ll find many restaurants that serve delicacies from northern Vietnam as well as the south.
Bun Cha (rice noodles and bbq pork), Com Ga (chicken rice) and My Quang (flat noodles in soup with shrimp and pork) can all be found here in Da Nang.
Oh, and let me tell you about Hoi An.
It is foody heaven!
Best street foods ever!
6. Cheap to travel
This was probably the BIGGEST reason I moved here.
Right in the middle of Vietnam, I have direct access to all of Asia!
Airlines like Jetstar, Vietjet, AirAsia, and Vietnam Airlines have ridiculously cheap fares from time to time. That means I can travel from country to country roundtrip for less than $200 a lot of times.
It’s even cheaper if I’m traveling within Vietnam. My last trip to Ho Chi Minh was $40 roundtrip on Jetstar.
So now I can fly to Taipei to visit my friends, go to Tokyo for a bowl of ramen, and fly to Bangkok for a little mango and sweet rice without breaking the bank.
It does take some research to find the best deals, but if you download the app SkyScanner, you’ll be able to figure that out easily!
Many factors were at play when I decided to leave the good old U.S. of A.
Most of which I can’t really explain besides saying, it just felt right.
But logically, all of what I mentioned really solidified my choice.
Da Nang in my opinion is the best city to be in right now.
So come out and visit me whenever you get the chance!
Are there other cities you think are just as good, if not better?
EDWIN (Edwin Merino)
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author
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