• Hien Le

My quarantine diary in Vietnam - part 2

Though I titled the posts as a "diary", this won't be a day-to-day record of my life in the quarantine camp because that would be too long. Instead, I'd collect some highlights and compile them into a review post about the infrastructure, food & drink options, advantages and disadvantages - you name it.


It was good that there were only 4 of us sharing the room, and each got a whole bunkbed to ourselves so we all slept on the lower deck and loaded some of our stuffs on the upper deck, which has quite a lot of spaces. Each bed also came with two pillows, a blanket and a mosquito net, because otherwise you won't survive sleeping in the midst of a tropical forest.

Oh, I forgot to mention what are included in the necessities packages we were given for the 14-day quarantine: A bunch of masks, sanitizer, saltwater, toothbrush & toothpaste, plastic cup, towel, clothes hangers, a toilet roll pack, a box of 24 water bottles and detergent (though I didn't use for obvious reasons, but I took it home anyway, because we paid for it).

That was already quite good, but pardon me for being born in a tropical country but could never handle the heat here. So I asked my parents to brought me an extra fan and some more stuffs, including an electric kettle and one extra toilet roll package.

Thank goodness the camp is just in the outskirts of Hanoi so they could just drive there in just 40 mins, though they obviously couldn't see me. The package had to pass several checkpoints before eventually reaching my dorm.

A sneak peak of my bed inside the quarantine camp. Apologize for the messy look, but with just one hand I didn't even bother to clean it up.

Back to the diary, here's the view I got waking up every morning in the camp. It was honestly better than I thought, since the camp is located in the mountains, there were quite a lot of trees and the air is fresh and clean.

As Australia back then was considered a "safe" country due to relatively low community transmission cases, we each got two tests on day 2 and day 13 respectively. Since we all got negative results for our first test, we are allowed to meet others outside our room. This is one of the reasons I decided to stay with the camp instead of moving to quarantine in a hotel my dad has offered to book before (which might be my only option in case I got separated with my 2 friends).

People playing badminton in front of my hallway.

The camps is huge, I gotta say. The backyards are big enough to grow a bunch of fruits and vegs, including guava, banana and cabbage, which explains why we had them almost every meal. They also have a little forest with chill areas, where we can play cards, have a feast or look at the fireflies every night (this is my most favorite feature of the camp so far).

The backyard with guava trees being planted

The forest. There are lots of fireflies here at night (too bad I don't have a good camera)

Now I have to put a warning that although the scenery in general look nice, the toilets and washing area might not be appealing to some. They only have squat toilets, which means you can't find a flush button. Instead, when you're done with your business, you have to grab buckets of water to flush.

Sometimes it could take you 3 buckets to flush away the whole thing, which was definitely a bit difficult for me with just one hand. I grew up using a squat toilet for the first 13 years of my life in an old communal housing area, therefore I just treated it as a trip back to childhood. Nonetheless, I could barely squat for more than 3 minutes as an adult, so I couldn't understand how did my 9 y/o self manage to squat for half an hour while laughing nonstop with a comic book in my hand.

For the bathroom, we had two communal bath areas (one for the male dorm and one for the females) with some showers, a big water tank and several basins, and some outdoor taps for brushing our teeth. This is where things got complicated, since I couldn't use those facilities with my remaining hand; besides, I had limited clothes to change as I couldn't wash my clothes, so I decided to take bath once every two or three days (thank goodness it was a month before the hellhole named Vietnamese summer arrived). And for everytime I took bath, I need Zina and Uyen's help.

Some days we had hot water, some days we didn't. That's why my parents sent me an electric kettle.

Food & drinks

For every meal, the food is dropped at a table in front of our dorms and we had to come collect them. We didn't have a choice when it came to lunch and dinner, but we had 4 options for breakfast - porridge, sticky rice, instant noodles or banh mi (which we had to order the afternoon before).

A cup of porridge and two baluts for my first breakfast

First lunch. Not too bad right? But way too much rice I couldn't finish 😂

We could also order food from outside, which was quite a surprise to me. So we had a "delivery guy" who rode his electric bike around the camp to ask if people need to purchase anything not available in the camp, then he'd help them buy and we can transfer him the money later. There is surprisingly a wide range of choice, from milk tea to chips, sausages and all sorts of snacks, to other necessities like wet wipes and mosquito rackets. Here are some of the "cheat meals" we ordered in the camp:

Clockwise, top to bottom: Pig intestines, rice noodles with fried tofu & meatballs, fried salted chicken, milk tea and grilled fish.

Feasting on our last day at the camp.

The "delivery guy" who collected our orders daily


Although there was no strict rule on what time we had to wake up or sleep, most rooms turned off the lights around 10:30 pm and we are advised to keep quiet after that time. We had to put on the mosquito net (which I forgot to do on the first day as I was exhausted, and woke up with my legs and arms full of mozzie bites the next day).

On some days when there were too many mozzies, we had a Quoc Oai Open tournament as we jokingly called it - using our mozzie rackets to get rid of them, and created what sounded like firecrackers:

Fun tournament, isn't it?

The damage

So the quarantine cost breakdown is as follows (all in VND): 120,000 x 14 days (for the food & necessities, the stay is free) + 700,000 x 2 (for the tests) = 3,080,000, which is roughly US$ 136 for 14 days. For me the costs for the two PCR tests are surprisingly high (roughly $31 per test), as back in Australia we could get tested for free regardless of residency status, but overall the quarantine fee is pretty cheap for the reasonable quality of stay we got.

To conclude, I would list the following advantages and disadvantages of quarantining in a Vietnamese military camp.

Advantages: -Low cost for a reasonable quality of stay

-Located in a mountainous or rural region, which means better air quality

-Getting to exercise and meet other people outdoors (if you arrive from a "safe" country)


-The toilets and bathing facilities might not be convenient for those who are not used to it

-No wifi (yes we relied completely on our 4G), limited hot water, only ceiling fans for each room (but you can ask the delivery guy to help you buy mini fans and electric kettles)

-LOTSSS of mozzies, so arm yourself with a mozzie racket or bug sprays

Stay tuned for the final part of my quarantine stories, which is supposedly the most interesting part.

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