Coworking Villa in Hanoi, Vietnam

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Balance Work and Play in Hanoi

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Amid Hanoi’s energetic streets, curious alleys, and motorbike rumbles, our cozy co-working quarters offer a peaceful oasis. Here we understand the difficulty of jumping into a new country while continuing to meet tight deadlines. Tipping the scales toward all work, no play, and a lot of stress. Read more

What’s in Your Backpack (with Riley Waugh)

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What’s in Your Backpack features members and guests of ClickSpace. Within our breezy cafe a creative energy inspires passionate, unique people from around the world. Often arriving with just a backpack, they’re letting us tell their stories. Read more

10 Things You Must Pack if You’re Moving to Hanoi

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Sitting in front of empty luggage. Staring at a chaotic wardrobe. The rolling boil of what ifs. Read more

What’s going on with Hanoi’s air pollution?

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Foreigners talk about air pollution in Hanoi the way people in other places talk about the weather. But how much of a talking point is it with locals and what are people doing about it? Read more

Learning To Work in Vietnam

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Interview with Mike Beard, Managing Director of Simple Group Co. 1) What inspired you to start a business in Hanoi? I believe that I have been blessed in life in many ways and want to pass on those blessings if I can. I also believe that business is not about making mon read more

What Kind of Motorbike to Buy in Hanoi? (Part 2)

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by Scott Homan (Check out part 1 on Manual Bikes’ Do & Don’t here)     SEMI-AUTOMATICS: Wave 110: $250 –  $500 Most efficient, reliable and most often copied by Chinese knock-offs as well as stolen: These are everywhere and highly reliabl read more

By Scott Homan Hanoi may be the quintessential motorbike city of the world. How can you join the daily racetrack with style, efficiency, safety and reliability? Which bike should you get? Here are a few common affordable options to get you started on your bike shopping: read more

What It Means to be The Trailing Spouse

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By Jody O’Dea It was four days into our new life in Vietnam when I first heard the term. My wife had accepted a teaching position at an international school in Hanoi, and the offer being too good to pass up, we up sticks and left. Moving to Vietnam gave us the per read more

Things to Remember When Looking for an Apartment

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Looking for a place to live is hard and tiring. Looking for a place in an entirely different country without speaking the language can be downright daunting. In Hanoi, it’s not that bad. Here’s our guide to renting an apartment in Hanoi (plus a checklist for your conven read more

Of Vision and Compassion: The Story of a Vietnamese Who Loves to Help

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Walking in SpaceBar any day and you probably will find a guy sitting in at a corner table, staring at his laptop, next to a half-empty cup of coffee. He has slim and tall figure, tanned skin, single eyelids on a face too-cool-to-socialize; unsure if Vietnamese or foreigner. But try to ring the bell at the bar, this mysterious person will swiftly approach you, pen in his hand: “May I get you something?” And if you’re lucky, his solitude vibe will disintegrate, being replaced a smile as sincere and harmless as of a farm boy you stumble upon at the dirt road of Vietnam villages. That person is Christian Ki; and we call him CK.


The wild childhood

11037509_382014991990044_7275509890822790578_oThat smile can be traced back to his childhood. CK himself was a farm boy. He was born in a tiny straw-and-mud house 30 years ago in Vung Tau. The house did not have electricity. What it had plenty was dust: dust on furniture, on skin, on eyes; with the passing of big trucks on the nearby highway. Despite the lack of materials, CK recalled a magical childhood: lots of free time, no worries, catching crabs, playing games in the woods and the riverbanks, working at a rubber farm, illegally.


My face widens. CK goes on, as casually as commenting on weather.

“My mother and I worked illegally at a rubber farm to earn more money. We sneaked around to steal rubber milk, sometimes right in front of a guard with a gun in his hands. I was a two-grader at the time.”

“It was the happiest time of my life,” he concludes.


The lone-ranger

The spirit of an explorer showed early in CK. Thus, he did not like his teenage years in Hoi An – a nice city to visit but – with his temperament – too suffocating to live and work in. Plus, “I don’t play well with others,” CK admits – not to my surprise.

After finishing high school, he ran away on a 1-year cross-country trip, exploring different terrains of Vietnam like an untethered horse. CK’s interest in travelling then led to the 2 years studying Hospitality Management in Singapore. Alone, the eager 19-year-old boarded his first plane abroad; it was SilkAir. CK arrived at midnight to one of the most expensive city on earth without yet a place to stay – because why not?

By the end of his study, CK decided to return to Hoi An with the passing of his older brother. Unlike the trend of young Vietnamese moving South, CK swam upstream to Hanoi in 2012. He had an intuitive urge: “It was a spiritual calling.”


Of freelancing, and dynamites

From 2012 to 2014, he was close the expat community and freelanced for various projects as hotel butler, tour and ticket booking person, technical interpreter, hospitality consultant. This added to a myriad of other working experiences during his college years. They seem unrelated at first glance; but all had one thing in common: offering a helpful service for people in need. He said yes to whatever he knew how to do – sometimes also to things he didn’t know for sure.

“Have you ever carried explosives?”

My face widens again. I say I haven’t and don’t have yet any craving to do so.

“We blew things up 6 times per day. When I worked as technical interpreter of a Canadian mining company, I used to hold 15kg of dynamites in my arms. I stuffed dynamite in a hole with a stick. It wouldn’t explode.”

Apparently it didn’t. At the same mining site, he walked several kilometers down a sloped tunnel, holding a robe. The tunnel was pitch-black, small like a wormhole.


Becoming an entrepreneur

In between the ticket booking, the travelling, the translation, the explosions, the underground walk; CK put in stock countless tips on how to settle in and get around Vietnam, both in life and work. He knows how to help: from getting a Sim card, to booking an authentic tour, to getting a temporary residence. The demand for this kind of expat service was clear.

However, this demand wasn’t the only reason CK created his own company in 2014. When I ask about his motivation, CK thinks for a brief moment and shares about his compassion for the villagers.

“In the rural areas, there are people who deserve better lives. They are not getting enough help. At the same time, I know expats who dedicate their lives to Vietnam, but they lack support.”

This compassion for the village life was born in his wild childhood. Same way as the love for Vietnam natural landscapes was born in his years of travelling. Many travelers arrive to the hustle bustle of the big cities and label it Vietnam. While the truth is they need to see the life at the villages to understand the totality of what Vietnam has to offer.

What pains CK is how the rural villagers regard themselves as inferior to foreigners. He feels compelled to change that. “One of my visions is to reduce the gap between the local villagers and the expats.”


The Insight Frog and ClickSpaceThe Front Room

This urge, combined with a compassion for the village life, a willingness to help the expat community, and a love for Vietnam landscape, leads to the creation of “The Insight Frog” in April 2014.

The Insight Frog does many things: assist visa, work permit, and residence permit process; book accommodation and flight; arrange tour and travelling; provide technical interpreter, organize events, and giving hospitality consultancy.

May sounds like a mouthful but the company simply reflects CK’s way of working: offering helpful services to people in need – whatever within its’ capability.

Besides running his company, CK is now a partner of ClickSpace – putting his expertise in Hospitality Management into work. He also serves Quinoa Salad at your table and makes you Matcha iced blend. But this should not surprise you by now.


A story by Milena Nguyen