Hanoi couple lives atop a loo for 44 years

By Hai Hien, Ngoc Thanh   October 19, 2019 | 04:45 am PT
For 44 years, an elderly couple has been living in an 8-square meter corrugated sheet hut built on the roof of a toilet.
Couple living on top of public restroon in Hanois old quarter

The ramshackle "hut" stands in a small alley on Hang Bac street in Hanoi's Old Quarter. Its residents are 80-year-old Nguyen Phung Hai, his 70-year-old wife Nguyen Thi Xam and their 26-year-old daughter. The toilet on which their dwelling stands is used by 6 households (including them) in the alley.

Couple living on top of public restroon in Hanois old quarter - 1

One of the hut’s walls made with corrugated metal sheets, has become rusty and is riddled with holes. Inside, it is always dark and paint peels off damp walls.

On rainy days, the house was flooded in raindrops from its metal roof.

The couple and their daughter have a difficult time when it rains. "If I do not sweep quickly, the water can rise by up to 20cm," said Xam. If it rains all night, the family has to stay up to ensure the house does not get flooded.

Couple living on top of restroom in Hanoi Old  - 3

In the past, there was only Hai’s family living in the alley. After 1975, he wanted to move out and decided to use the roof of the restroom as a bedroom. "It used to be a 3-square-meter room until I got married, then they allowed me to expand it," Hai recalled.

Couple living on top of restroom in Hanoi Old  - 4

Hai was 50 and Xam 40 when they got married 30 years go. The met via a matchmaker. However, until the wedding was over, she had not known how he lived, and was duly shocked when saw the squalid, cramped set up. She did not spend the first night at her husband’s place, but returned the next day because "for better or for worse, he was my husband". The couple has never invited anyone to their home since.

Living on the roof of a restroom, Hai could not stand the stinky smell, especially on hot and sunny days. He and his wife had to clean it with water daily. In the summer, Hai spent hours to splash water onto the walls to keep his house cool.

Living on the roof of a toilet shared by many people, there are times when the couple can’t stand the stink, especially its really hot and sunny. So Hai and his wife keep cleaning it with water regularly. In the summer, the 80-year-old man spends hours splashing water on to the walls to keep his hut cool.

Hai was not afraid of being sued for his small unregistered hut because

While they do wish to have a bigger place, the old couple cannot afford it since they depend financially on their son, who has moved out. Hai still works by pumping air into bike tires, but Xam stopped running her noodles stall 4 years ago due to the onset of glaucoma and arthropathy. "My son planned to buy us a new apartment. but we are not sure about it. We don’t want to disturb him," Hai said.

This is the only household living on top of a restroom among nearly 1,000 households in the area. Local officials deem Hai's family to have escaped from poverty in 2018, after their children got jobs.

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