Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hanging out in Hoi An.... tailor capitol of Vietnam!

June 27th. Ahhh a new day dawns. A new town to explore! Lots to do here...tailors, beaches, ancient ruins - where to start! Well, first just a little on Hoi An. Set on the Thu Bon River, Hoi An was a trading port as far back as the 17th century. Influences from Chinese, European and Japanese culture are well preserved in local architecture and art here. And as well as looking pretty, there is a beautiful beach, the Cham ruins outside of town and of course tons of fab restaurants to choose from so not a bad place to stay for a few days! Having been named a Unesco World Heritage site, Hoi An Old Town is a lovely area to walk through; a real historical district with buildings dating back to the 1500's...that would be the Japanese covered bridge which was constructed in 1593.

Met up with Dave and Jackie and we decided to rent some bikes and ride down to the beach! Ahhhh the beach! Chill out time - i must be tired for me to be looking forward to this as im not a huge beach fan! The ride down there was lovely, really peaceful and so nice to do by bike! The beach - Cua Dai - was deserted! Well, deserted of tourists. Lots of local people selling fruit, jewellry and of course your typical beach pursuit - manicure, pedicure or threading! Yup threading.. I got my legs done.. well, as usual, i didn't really want to but the lady was very persuasive and i ended up saying yes 'cos i felt bad....pathetic i know! Jackie got a pedicure and our metrosexual friend Dave got his back threaded (he is too funny!). Not only did he think it painful, he also got a bad sunburn down one side where he was lying in the sun! Silly boy!

Met alot of the local vendors - they are too funny and definitely know how to chat to tourists! Typical chat would be something like "you want pineapple. You shop at Tesco or Asda? Where you from? Buy now, buy later. Dont forget - if you want pineapple you remember me. Bin Number 1 ok ok ".....Whatever their name was e.g Lin or Bin or Lee, everyone had to add Number 1 after it. Seriously, there were so many people on the beach, I had to start writing their names on my hand, so i could remember who we had talked to first - cos you had to make sure you didn't buy from anyone else! As it was quiet, they were quite happy to chat away for a while.. and their English was really good! Everyone wanted to be a tour guide ....well, i suppose it is a good career considering how Vietnam's tourism continues to grow. Had a wee incident with Bin Number 1. He's about 12 yrs old and i had said "I'll MAYBE have a pineapple later". Anyway it comes time for us to leave and as we are walking off the beach, up he comes and says "you have to buy your pineapple now, you said you would buy one today". I said "I'm really sorry but I dont want one today - we had had lunch just a bit earlier - but I promise you ill buy one in 2 days - they only get to sell on the beach every 2 days cos there are so many of them. Well, he started screaming at me, and shouting that i had to get off the beach and just go, go away now!!! I felt absolutely awful and was going to buy one but Jackie said no, not after that! He was so mad, but it's hard 'cos there are so many people who are asking you to buy stuff, and you cant buy everything. Well, you can but then you are an idiot like me! So that was a bit traumatic!

After this "incident" we cycled back to town and organized our trip to My Son for tomorrow. Dave and Jackie were going to hire a motorbike and ride themselves while myself and Ziggy, a new pal who had also done an Easy Rider trip, decided to hire moto taxis to take us out there (I didn't really trust myself to drive a motorbike on my own for 1 1/2 hours!!). The Cham ruins at My Son dating back to the 7th century, are a scenic 35km trip southwest of Hoi An. The ruins are nestled in a lush valley surrounded by hills. Best time to see it is at sunrise or just after, so you get the place to yourself before the masses arrive around 9am, so we booked our rides and planned to meet to 5am! Phew, another early morning!

Liked this pic of the cows as we were heading back into town! Then it was off to the tailors for our first fitting. Loved my suit; hmmn the dresses not so much! But hey, that's what a first fitting is for - so we talked through the changes (Jackie helped me be strong here!) and then decided to potter around town. Lots of gorgeous shops to go mad in .. bad news for the budget again tee hee! Dave had met a canadian guy called Stanley in the hotel (who liked to remember people's names by word association e.g as he said, his name was Stanley as in Stanley Cup as in Hockey right?. Hmmnnn seemed a tad strange to me but whatever!), so we met up with him at the Japanese covered bridge to go to a real Vietnamese restaurant for dinner - none of that tourist rubbish for us - Luong would be proud of us, or would he! Ended up Stanley and his Vietnamese "friends" - girls who know the people who own our hotel, as well as another Canadian guy and 2 other Vietnamese girls he met on the beach (yeh alot of us!) jumped on 3 bikes - 3 per bike and Jackie and Dave's bike (they were not driving at this point) hit a child on the way to the restaurant - the child wasnt hurt but still -crazy driving by these tiny wee girls Lee and Ciu! Go to this authentic restaurant, ends up being very posh authentic restaurant and cost ten times what we usually pay for dinner. Hey i dont care but Stanley was grandstanding just a little and so it ended up being a very wierd and surreal situation - he basically chatted up all the girls - who seemed about 12 - while Jackie, Dave and I felt like we were at a high school disco watching all the antics! Very strange indeed!

June 28th. Up at 4:30am today for our trip to My Son. It was actually lovely being up at that time in the morning. All the local people were up and exercising before it got too hot and their work day began. There were so many people out and about; playing badminton, jogging, or doing tai chi! We got to My Son around 6am and headed up to the ruins. Hard to believe but it was already getting hot, hot hot! So glad we came early! There weren't too many of us there so we could actually get shots of the ruins without other people in them - yah! Had a great chat with Ziggy as we pottered around here - lovely girl! Really peaceful place here; don't know too much about the ruins to be honest, (you'll be glad to hear!) but just a lovely morning to potter around in a beautiful environment!

Back to town around 10ish.. and we collectively decided to keep going otherwise we would be in bed asleep all day! Found a second tier tailor and went mad again -not just me honestly! Both Dave (an initial sceptic but who began to quite enjoy the experience and ordered a suit, shirts and ties.. ) and Jackie also had quite alot of fun here! Then it was back to the first tailor to see how our clothes were working out -its very stressful this hand made stuff I tell you! I was much happier with my clothes - yah! They look quite fab.. to pick them up end of the day today! Pottered again (it's that kind of town!) then back for an afternoon nap! Met up with Jackie and Dave later that evening for dinner - treated ourselves to a lovely restaurant that looked out onto the water! Just gorgeous.
Then we went to pick up our new clothes - yah.... Jackie and I coined a new phrase "tailor rage"... ok its a bit of an exaggeration but there are definite highs and lows and some people get more than a little upset if things dont turn out perfectly right away (not us of course we were the height of politeness!)- so it usually goes like this - you tell the tailors what you would like, they say no probs we can do it (even if they are not sure, cos of course they want the business). Then you haggle on price (or not if you are rubbish like me) then you go back and try on, and first or second try, if not quite right.. so a bit of back and forth, but in the end, well for us at least - its all fab and everyone is quite happy with the outcome.. ..

June 29th. Yet another fitting (at the second tailor this time teeeeheee) all looks quite fabulous. So excited i decide to order a few more things!! Then rented my bike again, toodled around town, got lost a few times, but found some gorgeous wee alleys to explore, so no problems! People really are lovely here and its just a laid back (excluding tailor rage) kind of town -everyone who comes here seems to love it too! Then off to the beach for some more relaxing. And who is the first person i see - Bin Number 1! We had a big chat, i reminded him that i had promised to come back and buy a pineapple off of him- which i did. And which (i knew cos Jackie had bought one the other day and all his wee pals came up and told on him) he overcharged me - 30,000 dong instead of 20,000 dong! Hey, what's a few dong between pals eh! Had a lovely chat with him and he practiced his English so very nice time. Dave and Jackie arrived later (have i mentioned that they are both really lovely people; great fun and so nice to have wee pals...) and then i went for a long long walk all the way to the end of the beach where the fishermen leave their boats. Again the beach was almost deserted - so nice to have it just to ourselves.

After our final final pick up of clothes from the tailor, it was time for dinner, at Miss Ly's Cafe 22. Fab fab place where we had Hoi An specialities of "Cao Lau", flat noodles mixed with croutons, bean sprouts, and greens, topped with pork slices and served in a savoury broth. And "White Roses" - petite steamed dumplings stuffed with shrimp. Love Vietnamese food - yum! We had a great chat tonight as it was our fond farewell. Felt like we had been traveling for ages together - met in the Mekong Delta then 5 days on the Easy Rider trip then 4 days in Hoi An so it was quite a long time. Great folks...will be sad to say goodbye but hey, thats traveling for ya!

June 30th. Last day in Hoi An. Have loved my time here! Yah my pack is the lightest its been as i've just posted 2 massive boxes to the US and UK (fingers crossed they get there!). Checked out then off to do some darn blogging before my bus picks me up at 2pm for my next adventure - a short one but still... - to Hue.....Hmmn - the adventure started early with the 2pm bus leaving at 3:45pm. Met Katherine from Cape Town so we lamented together...and then just chatted away once we got on the road....more on my trip to Hue soon!


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