Tailor-made clothes and 13p beer

Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
Trip End Apr 22, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, May 21, 2010

25th May 2010


Unusually, here we are set to leave for the airport for a short flight to Hanoi the capital of Vietnam and we are devastated about leaving yet another fantastic town. Hoi An has a fascinating charm that doesn't grab you at first but by your second day you’re hooked.  Little alley ways leading to beautiful shops, river side restaurants and elegant hotels, make up a town that hasn’t changed for 150 years.  Throw in a 100 tailors and shoemakers and you’re in heaven. 

The reason we are flying to Hanoi is mainly to do with the fact that we are only halfway up the country and our flight leaves Vietnam on Friday but it might also be due to the fact that I can’t do another over night bus.  The journey here was ... let’s say interesting!  The beds on the bus where not like the Laos sleeper buses, these had individual seats, one upper, one lower, that reclined all the way down to make a bed.  This side of it was ok, comfortable enough and you got a blanket to throw over you.  No the problem was the driver, driving in Vietnam goes like this.  They drive as fast as they can, overtake everything while blasting their horns, at the sign of any danger they jam their brakes on.  Now imagine you are lying on the top bunk of a sleeper bus, going down the side of a mountain, shear drops to the right of you and the bus drive jams on his brakes.  You slide down the bed so you feet are rammed up against the end and your knees are double bent.  Now imagine this continuously for 12 hours!!!

Once all the tourists and the more lucrative locals have bought their bus tickets, it’s then left to the bus driver to pick up locals along the way to fill the seats.......all proceeds going in his back pocket of cause!  Our driver was obviously trying to put his kid through college as not only did he fill all the seats up but also every inch of floor space as well.  He had them head to toe down the aisles.    

On top of all of this we got stuck in a small traffic jam.......so what! I hear you cry, not a major problem......well at the end of this one was a bus identical to ours on fire, actually it was completely gutted, each seat was alight but it was only the frame work and plastic was left, burning away.  Now that left us uncomfortable.  So the decision was made, we fly the rest of the way.

We arrived in Hoi An groggy and grumpy, found a lovely hotel and had a long hot shower.  The hotel was a bit of a walk out of town, so we looked for a closer one while we were out exploring.  Having left Nha Trang on a high so we were not impressed with our first views of Hoi An, it didn’t help that Gary ordered fried rice and it had a dead fly in it.  We walked down to the river and suddenly everything changed, it was really picturesque.  We choose the first little cafe bar that did Fresh Beer and sat and people watched.  Fresh Beer is local brew that is hand pumped from a barrel which once opened only lasts for 24 hours.  It comes from the neighbouring town and according to Gary is delicious, but the fact that it is only 13p a glass probably has something to do with that.

The next day we moved hotels, not as nice as the last one but it covered all the basis and it did have a pool.  We dropped the bags and went off to discover more of this pretty town.  On our way to the market we stumbled across a road full of shoes, if you love shoes then you would be in heaven.  All the shoes were samples, if you liked a pair then they would make them for you by the next day.  I wanted to pick up a pair of sandals and started looking down the rows of shoes, the next minute Gary is pointing to a pair for himself and trying them on.  Very unlike Gary to opt to spend money but he did like these shoes and they only cost 13, leather, handmade, fitted and he was able to change the look of them slightly.

After Gary had made his choice the owner of the shop came down to take his measurements, I had gotten bored by this time and wandered outside the shop to look for some shoes for myself.  After the fitting Gary couldn’t get out the shop quick enough, it seems the owner took a shine to Gary and was very tactile during the fitting.  As we left she asking if I was his wife, he hurriedly said yes but that didn’t discourage her, she just stroked his face and said 'Very handsome man’.  He raced out the shop so fast he forgot the bag with the laptop in and had to go back for it.  She was just as friendly the next day, when we went back to collect them.  He’s not the ladies man he likes to think he is.

We found the central market and took a walk through, in the morning it is a fish market and it transforms during the day to a tourist market, the smell however doesn’t transform.  The middle of the market is mostly under cover and in the midday sun is quite literally breathtaking.  The market is on the river’s edge and boats moor up and sell their fish to other boats or buyers from the shore.  This is not very clear from the road side but when we got a boat out a few days later you could see the boats coming and going.

The next morning we hired a couple of bikes, the sea is 7km away and we heard it had an ok beach area.  We didn’t want to go on the beach, we just wanted to take a look and have an excuse to go out on bikes again.  It was a hot ride and the shopping bikes didn’t have any frills, like gears, so you couldn’t get any sort of speed up on them.  The roads were fairly flat but the bridges meant you had to really dig deep to get over them.   There were some pretty views on the way down and lovely little houses.  As we got to the beach area the big hotels started popping up and on the sea front there was a big resort.  It was so hot, too hot to get off and walk over blistering sand, so we carried on and found a little cafe to have a cold drink and a bit of shade.

Vic and Rich had arrived that morning and we had made plans to meet them for dinner that evening on the river’s edge.  They had already discovered the land of the tailors and had ordered five dresses to be made.  This isn’t as bad as it sounds, Rich’s sister is getting married next year and needs four bridesmaids dresses, Vic saw a dress that was similar to what she had already chosen so got a price for her.  18 each for silk dresses was a bargain, plus Vic had another one made in a different colour for herself.

The cost of having an outfit made is so cheap here that I couldn’t resist, I had a pair of trousers and top made in silk for 14.50 and also we tagged another dress on the end of Vic’s order for me as 18 for a silk cocktail dress was too good to miss. 

The next day we met up at lunch time for a few beers and a chat, before jumping on a small boat for a trip down the river.  It was a lovely jaunt and the river was teaming with activity.   After the hours boat ride we had a couple more beers before doing some shopping.  Vic and Rich had changed hotels that morning but hadn’t checked in to their room yet, so we came over with them to have a nose at their fantastic room that was only $25 a night.  The room was amazing, like something out a 5* plus hotel, the bathroom alone had a big square shower head and the bath was standalone with a Jacuzzi setting in it.  The bedroom had a massive bed, sofa, table and chairs, balcony.....it was excellent value for 16.50 a night.  We hung round their room for a while before going out to find another bar to kill a bit of time as Vic had a dress fitting a 3pm.  I was measured for my dress which needed to be ready before 3pm the next day as we had a flight to Hanoi booked.

Our last night in Hoi An was a few drinks and a nice meal with Vic and Rich on the river front and then a walk round the area for one last look at this quaint town.  It’s hard to describe the lovely little streets and alley that have the most wonderful shops, selling beautiful local paintings and irresistible craft ware. 

The Day we left was manic, having packed our bags we arranged to keep our room until 3pm so we didn’t have to check out at 11am.  I had a fitting for my trousers and top at 10am and they still had to do the embroidery on the top before I could collect, so we arranged to pick them up at 1.30pm.  I had another fitting at 1pm for the dress in another shop so after lunch and another shower we headed over there for 1pm.  The dress didn’t fit properly so I had to come back at 2pm to give them time to make the changes.  I collected the other outfit at 1.30pm which was really lovely and looked great on.  Before my final fitting at 2pm we had time for a quick drink with Vic and Rich.  The dress looked great, fitted perfectly but wasn’t quite finished, luckily we are meeting Vic and Rich for the last time (maybe) in Hanoi, and so they offered to bring the completed dress up with them in two days time when they fly in.  A race back to the hotel, finish packing, shower and change before the taxi picks us up.  Exhausted, with 5 mins to spare we arrived in reception to check out, just in time for the heavens to open and the rain literally fall out the sky......rainy season is here!

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