Tailor central

Trip Start Mar 01, 2009
Trip End Dec 21, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, October 12, 2009

Once arrived at the airport and reunited with Miriam and Nathan who had disappeared off for breakfast to meet up with a friend from home we set about getting on our flight which for a seemingly simple idea turned into a rather complicated and stressful 30 minutes. You see we were already late and then Jet Star’s computer system decided to crash leaving us with 3 minutes before the desk was supposed to close, standing in the departures with our bags unsure whether we would make the plane or not. After much pushing, shoving, stressing, queue jumping and running we made it to the half empty plane which explained why the tickets two days before hand had been so cheap.

We landed in Danang and pretty much had the same hassle getting a taxi. We eventually bargained a guy down to a more reasonable price and with the addition of a Spanish couple set of to Hoi An. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and all was going well until the taxi driver pulled up on the side of the main road and said the price that we had bargained him down to had just gone up. Apparently he’d spoken to the taxi base and they were insisting on us paying more. Again with all things in this part of the world it wasn’t the money that was an issue it was the false pretences he had gone to to get us into the car and then decided on the side of a busy road where few free taxis would be passing to hike up the price. On principal we all wanted to get out and at one point we were out and taking bags out of the boot until we decided it was just too much hassle and so we’d just pay the extra and get over it. Still it left a bad taste in our mouth. Almost as bad as the one when he left us miles from the centre of Hoi An insisting it was the town centre. That then required another taxi after the hotel he dropped us at proved a little expensive and out of the centre. But on the plus side he didn’t get the commission from us staying at that hotel. A small consolation but one none the less.

We eventually got into the town centre and found a place to stay. A 3 star hotel none the less. The biggest accommodation mistake so far on this trip - not because of the price - at $7 each you could hardly complain as it was lovely with a large swimming pool, gym, bath tub in the ensuite, tv and air con and all that but there was one problem. Well two actually and if you count the rats out the back then three. The first were the cockroaches which just proves it doesn’t matter how much you spend on accommodation - when in Asia prepare for the worst. There was one really nasty one living in the overflow hole in the sink. When I first went into the bathroom I thought it might have been a hair sticking out of the sink but when the rather long antennae shot back into the hole when I turned the tap on I knew it was no hair. It was back again the following morning so me and Miriam decided to give it a little swimming lesson. In boiling water. We flooded the sink hoping that the hot water would flush it away but later on when I returned to the room the little f****r was half way up the wall over the bath. I left it there. Nathan also had the joy of trapping one and flushing it down the toilet. Although I’m pretty sure it would have survived that too. The only creature that’s said to be able to survive a nuclear wipe-out. But cockroaches aside the real problem with the hotel were the reception staff who we decided had it in for us. We had bargained them right down and then didn’t spend anymore money there on things like the restaurant as it was rather pricey so rather than having lovely friendly staff there like in all the guesthouses in Asia and hostels in the rest of the world we were condemned to their scorn and bad will and even when we booked a taxi with them to Hue to do the Hi Van pass we got the worst taxi I think you could find in Vietnam and then when we were dropped once again miles away from our destination we were convinced the hotel were plotting our down fall as Nathan couldn’t actually put his bag on his shoulders due to his sunburn! We eventually persuaded the driver to take us into the centre with the help of 2 randoms on the side of the road who along with the driver spoke no English and even some unidentified person on a phone who spoke a little English but there was a lot of gesturing and drawing involved to actually get us where we wanted to go. Sigh. We found accommodation and then me and Nathan became transfixed by the Dr. Seuss film ‘Horton Hears a Who’ which has to be one of the best films ever with one of the best lines from a kids film - the elephant while running in slow-motion and being fired at with bananas by monkeys says ‘I do believe diplomatic relations are breaking down.’ Anyway that’s completely beside the point and also a few days after where I was so to backtrack from Hue……..

Back in Hoi An with our unfriendly hotel staff and cockroaches we were yet to meet at this stage things were going well. The sun was shining, the iced coffee was excellent and the pool a wonderful escape from the clutches of the all too eager tailors. I didn’t have anything in particular I wanted made which I thought was a shame as we were in the best place in Asia allegedly for tailor made clothes and shoes. It was also quite a relief and after having a quick flick through one tailors catalogue of Next clothing from their 2003 season I made my excuses and headed back to the pool for a little bit of quiet time. I was rather proud of the restraint I was showing to be honest. Miriam and Nathan returned a considerable time later with their wallets notably lighter. We went out to dinner once it had become pleasant enough to brave the outside world without the fear of being melted down into a puddle of sweat and found a lovely little restaurant where I treated myself to a well over due glass of slightly overpriced but worth it red wine.

The situation began to deteriorate the following day however. We went to the cloth market which I assumed just sold cloth and so had let my guard down. However a eager little tailor obviously sensed this and I had been grabbed and directed to her area before I could make any objections. I was absently mindedly flicking through the book and before I knew it I was having a dress and shirt made for me. How and when and why I’m not quite sure but it was done and id been felt up and measured all over and had chosen material without really giving it much thought. I was reassured though when Nathan got a shirt and Miriam got two shirts made as well. Our plan had been to go to the beach but by the time we got back to the hotel and all that it wasn’t really worth it and so we just parked ourselves by the pool for the afternoon before Miriam and Nathan had to go back for final fittings for the clothes they had ordered the day before.

Dinner was a wonderful market affair followed by scrumptious ice cream and a wander which rendered our wallets even lighter. It all started off when I spotted this dress. It was wicked. Purple and gold and quite simple. Got to actually try it on before they took my measurements so they could make it specifically for me. So I splashed out. Miriam then spotted some material and got a beautiful top made - she designed it herself and the finished thing was really beautiful. I then took a closer look at some of their duffle coats which were a bit of a trend in Hoi An at the time. I tried one on and had to have one. It was just so Paddington bear and reminded me of when we dressed Ben up in Granny’s Paddington bear doll’s clothes when he was about 2. So I got a coat made in charcoal with hot pink silk piping and lining. It was ridiculous trying to try on a coat in that kind of heat but it was worth it in the end. So my being good had gone out the window and I was beginning to realise how addictive getting tailor made clothes was so we headed for the beach the following day.

We rented 2 bikes between the three of us and I would like to point out that Nathan drove like a granny and also kept forgetting to turn off his indicators. I will admit the first time I indicated I forgot to turn off mine but I learnt my lesson whereas he kept his on the entire way to the beach. Even though I kept reminding him by yelling from my bike as I overtook him. Which I noticed whenever I had to pull in and wait for him to catch up. It was very amusing.

The water was actually a little bit too warm if you’ll believe it. When it’s as hot as it was in Hoi An you want to jump into some nice freezing sea like at home but all you get with the water off the coast of Vietnam is water as though you’re in a bath and it’s beginning to get to that point where you’re thinking about getting out but it’s still quite pleasant and warm. That was the sea. It was very strange. Definitely the warmest water I’ve ever been in. But it was so calm and so clear that it was lovely to swim in even if it wasn’t quite as refreshing as what was needed.

I stopped to take some photos on the way back and was convinced I knew the way back on my own but ended up taking the scenic route as I liked to think of it. Luckily there were several large maps on the side of the road with an arrow which I presumed said ‘You are here’ so I’d stop occasionally and work it out from there and by pointing and saying ‘Hoi An’ to Vietnamese people on the side of the road. I eventually got back into the town and figured out where I was. I then had the fun of figuring out the one way streets half of which were dug up due to road works so with lots of driving on pavements, going the wrong way down one way streets and taking up the favourite Vietnamese pastime of hooting my horn I eventually got back to the hotel before Nathan. I also witnessed an almost horrendous crash which somehow narrowly avoided any real damage with two bikes in front of me. But being white and being the only one around and without the language I reckoned it would be all to easy to get mixed up when all I was doing was driving behind so seeing no one was hurt I just overtook and skedaddled out of there. Didn’t really fancy getting mixed up in all that.

The clothes were looking good - the ones in the cloth markets needed more alterations but with the exception of one if Miriam’s shirts which in the end turned out really well but was a bit of a mess at the time it was all good. With less than 24 hours left in Hoi An there was no way we could get anything else made. Or was there? I had decided not to get any shoes made as Miriam wasn’t entirely happy with the ones she had had made and Nathans turned out ok in the end but with a lot of extra work but the pair of cow boy boots he got made turned into a bit of a disappointment as the writing he has asked for on the side which was the main reason for getting them made was simply forgotten and it was impossible to do as an add on. And of course there was no way a discount or even an apology was about to be had. So after that I had decided it wasn’t a good idea. But no harm in having a poke about one of the shops I reckoned as there wasn’t enough time anyway. There were some nice shoes in there - all from English shops and then they used them as models to base their own hand made ones from. Spotted a cool pair of boots which me and Miriam had both been talking about. The woman asked when we were leaving and when we said 11am the following day she said that was no problem. And it was at this point the trouble began!

I sifted through the colour options and found the same pink as the lining of the coat I was having made. So I decided to go for them. After much deliberation from Miriam she decided on the same and we got measured up and very excited about our wacky boots.

The hotel managed to really wind me up later over the bicycles that were allegedly free but turned out to be only free for 24hours and then they didn’t believe me that I hadn’t used mine as Miriam and Nathan had already used the bikes. Eventually I got a bike after seeing rats bigger than I’ve ever seen and so left the hotel much later than I intended to and in a much worse mood. Which was intensified all the more with a phone call from the shoe shop asking us to go back as there wasn’t enough material. Or something like that - Vietnamese people are so difficult to understand over the phone. So eventually got going, found the others and headed to the shoe shop to find out there wasn’t any of the pink suede - not even enough for one pair. Over the course of the next hour I learnt why fashion designers are as particular and fussy over their work as they are. When you have something stuck in your head its difficult to be persuaded that anything else could work quite as well as your idea! So we started cycling. The shoe lady drove her bike which I really began to regret not taking her up on her offer of sitting on the back of but instead decided to join the other two on their bikes. Mistake no 1. We headed off in the dark across Hoi An to places where whities probably have never been and probably never will again! We went to the leather workshops to find a different colour! The first place we went to (the sweat was already pouring) had a good selection of colours but none that were in any way the same so we set off again through the back streets of Hoi An. It was quite daunting being on a push bike as at least on a motorbike you can get out of the way with minimal effort however if you run an amber light (yes they actually had traffic lights in Hoi An) and then see 10 million motorbikes coming for you its essential to pedal as hard as your little legs can go and in 80% humidity that’s a bit of a mission. Miriam almost fell off her bike laughing in the middle of a crossroads as apparently I look really funny on a bike in a skirt pedalling as fast as I can away from a few million motorbikes. I didn’t really see the funny side of it. The second place was even more disappointing and the third which we had to go up over a big humpbacked bridge to get to was shut. The woman tried to wake them up but to no avail so back to the first place it was where Miriam chose a purple and after much humming and haing as to whether to get them made or not I decided to go with a bright red. I realised I was in a grumpy mood and would only be grumpier in the morning when I realised I only didn’t get them made due to my grumpiness the night before and so therefore my grumpiness would continue and I ran the risk of always being grumpy just because of a pair of boots. Well maybe a little over exaggerated but I got them made anyway. They will always be remembered after that wild chase around town looking for hot pink suede anyway. We had by this stage worked up a substantial appetite (and sweat) and so fell into the first restaurant we found and devoured something - I can’t exactly remember what. Miriam had duck actually which she decided after it was all gone that we really should have tried some as it was the best thing ever. But we were left wondering and envious as there was not a scrap of duck left. Thanks Miriam!

After packing, it was back down to the cloth market where after 3 lots of alterations our clothes were eventually ready and then on to assess the damage with the shoes. Which was quite a lot. Asides from no insoles, using the wrong heels and different thread Miriam’s didn’t even fit her properly. Which is annoying when you have something tailor made! There wasn’t enough time to get that sorted and insoles could be bought and added later but the heels were a problem. So after a little bit of a wobbler partly due to the woman’s attitude and partly due to the quality - I appreciate time was short but she had persuaded us the day before that that wouldn’t be an issue. The boots were returned to the tailors and we returned to the hotel. Our taxi picked us up and on the way out of Hoi An we picked up the boots. Not perfect but closer than they had been we handed over the remaining money and vowing never to get tailor made shoes ever again got into the taxi and headed up the coast.

Hoi An had been wonderful - it was ridiculously hot, there was a pool and the sea near by, more tailors than non tailors and a delightful colonial feel to the stunning town. However it was also tourist central and due to the over population of tailors not very much rest for the wicked. A thoroughly brilliant time was had by all though and I’m so looking forward to getting home and being able to wear all my wonderful clothes!
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pipparush on

we need to see them ....
the boots and the clothes that is ..... where are the pics?

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