Hoi An, the city of tailors and noodles

Trip Start May 31, 2012
Trip End Aug 08, 2013

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Phuoc An Cloth Shop

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, July 23, 2012

As soon as Kara and I arrived in Hoi An and checked into the Phuoc An Hotel, we immediately extended our stay here from 2 days to 4 days. It is a beautiful little town that lights up at night with lanterns strung throughout the many tree covered boulevards. Almost every other shop along these streets is a cloth shop, specializing in custom fit clothes that generally deliver by the next morning. Kara and I decided to get all new wardrobes made entirely of silk. We threw out all of the clothes we had brought with us except for the shirts on our backs and proceeded to get fitted for silk shirts, silk pants, silk boxers and silk slippers. Now, it's been 2 days of wearing nothing but silk and I'm starting to miss my old t-shirts and shorts.

Just kidding! We didn't do that, we're not exclusively wearing silk clothes now, that would be ridiculous! We're exclusively wearing denim. Just kidding! We're not doing that either.

But we did get fitted for some custom fitted clothes. Kara got herself a very lovely dress and a silk shirt (silk!) and I got myself a casual looking blazer and collared shirt. The prices were very reasonable and now we have custom fitted clothes. But they're all slim fitting so neither of us can gain any weight or go on steroids. Now I'm going to have to find a new hobby for Australia.

Our time in Hoi An has been extremely relaxing and pretty lazy most days. We've spent lots of time at the two local beaches just out of town, swimming in the South China Sea. If anyone remembers the tv show China Beach, we were on the two beaches that are just south of China Beach. There's a whole line of 'em. Beautiful waters and cafes and bars on the beach makes for a pretty relaxing morning or afternoon. For instance, we spent most of this morning and the whole afternoon sitting under a thatched umbrella drinking mango juice and fresh lemonade, reading our books and jumping into the ocean when we got too hot.

Before that though, earlier this morning, we rode some bikes that we rented from the hotel out to a small village about 5 km west of here called Thanh Ha. It's well known for it's pottery and there are still numerous potters working their magic there today. We toured around the little town and bought some nice little trinkets (matching coffee mugs, little wine cups and some animal whistles). It was really cool to see all the freshly made pots and cups and bowls and stuff laying out in the sun, drying, before it's fired in the kiln.

Before that (I don't know why I'm doing this post in reverse, but I can't stop now!), we took a guided tour out to My Son, and ancient site with some temples still standing. While it's pronounced Meeson, I couldn't help but think of my family out in Newfoundland (Oh, my son!), especially with the name of the tour company being Son My Son. Some of these temples date back to the 4th century and some are as recent as the 12th, but still all over 1000 years old. That's why it was so strange to run into a statue that looked incredibly like Kara. The site was abandoned shortly after the 12th century and was rediscovered by a French guy in the early 20th. It was pretty much still intact until some bombings during the 60's destroyed some of the temples. There's even some writing in a language based in sanskrit that has yet to be translated! I took some pictures of it and Kara and I are going to work on it in Australia, so we'll keep you posted.

We've spent a lot of our time here touring around town, trying out the local specialties and drinking coffee and cheap cheap beers. Fresh beer here goes for 15-20 cents a glass (about half a pint) and it goes down really well. Cans or bottles of beer range from 50 cents to 3 dollars, depending on the classiness of the joint you're frequenting. I bet you can guess the classiness of the joints we've been frequenting! The local specialties include cau lao (thick noodles with bean sprouts, herbs and topped with strips of pork), white rose (shrimp dumplings) and banh xeo (savoury rice pancakes, usually with shrimp in them). Kara had the cau lao twice in as many days, I've never known her to do that, it was that good. We tried the savoury pancakes but there was something a little off about them I thought. Of course, we had them on the street right next to the river, sitting on plastic chairs so you takes your chances. Also, everything else we ate there wasn't all that good. We decided that that was the low point of our eating adventures in Vietnam so far, and it wasn't that it was even that bad, just not as delicious as everywhere else! Also, it was incredibly cheap so that helped. I think the whole meal (3 main dishes and 2 beers) cost us just over 5 bucks, so no harm done really.

Kara and I have decided that Hoi An and the surrounding area here has everything that we could ever want in a relaxing vacation spot; great food, beautiful beaches, friendly people, cheap shopping and free bicycles. We're really happy that we've spent the last 4 days here. It's been such a nice change of pace from Hanoi, the big city. I think we really needed this. And Kara got the itinerary for her first few weeks of orientation in Australia and I think it's going to be very busy for her, so another reason I'm glad we've relaxed here for as long as we did.

Well, dear readers, I suppose that the next time we talk, Kara and I will be in Australia. We're leaving Hoi An tonight on a 22 hour sleeper bus to Saigon where we'll spend tomorrow night, and then we fly out on Monday afternoon, arriving in Adelaide on Tuesday morning. I guess we'll be doing lots of travelling over the next few days... racking up those mileage points on the ol' travelpod here.

We've got a bag of peanuts, our digital libraries of hundreds of books, plenty of bootleg dvds and enough podcasts/music on our ipods to choke a camel, so I think we'll be ok. Besides all that, we kind of like each others company too.
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