Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sunday I got up early and did some meditation and yoga. I felt very relaxed and calm when I climbed on my friend's motorbike for our trip to the silk village. I had heard it was even more commercialised than the pottery village. I had my mind set for whatever would come but I knew that the silk products would be inexpensive and it would be a day of bargaining. Since I've started taking some Vn language lessons I felt a little more confident about being able to haggle with the merchants.
My friend wasn't sure how to get there so we asked directions several times along the way and then feeling confident with where we were going we proceeded to pass our turnoff. We both felt we were going the wrong way so I asked for directions, basically saying in Vietnamese "where is the silk village". We got the directions that we had just missed our turn by about 2-3 kms. We carefully turned around, which is a bit of a task since you do a u-turn in the midst of traffic. Safely making our u-turn and finding the correct street for the village we proceeded to ride thru most of the village, eyeing everything along the way. We were approximately at the halfway point and then found a place to park down a small alley. 
As we came out of the alley a funeral procession was passing by. I tried to be discreet when taking photos because it seemed a little disrespectful to be taking pictures of a funeral.
After the funeral had passed I walked into every shop, up to every table, thru every booth and found all the styles and colors I wanted. Then I went back and proceeded to bargain. Since I am now fairly proficient with asking the cost of things and most importantly, knowing the numbers. I was able to get some incredible deals on everything I wanted. As we were walking around I saw a woman selling something wrapped in banana leaves. I found out what it was called (Banh Mat & Banh Gio) so I had to give it a try. The gelatinous look of it made me a bit wary but once I put a slice in my mouth my wariness subsided into a feeling of sweet and tasty delight. I'm not totally certain what is in it but I liked it enough to buy a few to take home. 
While shopping we stopped for some green tea to reenergize since there are green tea stands everywhere, literally every 100 yards or less. These are basically a small table, a teapot sitting on a fire, several glasses and teacups, usually some bottled tea and some snacks, mostly sweet. There's a few short plastic stools and a tarp covering it all. The tea reenergized me so I walked over to a nearby pagoda for some photos and then went back in for a few more deals. I had intended to do only shopping for others but with a plethora of silk products selling for a fraction of the cost back home I bought a few things for myself including a silk tie and long sleeve shirt. I added three 100% raw silk scarves. Before bargaining, my total would've come to about $25 for everything which is still much less than what it would cost for just one item back home. After bargaining, my total was $11 for the lot, with my shirt costing about half of the total. All in all I'd say it was a good day of shopping. 
Leaving with a small backpack full of silky bargains I was now hungry. Lo and behold there was a Pho stand across the street. I walked over, pulled up a stool, was eyeballed by the regulars and then I ordered a bowl of Pho. This was nowhere near as good as the Pho that I get from the lady near my apartment but it filled the hole. Actually after I put in some small chili's, hot sauce, sliced garlic and squeezed in a few limes, it was not so bad.  Those are the usual condiments on every table in street stands here. We went back for the bike and headed home. 

Later that day, about 6pm, after a mid afternoon siesta, another friend came by and we went to a vegan restaurant for dinner. Jan is a British guy I met thru my friends from Dubai that were in last weekend. Some of you may remember them from my Nepal blog - two Lebanese women I met on the trek. They came in last weekend and one had her boyfriend in tow. Her bf has a friend, Jan who is a teacher here and we found out thru conversation that he lives about a kilometer from me. He told me about a vegan restaurant close to where I teach. He gave me directions to which I found to be very confusing. This isn't all that tough since there are so many tiny alleys with thriving communities going on inside them, that to not understand the directions isnt all that uncommon. Plus he said it took him two months to find it himself and he's lived here for 4 years. 
So he picked me up and we snaked our way through this tiny maze of alleys and then pulled into the Ha Thanh Com Chay parking area, which is unusual in and of itself because parking is at a premium here and to have an area set aside for parking, well that is rich. We ordered a community of plates of food to share. I quickly found that we had over-ordered not expecting such large portions of food to arrive.  
So once again I had a day of incredible (and some even new to me) foods, great shopping and new experiences. Of course I had school the next day and planning still to do but after such a great weekend, seeing and taking in local fare, a little planning seemed ok. 
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tracey on

i like ur tatoo design!!!!

kwai_chang on

Wow, you're really pandering to the ladies on this entry: shopping for fabrics, clothes, bargains, pictures of flowers, tea, sweets, and two lost guys actually asking for DIRECTIONS! Unbelievable! The girls and I definitely give this one five stars.

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