Sunday, November 27, 2005

Xin chao, Hoi An

Any town that offers a limitless supply and variety of peasant shirts in just my size, customized to my exact fantastical whims, wins big ups in my book. Add friendly people, good food and sinfully cheap cold beer and I don't ever want to leave. It's not that I want to live here, I just don't want to leave...and I hearby declare that Vietnam is my new favorite country, knocking off my previous love, Thailand.

Even though it's been drizzling on and off since we arrived yesterday, our moods were so relaxed in this little town that the weather didn't matter. We started this morning walking through the Central Market, where all the women wanted to touch my arms and my white skin, tell me I had a beautiful face, and then try to sell me silk post cards, cinnamon cups or tiger balm. I tried to find some local yarn to bring home, and a nice lady took me into the back of a shop and showed me a bunch of acrylic stuff that I didn't really like. She said that's all they had in the town. So I passed, but at least I tried.

The big thing to do here is get clothing custom-made -- and Dave and I got really caught up in the tailor craze at Yayla. Especially started with a jacket and a shirt...then some pants...more shirts...another pair of pants to match the jacket...a skirt...almost (but not quite) $300 later and we need another suitcase. I couldn't believe how perfect Dave's jacket fit him when we went back to pick it up, so buoyed by his success, we had to buy more, and that's how we ran up such a bill. Plus, everyone of course wants you to buy more -- at one point I was surrounded by at least 5 women -- one measuring me, one writing down the numbers, 2 trying to find the exact skirt style I wanted in their big pile of JC Penny/Cosmo combo catalogues, and one alternately trying to give me a massage and demonstrate eyebrow threading on my leg. Our favorite shop was Yaly, where Sophie and Vicki gave us a lot of help and many, many suggestions for more things to buy...

Beyond the bustle of the tailor trade, this town is so peaceful and relaxing, with hardly any cars on the road, only motorbikes and bicycles. Most of the townspeople are involved with fishing in one way or another. We saw a baby buffalo along the river -- very cool!

There are also penty of laid back bars and restaurants with fantastic and cheap food line the river and the streets. Tonight it was kind of surreal to be sitting in one with Beatles music playing. It's weird to think about the war taking place here, only 30 years ago.

We spent a 1/2 day touring My Son, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is basically a complex of temples that were heavily bombed by the US during the Vietnam War. These once rivaled the Angkor Complex, but the VC used it as a staging ground and in return, so it was a big target. We were the first ones there to wake up the gods that morning, and the legend says that this is very lucky. Also, we missed most of the tourists, who arrived in busloads just as we were leaving. We got to ride in a US Army jeep from 1968 from the entrance to the complex, which was pretty cool.

A big contributor to our love of this place is the hotel we are staying at, Hoi An Life Resort. It is definitely fancy, but so well-integrated into the environment that it doesn't feel removed from the town or country like a lot of upscale hotels in SE Asia do. I think it is my favorite hotel ever. Maybe I'm a little biased because we got a free welcome 1 hour hand and sole massage.


Katy said...

Great mini tour of SE Asia for those of us without a passport!
I'm glad you are having fun. See you when you get back.

Anonymous said...

you are so hot I can't stand it, Barnas