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VIETNAM | Sunday, 18 June 2017 | Views [203]

Hoi Ann

I arrived by a sleeper bus after a four hour journey from Hue. I did not sleep but lounged in the long reclining seats enjoying the scenery. I viewed beautiful mountain peaks in the distance on one side and on the opposite side the ocean coast. I had no idea Vietnam had this mountain to ocean relief, regardless of the overcast sky it was gorges.

The owner of my Homestay picked me up from the bus station and took me back to he and his wife's house. I entered through the of front house, children played in the living room, and Tre and Mun directed me to the dining room were they gave me a fresh glass of passion fruit juice. They went over the layout of the town on a map provided and discussed my morning breakfast preferences. The house was on the bank of a palm tree lined inlet coming from the ocean and my room looked out onto the river. The room is attached to the back of the main house. It was very clean and comfy with toiletries provided. After a brief nap, I journeyed into town. I assumed Hoi An was a sleepy little town so I chose to walk even though a bike (traditional not motorized) was provided. Walking gives a better lay of the land, however, I had to walked on the main road. Busses and motor bikes whizzed by incessantly beeping their horns at other drivers. The horn has many meanings here: to signal hello although not often, to signal that you are approaching, to signal to get your ass out of the way, and for any other possible reason including you just feeling like flying down the street holding down the horn. Usually the honks are in threes but not always, so you can imagine all these motorbikes and busses buzzing by and honking uncontrollably. I can't understand how anyone knows what's going on. This traffic chaos can wear on a person and forced me to seek a quiet place. Shortly after arriving into town I found an area called Old Town. It sits on both side of the river connected by two bridges. I relaxed at a restaurant, not feeling the street food that day because sometimes you just need a hardy clean salad which is hard to find on a menu, let alone the streets. Sitting on a top porch I overlooked the river inlet and watched the fisher boats guide people around to see the illuminated store fronts along the shores. Beautiful colored lanterns of all shapes and sizes hung from balconies and ceilings of the stores. The scene was magical and everyone else enjoyed it as they strolled the streets. Initially I had a lot frustration at the beginning of the evening, I just wanted peace and quiet if only for a night or two. Again these quaint towns were overwhelmingly loaded with tourists. After dinner I walked around and found this woman singing in a bar, her voice perfectly matched the popular cover songs we all know. I sat on the curb outside the bar listening, enjoying, and sometimes singing along. I saw a woman about my age doing just the same thing a little further down the curb. I walked up to her and asked if I could sit with her. Her name was Jet (pronounced "yet") and while we briefly discussed the usual exchange of travels information, I quickly tried to go a little deeper. I asked her about why she left her job, why she didn't like it, what she wants her life to be like and how she can make those dreams come true. I just wanted an authentic connection. We didn't exchange Facebook information, we just wished each other the best journey. Where I was previously frustrated with my experience I found that back at the Homestay I was rejuvenated, inspired, and glade the bad emotions were wiped away.

I feel the need to mention these unique shops I saw all over Hoi Ann. Interestingly, in Hoi Ann some people bought what they referred to as premade clothes but another portion of the community preferred only tailored clothes. Tre in fact gave me a card with the name of a tailor he recommended. The tailor shops had mannequins out front of the stores displaying prototype suits and dresses. The remaining portion of the store had stacks of stunning fabrics. I'm not sure how lucrative these businesses are in this little town; it seemed they were on every other corner. And the fabrics!! Unlike anything I've seen the States, which isn't say much but I'd like to think I would have seen a shop or two like these in New York City, not true. I can't even describe the brilliant colors, woven textures, and silky feel. You really just have to see it, not even pictures would do it justice. The personalized stitch work made me think back to memories I have with my grandma. She and I would go to the fabric store, pick out a fabric and pattern I liked then use her Bernina sewing machine to make clothes for me. Obviously I did not need to make my own clothes, but we did together. She taught, I learned, and we laughed when we made silly mistakes, she would say "oh shoot." A memory that makes me feel like laughing and crying at the same time.

In Hoi Ann I wanted a routine for a couple of days. I feel this is sort of mandatory for an extended vacation since I'm mostly moving from place to place with each day bringing something new. So my routine was this: ten minute bike ride to the beach for some sunning, reading and writing, then to the Homestay for a rest followed by another ten minute bike ride to town for dinner and a walk around the stores. It worked. I fought some of that nagging voice in my head telling me otherwise. Slapping it into submission felt good.

I also caught up on laundry. Getting laundry done in Asia is somewhat of a luxury. I walk to an open aired room on street and some woman greets you to take the laundry. She tells you the cost per Kilogram, you agree to the price and return later that day for pickup as long as the sun cooperates. At pickup, you receive your clothes tightly packaged in a plastic bag, they are clean, pressed, folded and smell wonderful. Easy and cheap. I usually have ask them to be more careful when washing a few items, however, I'm not sure this translates well. On a few occasions my clothes came back unwearable. Not great when you can only have a few key clothing items in the pack and I prefer not haggle for a pair elephant pattern palazzo pants in the market.

At Tre and Moon's house they offered to do my laundry at a far cheaper price than in the towns. I told them about my concerns with previous handling of my clothes. Since language is not a barrier due to great English skills, they offered to let me hand wash them myself and use the drying line. The weather was mildly humid (always relative), the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, and a lone goose honked in the background. I have two red shallow buckets, one for wash and one for rinse. I was a bit over zealous on the dry soap with the first batch and rinsing required some actual old school washing labor. Fervently I scrub the clothes, trying to hit the main points, armpits,... and basically anywhere sweat touches, so everywhere. I resolve that a good soak is probably better and less work. The clothes dried on the line and I began my normal routine, off to the beach. Hard life, can't complain.

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