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Nicola and Christopher's Grand Adventure! This is a little story of our 3 month journey through, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. We hope that you (our friends and family) enjoy reading about our trip!

One pink silk suit, and lots of sun...

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 18 August 2010 | Views [480]

... ok so we decided against the pink suit for Christopher, but were sorely tempted by the crushed velvet ala Austin Powers. Yes, we are now in Hoi An and it is everything that we expected it to be. It is a relatively small town on the coast about 30km south of Danang. The road between the two follows a lovely beach which was one of the draws for us having not seen a beach since our time in Georgetown (North Malaysia). The other draw was the hundreds of tailor shops! We weren't to be disappointed on either front.

The trip from Hue was relatively uneventful. We decided to take an open tour bus. The open tour is a network of buses, restaurants and hotels that enable tourists to be ferried about the main tourist destinations in Vietnam. It is simple and dirt cheap, however the experience of Vietnam is different to one where you use a selection of local transport. We wanted to experience the open tour for ourselves so signed up for a bus for this part of our journey. Other than the bus being about 40 minutes slower than advertised and making two stops on the way, it was quite harmless. It dropped us at some unspecified hotel on the other side of town which involved a 30 minute walk with our gear (Why, oh why does Christopher have to have so many books?!?!?!?) in the midday heat. We found a wee place, third floor with lots of windows and a 1USD discount for staying four nights! The only draw back is its proximity to the road (I think we have mentioned the excessive use of the horn?)

On arrival, we showered and got down to business, we knew what we wanted to have made, if only to find a tailor to make it. We had a mooch about the town, it is lovely, the streets filled with character and thankfully no cars, and in some places no scooters. It is a UNSESCO world heritage site, and we could see why (we feel like we have visited them all, but Nicola checked on the intrawebthingy and has found out that there are around 700+). There are a fair number of hawkers but when it came to the tailors we didn't really encounter the hard sell or folks trying to get us to come into their stores, quite strange, but nice thankfully.

We ended up settling on Kimmy's tailor just around the corner from our hotel, this is quite fortuitous considering the three subsequent fittings that we had to have. A shop further away would have no doubt eaten into our precious beach time. Kimmy's is a busy place, a good sign we thought and through a little luck we managed to get about 50USD off the price of all our stuff. It isn't cheap cheap, but a better price for clothes than we could have got at a tailor in NZ/UK (we hope) and the quality looks ok. The language barrier wasn't much of a barrier at all, but it is a conveyor belt and after talking to the women who were taking care of our order we were quite torn. They work 12 hour days with one day off a month, these are the girls that work in the shop, not even the tailors... again, we have mixed feelings about getting the clothes. Nicola's order was relatively straight forward, but Christopher had to go through every cloth sample in the shop just to make sure that the two pairs of pants he wanted were just right.

We returned to Kimmy's the next evening after taking a walking tour of the town. It was interesting to see the old houses and the mixture of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese architecture. We also got to see the river level inside the houses from the annual floods. The houses are made of wood but the structural beams sit on marble blocks and everything in the downstairs living area can be moved upstairs. There are a number of meeting houses and temples in town as well, so we had a look, not so heavy on the Buddha front here as in some of the other countries we have visited, maybe something to do with that Socialist government?

On returning to Kimmy's Christopher was happy with his lot, but Nicola was a little dismayed to find the skirt she had ordered was made out of the material she had wanted the dress to be made out of, and vice versa with the dress. A couple of conversations, phone calls and apologies later and they were on the case. We would return the next day...

Finally we had some beach time, we rented a couple of bikes for 40,000 dong (it just sounds like a lot!!) and headed out onto the Viet(oh my god it is scary, and aren't we glad we had medical insurance)namese roads. Actually the ride to the beach was relatively straight forward, the trip back around 4.30 in the rush hour was about 50 times scarier than any riding either of us had done before. The huge number of scooters that come at you from every direction is mind boggling. It was quite the experience, it can't have been too bad though as we signed up for a second day today.

On arrival at the beach (it was long, and sandy and beach like!) one resort wanted 5USD each for the privilege of sitting on their sun loungers, being the money conscious (tight) individuals we are, we headed along the road to find a quieter spot. About five minutes down the road we found a sign for free parking and seating, this sounded like us. We pulled in and the road/path split in two, each path going to a separate restaurant. No sooner had we stopped but two Vietnamese women came running at us, trying to get us to come to their restaurant, luckily another couple turned up a couple of minutes later. We all had a laugh amongst ourselves and decided it would be fair if we each went to one restaurant.

We decamped on a couple of loungers with an umbrella and proceeded to chill out for several hours. It was just what we had wanted! Christopher was expecting to get hit with a bill as we left but there was nothing of it, a couple of friendly goodbyes ensured our custom the next day. We had ordered a couple of overpriced drinks and dinner (actually really good sea food and two whole crabs for Nicola), so they had made some money out of us being there.

Back to Kimmy's, the second fitting went better, the dress and the skirt were in the right materials and the waist coast had been shortened. Although we have to say that the Vietnamese staff weren't impressed with Nicola's sense of style when it came to the waist coat, pah, what do they know? Things were a little less hectic in the shop this time around and again we couldn't help but feel for the staff. We were getting close, Christopher's order was looking simple and pretty much a done deal after the second visit. It would all hinge on the third fitting the day before we head to Quy Nhon.

We popped in this morning and the dress still didn't hang quite right, 20 minutes later and a sew here, and a stitch there and we were walking out of the place pretty happy with the experience. It was quite something, a great place to get some clothes made, especially if you have a strange body shape (no, that doesn't apply here thank you!) or are looking for something a bit special (ie expensive and can't afford it in NZ/UK).

We are off on the train again tomorrow to another spot on the South coast for four days of R&R. It is strange to be in this part of Vietnam and to think of it over run with US soldiers. Obviously many of the people we come into contact with are old enough to have memories of that time in Vietnam's history. The beach we were on for the past couple of days was supposedly a big hang out for US servicemen while on R&R. It is amazing to think what this country and these people have been through in our lifetimes!


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