Oh Hoi An, Hoi An, Hoi An, HOI AN. We spent six very happy days in the beautiful-picture-perfect-Disney-style-exactly-how-you-imagine-Vietnam-to-be town of Hoi An and could have easily spent another six.
Famous for the four million tailors that can knock you up a suit in 24 hours for $100 and the four million lanterns lining the wiggly old streets, our main activities included wandering the small streets, continuing our exploration of the weird, wonderful and insanely delicious food and tweaking the tailored clothing and shoes we had commissioned.
It is true, it is incredibly touristy with way too many tailors. However, you can easily ignore the crowds when the place is as quaint and pretty as Hoi An.
Getting clothes tailored was an adventure in itself, especially as the coat I had in mind was really only in my mind and the poor tailor only had some bad sketches from me to go on. Angela opted for a sharp navy suit and it turned out really well, perfect fit and gorgeous silk lining. As well as the wool winter coat, a snip at £57, I also managed to get my dream blazer for the bargainous price of £43 and my worn-out and much loved leather sandals copied (with a few tweaks from me) in real leather for £20.
We also went on a bicycle day tour with some local students. The tour was free in return for the students being able to practise their English on us. We crossed the river to pedal around a small village famous for it’s boat making and we also stopped to visit a lady who makes sleeping mats from grass, a man who carves up wood into amazing things and the sweetest family who run a very small rice noodle factory out of their home.
It was lovely to see even the tiniest slither of ‘real’ Vietnamese life and ride through the brilliant green rice fields with our very friendly hosts. However, the most interesting part of the day was learning a little bit from the students of what life in Vietnam is like, especially for those studying hard for degrees with little to no job prospects awaiting them when their studies finish. Their future will probably involve leaving Vietnam to work elsewhere, somewhere like Japan or Korea. Though they all clearly loved their country, there was a palpable sense of frustration and unrest about the difficulty to find work. Tough times.
I’d love to go back again one day, if only to buy all the lanterns and get more clothes made. Oh and the Banh Mi sandwiches from Phuong’s, which were famously featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations documentary for a very good reason. Best sandwich ever.