Hoi An

Custom made in Hoi An, Vietnam

After our day out with Mr Trung, we cycled back to Hoi An and dabbled with the idea of getting something custom made. Kyle was thinking about suit and I was considering getting a pair of sandals made. We decided to check out our hotel’s sister’s shop to get a quote for a suit. At this point we were only CONSIDERING getting anything made…

We went into T&C Tailors (our hotel’s sister’s tailor) and were given a Next (!) catalogue to get an idea of the type of suit we wanted. We flicked through the catalogue but found it difficult to decide just by looking at pictures of men posing in suits. The owner didn’t have the right colour fabric that we were looking for and was trying to push us to buy a suit in another colour for $150. We told the woman that it was way too high and she dropped her price to $130. Kyle told her that he wanted to pay $100 max and the woman said no, so I walked out the shop. The woman by this point was being VERY pushy. As soon as I walked out the shop, the woman agreed to do it for $100, but by that point we weren’t interested in having a suit made by T&C Tailors.

We then went on the search for a good shoemaker and found one with an excellent reputation on tripadvisor. We went to the Thien Friendly Shoe Shop and it was absolutely packed with people trying on shoes that they had custom made. An assistant told me to look around the shop at the shoes they’d previously made, flick through their catalogues, or show them a picture of what you’re looking for. You could even have a shoe you already own ‘copied’. I’d been looking for a Tropezienne style sandal since we arrived in Thailand but with no luck. I found a picture on the internet of what I wanted and she printed it, and then asked me what colour I wanted. She gave me several huge wheels of various red leathers… several wheels just of red leathers! It was hard to choose… but I finally found a red leather that I liked, my foot measurements were taken and I was told to come back tomorrow for a fitting.

The picture of the sandal I wanted

The picture of the sandal I wanted

The following day at breakfast we felt the repercussions of saying no to a suit by T&C Tailors, our hotel’s sister’s shop. One of the members of staff rudely interrupted our breakfast to ask us why we didn’t buy a suit at her sister’s shop. We told her that we weren’t interested and she kept telling us that we MUST buy one and that we should go there right now. We couldn’t quite believe that she had the audacity to bother us while we were eating breakfast about a suit. That was T&C Tailor and Nhi Trung Hotel’s last chance… they definitely lost our business!

After spending the day walking around Hoi An, we went back to Thien Friendly Shoe Shop for my sandal fitting. On first try they were absolutely perfect, and exactly what I was looking for. For 20 pounds I chose every little detail of the shoe from the finish to the buckle. Pretty good price really!

The shoe shop told us there was a tailor across the road that was number 1 on tripadvisor. We went to Hoa Nang Sunny Cloth Shop to have a browse and a chat, and the owner was very professional and didn’t push us to buy anything at all. Her policy is if you don’t like the finished product, don’t pay. While Kyle talked suits with the owner, I looked around the shop at the different styles of dresses they’d previously made. I saw a plain cotton dress that I liked and I tried it on for size. Within five minutes of walking into the shop I’d already had my measurements taken, chosen a fabric, pattern, neckline, the length, and told to come back tomorrow for a fitting. I entered the shop with no intention of buying anything!

A rubbish picture of me at my dress fitting!

A rubbish picture of me at my dress fitting!

Kyle trying on his suit!

Kyle trying on his suit!

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A day with Mr Trung, Hoi An

The following morning we were met by Mr Trung at our hotel at 8.15am. He’d even brought me a sun hat to wear so that I didn’t get burnt! We rent bikes and cycled 15 minutes out of town to the local fish market where he explained the young fishermen in his village came here to sell the fish they’ve caught at 1am everyday. We then cycled to his fishing village and he gave us a small history of his village. Mr Trung was really sweet and spoke good English – although he often used ‘sorry’ when he met ‘umm’

‘Sorry I now give you a history of my fishing village…’

Local fish market

Local fish market

He then took us to the pottery part of the village where we had a go making a pot on a wheel… The wheel was operated by a lady kicking the wheel every 5 seconds. I wasn’t very good at it but Kyle admitted he’d regularly attended pottery camp when he was young. He was actually pretty good at it! The pots are then left out to dry in the sun for 2 days before being put in a kiln.

Spinning the wheel

Spinning the wheel

Having a go on the wheel!

Having a go on the wheel!

Mr Trung then took us to a pond to do a spot of fishing. I’d never caught a fish before so it was pretty exciting. The fishing pole was pretty basic and just made out of bamboo. I managed to catch at least five fish but I absolutely hated taking the fish off the hook and throwing it back into the water. I hated the way it was struggling and flapping about in my hand – I genuinely felt sorry for the fish. For a second I even dabbled with the idea of becoming a vegetarian, but that was quickly forgotten when Mr Trung took us to his house for a cooking lesson and lunch with his family.

I caught a fish!

I caught a fish!

Kyle thinking about catching fish

Kyle thinking about catching fish

Mrs Trung taught us how to make a chilli, lemongrass and garlic marinade which we then put on a freshly caught white snapper and BBQ’d in a banana leaf. We made and ate so much food that we had little food babies.

Cooking lesson with Mr Trung

Cooking lesson with Mr Trung

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

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White Snapper in a banana leaf

White Snapper in a banana leaf

After the cooking and all the eating, we had some fresh tea and talked to Mr Trung about his life. He explained that used to be a teacher but was now retired, and that he works a couple hours an evening in Hoi An at a restaurant in the hope he’ll convince someone to go on his tour. He explained that he had to keep working to pay for his daughter’s education. (School in Vietnam is not free).

Mr Trung and his family

Mr Trung and his family

I really enjoyed the tour with Mr Trung and felt quite honoured that he’d taken us to his fishing village and introduced us to his family. It also felt much better to give your money to a local person rather than a huge tour operator.

xx

Day 1 in Hoi An, Vietnam

With train tickets in hand we arrived at Hue’s train station in good time for the 10.39 service to Danang for Hoi An. At 10.39 there was no train in sight and it was only an hour later that a train pulled into the platform for Danang. If you need to catch a connecting train in South East Asia you need to give yourself a minimum five hour window to ensure you make it in time! The train we got on had come from Hanoi and its final destination was Saigon in some 30 hours. Some crazy people actually do the 36 hour journey in one leg and had enough food with them for a couple of days. I don’t know how they do it though because I was feeling very, very queasy just after four hours on the train. It was a very bumpy yet scenic ride.

When we finally reached Danang some hours later we took a taxi into Hoi An and went to our hotel. The receptionist at the Nhi Trung Hotel gave us some spiel about not listening to people who tell you to come to their tailor (Hoi An has like a million tailors) as the price will be really expensive because they’ll add 30% commission. She said we’d be better off visiting her sister’s tailor and we’d get 10% off our bill. At this point we weren’t even looking to have anything made…

Where Krabi had massage parlours, Hoi An had tailors, and within seconds of walking out of our hotel we were hassled by a random lady on a motorbike trying to sell us a suit. We then spent the afternoon walking around the charming and picturesque town of Hoi An. It was quite different to anything we’d seen in Vietnam with its brightly coloured buildings and streets lined with glowing lanterns come nightfall. Plus, the polluted air of Hanoi and motorbikes was nowhere to be found. Hoi An is a simply stunning little town.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An

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We stopped for dinner at a restaurant by the riverfront and enjoyed glasses of what they call ‘fresh beer’ or ‘bia Hoi’ in Vietnamese for 15p a glass. After dinner our waiter like everyone in Hoi An wanted to sell us something. We couldn’t even have dinner without a million people trying to sell us origami cards, peanuts or friendship bracelets. One little girl begged us to buy something so that her parents could afford to send her to school. Anyway… our waiter asked us if we wanted to go on a tour of his fishing village the following day. We were a bit skeptical at first but he brought out several note books with written testimonies in every language going. We decided to take a leap of faith and give our money to a local rather than a pushy hotel owner.

Another pre-wedding shot!

Another pre-wedding shot!

'Bia Hoi' - 15p a glass!

‘Bia Hoi’ – 15p a glass!

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Beautiful lanterns in Hoi An

Beautiful lanterns in Hoi An