Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is a coastal town at about the halfway point of Vietnam. It's known for being the largest harbor in Southeast Asia, although that's hardly what you'd think of when you first see it. My first thought, after parking my bike and walking towards the river, was, "I just found Vietnam's Disneyland." With brightly colored fish figurines emerging out of the water amongst the charming old boats parked along the rivers edges, a feeling of welcome and delight came over me. I'd planned on being there for one day and taking the night bus to Saigon. Instead, I took a one hour walk, went to lunch with friends I'd met in Halong Bay (Britt from Holland, Cyrill from Switzerland, and Marco from Germany), got talked into staying (not that it took much talking into), booked a flight for 2 days later and never regretted it. With the time I'd bought myself with a $60 1-hour flight--big upgrade from a $15, 24-hour bus--I biked through the busy streets, walked through the market, had fittings for custom made clothes and shoes, made friends with a local shop keeper, and bought a little handmade dragon whistle from the tiniest old lady I'd ever seen (photo below). About an hour before I had to be at the airport, I picked up my custom tailored suit, skirts, boots and I was off. If you're ever in Vietnam and want a break from the backpackers lifestyle and/or some shopping time, this is what you're looking for. And what a colorful place to do it!

The little lady that sold me a whistle.

Cyrill and Marco at lunch, right after we had all run into each other for the first time since Halong Bay.

The market.

Many people sold these whistles made of clay out on the streets.

Britt discussing the details of her custom made blazor.

Britt and I on an eventful motorbike ride to meet Cyrill and Marco for drinks. Our driver was named Ling, and he was quite patient with our extreme lack of ability to give him directions.

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