After a four to five hour bus ride from Hue we arrive in Hoi An, though, not before our bus driver gets lost and pretends nothing is wrong by driving through narrow unsealed back streets till he finds a real road again.
As team leader I was in charge of finding a place to sleep so pulled out the Lonely Planet and asked for directions to the street that had the most hotel dots on it.
We find room at Hoa Binh Hotel with wifi, and a pool for 120000vnd each per night (currently $7nzd). Our first meal is at a place around the corner offering a free beer with your meal and just 3000vnd for extra beers (around 20cents nzd). I wish I could remember the name because I still think about the banh xeo (rice flour pancake), I have never had better.
Hoi An was our favourite place in Vietnam, the food is incredible. It’s definitely touristy, but that means there’s a heap of pretty things to look at. Most of all it’s know as the place in Vietnam to get clothes tailored.
We put aside about 4 nights for Hoi An, allowing time to find a tailor, pick clothes, and allow for refits. After much internet research and warnings of shitty tailors we found one that sounded good – B’Lan Silk at 23 Tran Phu St. The plan was to check out and compare a couple of the recommended places and barter for the best price. There are 600 “tailors” in Hoi An, most of them following the typical way of stealing your neighbour’s good reputation and trading on that. B’Lan came highly recommended though so we went there first and stuck with them.
The boys got suits for $90usd each. I got a suit jacket ($45usd), a floaty dress, sailor dress, pleated skirt dress (between $40 and $45usd each), and a jacket with a pleated skirt ($90usd) made. A total of $252 usd, half up front, half on delivery.
All the designs were picked from photos in magazine catalogues and the materials picked from the shelves and racks around us. It took a bit to convince the tailors that yes, I definitely wanted all of these items made in black, eventually I was worn down and ordered a few of the pieces in grey instead. (And I haven’t worn the grey pieces more than twice each!) My winter jacket has had the most wear by far & I still get complimented on its bright fuchsia lining.
At night we wandered around the market across the river. Taking in the sights of brightly coloured lanterns, and Brendan got suckered into buying coffee filters at tourist rates (which I later proved by buying them from the local market at less than half the price.).
Brendan’s suit was perfect first try, Darian’s needed a little adjusting on the jacket. My jackets are good, the sailor dress is 6″ shorter than I wanted, the pleated dress doesn’t fit my boobs, and the floaty dress? The floaty dress was completely different to what I wanted (as well as it being grey), I hate conflict though and couldn’t be bothered changing the whole thing.
While waiting for Darian’s suit to be altered we ate in a restaurant called Bazar across the road. Hoi An has many food specialities and I think the “Bazar Rolls” we ate here may have been one of them, they were definitely special to this restaurant. Cabbage and carrot, wrapped in pork, breaded, then fried! Suddenly the 37° weather turns into lightning and deafening thunder, so loud it frightens the wait staff. The restaurant started flooding so we escaped as soon as things calmed down.
A couple of tries later and my two remaining dresses are done. While talking with our tailor we mentioned having trouble finding good sandwiches (banh mi). She wrote down the name of a place and sent us off with my bag of clothes. We stopped to ask for directions about five times before finally finding the sandwich cart; every person we asked knew who we were looking for and laughed when we gave the name, they must get it all the time. Not surprisingly, the sandwiches were amazing.
After collecting a few lanterns and other touristy things we started for the post office but were stopped in the hotel lobby and asked if we want to use the free postal service where they pack and post things at your house! Um, yes. $91usd worth of not having to carry an extra 6.5kg on my back for six weeks.
Check out is 12, our night bus is at 7. There’s nothing for it but to cafe hop.
A French place where I find tiramisu; a restaurant called Secret Garden (warning – music) that we had visited a couple of nights prior, they make an amazing Cau lau – a dish (or noodle) served only in Hoi An; and some banh mi for the road.