15 January 2013
Today is a free day and I start off early as there is lots to do. First I take my laundry to the address I was directed to and discover it is also motorbike repair shop and cycle rental shop but there was no one there. A man on the street rings someone, seeks a scrap of newspaper from the shop next door and gets me to write my name. He then takes my bag and puts it on the back of a bike in the shop and says OK. I am uncertain if I’d ever see my clothes again but when I return in the evening there is a 10 year old girl in the shop feeding a baby. I point to my bag, she gets it, shows me the price on the calculator, and I pay and return with clean laundry.
The old city of Hoi An is bliss to walk around particularly in the early morning as it is not busy. My first stop is the tailor’s shop I had found yesterday with the material I liked. As with yesterday I am greeted by a lovely woman who can’t speak much English but sits me down with a bottle of water and rings her sister. This call brings many people: an older woman who I understand is the mother and who started the business; the sister who speaks very good English and appears to be in charge; and another woman who studiously writes down my measurements as the sister in charge calls out them out as she wields the tape measure. We discuss the dress and jacket I want to have made and instructions are recorded. We negotiate the price although there is not much movement because I already have an Intrepid discount.
There are hundreds of tailor shops to choose from but Intrepid have identified half a dozen that have good quality, aren’t sweatshops and who return to the community and negotiated a discount rather than the usual kickbacks. I like this philosophy and discover that in other shops or activities where this is not possible, the kickback funds are paid into the Intrepid Foundation where they are matched dollar for dollar and 100% of the money is used to support a large range of charitable organisations.
As well as the many tailors there are at least as many shops selling readymade clothing, scarves and bags. These appear to be mass produced or maybe there are only a very few styles available. But there were some lovely cotton/silk tops that were perfect for travelling. I spent a lovely few hours browsing all the shops and talking with artists or family of the artists who painted the wonderful pictures that adorned nearly every second shop in town; the jewellers who handmade the vast array of jewellery; carvers who carved the wonderful woodwork and even handmade wooden stamps.
Of course the tailor also had a family shop that would give me a good deal on shoes and the jewellery man had a family shop where I could get lovely clothes at a very good price. I did start to wonder if everyone was related.
I stopped to enjoy lunch at Cargo, another of the famous restaurants started by the same lady who started the Mermaid (yesterday’s lunch place) and bumped into Ingrid and Sarah doing the same thing.
Done with shopping I explored the streets of the wonderful old port town taking photographs and talking with the old ladies with their shoulder baskets who exchanged their photo for purchase of some fruit. I walked miles crossing bridges to islands with more shops and watched the various craft plying their trade on the river. It has a great ambience with little streets of old French style buildings many of which are two storied painted yellow and white with verandas and shutters. There are lots of trees and even smaller walking lanes one with well in the middle. The river runs through it and a stream has an ancient bridge across it with a shrine in the middle. There is plenty of character with locals peddling their wares on the streets, men offering rides on cyclos, old women offering to paddle you in their little boats or to smile nicely while you take their photo (for a dollar of course).
Then I walked out the other side of town to watch the farmers working in their fields and talking with many people I met along the way: I only know how to say hello and thank you in Vietnamese but even that is enough to bring forth wonderful smiles and their snippets of English. The children are delightful and often cluster together to chorus “hello” and then giggle with beams of delight when I say hello in English and Vietnamese.
Along the way I add to my list of strange things carried by bike, the strangest of which was a 6ft chest freezer that I didn’t have time to photograph as I had to move fast to avoid being knocked over by it. Walking back into town I met a herd of cattle being driven down the street by a farmer on a bicycle. Thankfully they appeared to have done this before and just quietly walk around me.
I then feel that I am need of a massage and try out the spa at the hotel. For a ridiculously cheap price I indulge in a 4 hands (2 people) herbal therapy massage which was wonderful.
We had dinner in the restaurant we had tried at lunch time and it was outstanding: a 2 course 5 star meal with a bottle of French wine for $20 each.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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