Hoi An: great food and even better shopping!

Have spent the last couple of days wandering around Hoi An. So far, this is one of my favourite places in Vietnam. Great food, lovely – but persistent! – people and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s one of the cleanest cities I’ve seen so far here.

I decided to get some clothes made, and that was an experience! The turnaround time between choosing the outfit, being measured, then fitted and clothes wrapped to go was less than 24 hours.

I had a couple of maxi-dresses made, and they didn’t fit properly, so I had to go with the shop girl – on the back of a motorbike to the tailors. What an experience! Sitting behind a slight little thing, weaving through traffic, my main thought was “hope my travel insurance covers me if anything happens!”. I ended up in the back streets of Hoi An in their factory, where seven women of all ages were sewing on their machines. I tried on the dresses there, and the tailor made a note of the alterations and I rode back to the shop on the back of the bike.

I am a pretty good haggler, it turns out, and I really enjoyed the game of it all. One of my favourite expressions is “Oi choi oi! Ma Quoc!” which means “Oh my Buddha (God) – too expensive!”. They start high and I start low, with the one vendor saying: “You make me very sad with that price, madam.” I found my haggling skills really paid off in the market, where I was stalked by a woman who wanted me to visit her tailor shop. At each vendor I visited, she’d say “You visit my shop now, madam?”.  I found out later she scouts tourists at the start of the market, with her opening line being, “Where are you from?”

I have to say, though, visiting her little tailor shop was one of the best experiences of my life. Her son Ha, – who was “gender-challenged” shall we say – was the artiste of the family, and he was wearing this great shirt which I had made for myself. The turnaround time was a few hours between measurement and pick-up. He was a fascinating character, and I got an insight into how hard Vietnamese work. It’s basically 7 days a week, with only 5 days off a year for ted or New Year. He told me about his life and his plans to live in Australia one day. He was clever, creative and articulate. He said he learned his English – which was very good – from foreigners.

After I left Vien’s tailor shop, I was accosted by a lady who wanted me to have a foot massage – she too had been waiting for me to finish. What an experience that was! I was taken into a little room off the market, where she had her “beauty” shop. Even though I negotiated my price, she was very pushy. I loved the haggling that went with it, though, and she did teach me some Vietnamese swear words!

Off to Hue today, then Hanoi.

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