Tailors and Food
04.02.2007 - 06.02.2007 22 °C
The travel agent in Mui Ne was rather efficient. So efficient in fact that he sold us soft sleeper tickets (4 to a compartment, slightly more upmarket) that turned out to be hard sleeper tickets (6 to a compartment, somewhat downmarket). Anyway, the trip up to Danang was quite an experience. Not a lot of sleep, but we met a great young British girl (had also purchased hard sleeper for the price of soft) and some very nice Vietnamese people. The train was very crowded, not so hygeinic and had a buffet car that reminded me of the bar on the outlaw planet in one of the Star Wars movies.
We arrived at Danang at 5:30am and shared a car with the British girl into Hoi An. This is a fascinating place with a small "old city" area that is largely intact and is restricted to general traffic (a good thing in Vietnam). We spent a day looking at historical sites (Chinese temples, old houses, Japanese bridge) and ended up at one of the town's famous tailors. There are many tailors, dressmakers and shoemakers here who are all more than keen to make a deal.
I decided that for the first time in my life I would have a suit made. Sonia thought she would get a dress whizzed up. After several hours at the tailors, I have ended up with the suit, two pairs of pants, two shirts, two pairs of shoes and several ties. Sonia has two dresses, a silk tunic and pants set, a pair of boots and a pair of sandals. All of this was made to measure (including the shoes) and ready to pick up in 24 hours. The next purchase will be another suitcase to carry all this in.
Yesterday we went to a cooking school. I was a reluctant participant but found it something of a highlight. We started with a guided trip through the markets where we were given a lot of information about the produce and cooking utensils (we all bought a set) and were then taken by boat to this cooking school further down the river. Most of the group were Australians and we all became great mates on the boat. At the cooking school, we learnt how to make our own rice paper to make spring rolls, created an eggplant and pork dish and cooked a local pancake type of recipe. After that we ate these and other dishes before taking the boat back to Hoi An. It was really good fun and we were all able to share stories and get ideas about the next part of the trip. It was reassuring to hear that others had been ripped off by the Saigon cyclo drivers although I think we may have set some sort of a record with them. When we arrived back, we all had to rush off for second fittings at the tailors.
Today we took a tour out to My Son which is a complex of Cham ruins a couple of hours from here. Although they were pretty much wrecked in the American War (as it is called here), they were very interesting as the Chams were the enemies of the Khmers whose wonderful art we had seen at Angkor. I sort of felt I needed to pay my respects to both sides.
Tomorrow we take a bus to Hue.