Monday, October 8, 2007

Hội An

- Update -
Ok, so I got home at 19:00 and since Tina was still out running errands I figured that I better quickly throw in a post. When I meet Tina for dinner later she informs me that she posted about Hoi An before she left. What surprises me in reading both now is the fact that it appears we actually listen to each other while we talk and wrote close to the same thing.

So today you get two for the price of one, enjoy.

Hoi An is a small little town located in Central Vietnam just about 40 minutes south of Da Nang. This is very much a tourist town, and what it is apparently known for is its tailors. We only stopped there because it is the closest town to My Son, its old town section is an UNSECO site with really unique architecture, and there are a lot of quaint cafés to eat and drink at along the river and throughout the town. I seemed to have missed the whole section on custom tailored clothing and shoes when first scanning through the guide book. We had a few people tell us in Hanoi and in Halong Bay how great the deals on clothes are and that we should really look into having something made while we were there.

The first thing that you notice when you get into town is the local people and the sheer amount of shops within a 4 block downtown area. The people here are much more aggressive than the people in Hanoi in trying to get a sale. They usually all sit at the entrance to their stores and the minute they see you look in the store they jump up with “Buy something, please look, many colors, many sizes. We make for you.” It gets overwhelming, especially if you just want to look in quickly and see what kinds of clothing they might have.

The housing architecture is amazing, but the buildings are old and in rough shape. A lot of the walls are crumbling and moldy, and apparently the city floods quite often during this rainy season. Our first night at dinner another couple told us that the stores all at the river were flooded with a meter of water the day before. There is a lot of Chinese influence, as many refugees from the collapse of the Ming Dynasty moved here, along with the influence of the Japanese and the French. One does spend some time amazed at the condition of these buildings, as what we are used to most all of these buildings would have been condemned.

Once you get used to the pushiness of the local merchants it is fun to do some shopping, you need to view the items in each store by looking in when they are still a few stores in advance or across the street, but once you go in you can barter with them and have them make items for you fairly quickly. We didn’t get a lot of clothes, but some linen shirts that we had made were completed in just under 4 hours at a cost of around $12 each.

The hard part is really in checking out all of the materials, we saw a lot of nice t-shirts that said they were 100% cotton but felt very much like a polyester blend. When you call them on it they just say "It is same. Yes, cotton. Same, same." And they say this a lot, the third or fourth time she said "Same, same" we just kind of looked at each other and said "Ah, so that explains the t-shirts..." There are a lot of t-shirts that you see for sale in Hanoi and here in Hoi An that say "Same Same" on the front and "...but Different" on the back. We never understood what that meant until then.

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