From this point on, this blog will mention two guys named Archie a lot. We were all now taking the same route down Vietnam, and at about the same pace. They like to joke that I was stalking them, tracking them down whereever they went. But really, I felt sorry for them, these two poor gap year kids, with noone to look after them. I would take on the role of parent and guardian, helping them keep safe and teaching them my pearls of traveling wisdom. I was definitely not stakling them because I had noone else to talk to.
Anyway, we three got into Hoi An around 2pm on a slightly more comfortable bus than the one that took us to Hue. We checked into a nice three bed room in a hotel called Greenfields, which lured us in with the promise of free cocktails every night at 6. I had 4 hours to kill, so I headed off into the old town, while the Archies watched Steven Segal movies in the room (i told you they needed looking after, poor kids). The only thing I wanted to get out of my trip to Hoi An was a tailored suit, since this place is apparently famous for its large number of quality tailors. I headed to a little side street to a tailor called Mac Khai which I had been recommended by a traveler a few weeks before.
The shop was full of immaculately dressed manikins, men in fine pinstriped suits and women in silk dresses. The walls were lined with roll upon roll of colourful fabrics. A young woman greeted me, and after haggling over the price of a suit and some shirts a little (unsuccessfully, I should add) she began measuring me up. Only a minute or two later she was done. I would come back the next two days for fittings and some adjustments, but that was it. The whole process, over three days, only took about an hour of my time. What I was left with was a suit that, to be honest, looked too good on me. I’ll put up a pic as soon as I get back.
The rest of my time in Hoi An was mainly spent wandering around the old town. Built around the river Thu Bon, it mainly consists of a huge market, selling live chickens, exotic spices, strange looking fruit, crawling insects, plus all the regular tourist crap. The best product on offer was Cao Lau – a flat noodle dish with pork and croutons that is the local speciality. Pretty much every meal I had in Hoi An was Cao Lau.
Wondering around the town, me and the Archies found a bridge crossing to a small dusty island. We were attracted by the sound of what appeared to be a street party in full swing – cheering, laughter, screaming and the ubiquitous karaoke. What we found was actually some sort of sports day or school party. Hundreds of early teenage kids were swarmed around a stage where confident youngsters were massacring the songs of Adele and Bryan Adams. In the distnace, another crowd surrounded a tug of war competition, between groups of people wearing different uniforms. I guess it might have been some sort of inter school competition, the events being only karaoke and tug of war. We found two other English travellers we met in Hue (Johny and Stevie) equally bemused. When the teenagers saw us all together, dozens of them came up to us, smiling, offering hands, wanting photos. It was quite surreal.
That evening we went to the three largest tourist bars in the town. We played some fierce games of Table Football – loosing heavily to two innocent looking Vietnamese girls. Our crippling defeat required a lot of cheap alcohol to help us get over the shame. Luckily ever bar served mug fulls of beer for only 50 cents. As you can expect, with such cheap alcohol, my night didn’t end early, or well for that matter.
That’s all I really did in Hoi An. There wasn’t really much else to do in the vicinity. But it was a nice place, with its quiet Chinese influenced architecture and slow pace of life. Our next destination was Na Trang – which in many respects would be the opposite of Hoi An. Come back soon.