Yet another bus ride -- this one 5 hours during the day. I think all bus drivers in this country are certified lunatics! Overtaking other buses around bends on narrow, windy mountain roads! We also sat in the back of the bus which made the ride even more pleasurable -- at last we made it there in one piece.
Checked into a hotel based on a brochure we saw in Hue. There was a picture of a lovely bed with fresh flowers on the sheets and a beautifu; beach. Knew there was no chance of either one -- but lo and behold, when we got to our room, there were flowers on the bed - and the beach a mere 3k away! This was the best place we've stayed in by far.
Had a shower then toured the town and went for lunch. It was at a small cafe on the River that I fell in love... With an iced coffee. Those of you who know mw know I love my iced coffee. Thet served it to me in this tin drip cup with a lid over a glass that had condensed milk and sugar in it. Waited for the coffee to drip into the glass which sat on a perfect layer on top of the milk. Took the drip cup off, stirred the coffee and poured it over ice. It was complete art -- and soooo decadently delicious. We decided if we have a cafe in our store we will sell coffee this way -- so we bought 12 of the cups and shipped them home! Wait til I make some for you...
Walked around town a bit more and were so exhausted we had to stop for Happy Hours. We had sat less than 30 seconds when one kid after another, not older than 14, approcahed us basically begging us to buy whatever postcards, jewelry, lint they could hold. It was sweet at first until they kept coming in a steady flow and would not leave us to drink in peace. Was a conversation starter with a Canadian couple at the next table, who we ended up going out to dinner with because they had done a similar travel path to us.
Had loads of sleep because the next day we had clothes to make! Hoi An happens to be the tailoring capital of Vietnam, where apparently you can get anything made from a picture to your exact measurements. 2 years ago the town had 2 tailors, now there are more than 200!!! But we went to the one caled YALY on the recommendation of Matty from Le Pub.
The walls of this place were head to toe colorful silks and imported materials which seemed to go on for miles. We were immediately greeted by lovely women in silk Vietnamese dress, who escorted us to a table to flip through any of hundreds of magazines. L's lovely assistant was called Ha or Melissa in English. Mine was called Tho or Tho.
Here's how it works: You choose a design from a picture, you choose a material, they measure you and have whatever you want ready for the next day! This was not only impressive but also extremely dangerous. Where to begin?
We both knew we wanted suits so we helped each other with the design and material. Then it became a question of shirts to go with the suits. L had 5 made and I had 2. I also got a silk shirt and dress made. Decided that was more than enough damage -- but the grand total - at this point -- was about $300 USD for everything!
We then decided to hit the beach. Risked our lives by hiring push bikes and braving the roads - which turned out not to be as scary as we thought. Arrived on this gorgeous beach - turquoise water and almost no people. Took a long walk where the oply persone in sight was a man bathing himself in the sea. Magic. Ended up spending a few hours relaxing under a bamboo umbrella. Couldn't get much better than this.
But it did! That night we went to a restaurant called Mango Rooms - also a recommendation from Matty at Le Pub. he said it's a bit more expensive than your avereage restaurant but the best food he's ever eaten. We decided we were long overdue for spoiling opurselves and turned out it was worth every dong!
The placve is owned by a young Vietnamese guy called Doc. He was a boat refugee from Vietnam, who arrived in America more than 20yrs ago. Lived with a foster family, studied engineering, spent a good amount of time in Mexico. Then decided to leave everything behind and move back to Vietnam to open a restaurant. He does all the cooking himself on 5 little teflon pans, while 5 women chop and prep the ingredients for him. within 5 minutes of sitting down, Doc was out in the dining area talking to all of the customers. He was glad to hear we cam on referral and chatted to us for a couple minutes. Then, over a $6 bottle of Vietnamese wine, we waited for the feast. The food was absolute magic -- from the tuna wrapped in rice paper, to tiger prawns wrapped in beef, to beef with mango and tomato salsa. mmmmmm. Latino/Vietnamese fusion.
Then L decided that he wanted to pick Doc's brains a bit more, so the next time he came out the kitchen, he asked him if we could join him at the market in the morning. He said he was more than happy to take us. When all was said and done we had 2 bottles of wine and a magnificent 3 course meal for about $25 USD. Well worth every penny. We were so impressed we decided to add another day in Hoi An so we could go back the next night for dinner.
Next morning, Doc pulled up to the restaurant on his taxi yellow motorbike. Escorted us to the market which worked like the bikes on the streets -- complete organized chaos. Women selling everything from fruit to fish and bras to beans. First stop was to find pumpkin flowers, which he has fried up and served with the starters. Tasted a bit like okra. Then we went to see his bean lady for long string beans. Then we went to one of his fish ladies, who threw a bunch of squid on a scale and handed him a bag full. went to another fish lady - and were amazed when she cut off a massive chunk of tuna from the fish itself, handed it to him and he paid her 15,000 dong -- less than $1!!! The whole time he pointed out different fish, vegs and fruit we had never seen and shared with us how to prepare them. L gave Doc a few tips as well but then we realized that all of his tips were fast, easy preparation. All of L's involved slow cooking and more work!!
We left Doc around 10am to go back to YALY for the clothes fitting. L modeled his first. His suit looked fantastic and needed little alteration and his shirts fab as well -- wait til you see the bronze silk one! Then I tried my creations on and just could not believe how well they fit! We were so imppressed we asked them to make more shirts for Lawrence and another top and skirt for me! "No problem - come back at 6!"
So, decided to hit the beach again. Back into town for Happy Hours then back to YALY where they had indeed finished everything. Final fittings were too good to be true. So good, in fact, that L brouight in his favorite Armani top and asked of they could make 3 more of them to the exact specs. "No problem! Come back tomorrow at 11." We are now up to a grand total of 14 shirts for him! But at these prices, how can you refuse! I kept thinking of clothes I wanted but cut myself off for fear of never leaving that town and spending the remainder of our budget on a new wardrobe (if only L had twisted my arm...)
Back to Mango Rooms for dinner. This time Doc insited we leave the menu up to him. Good call as they kept coming to the table with amazing dishes - using all of the fresh seafood and meat he had bought with us that morning. "To quote the chef of the family... "Magic!" Another amazing meal and well worth staying over the extra night.
Next morning, back to YALY. Total damage for everything, including shipping to the U.S. - $620. May sound like a lot but not for the 8k of clothes we had made! Left Melissa and Tho very happy women and dragged L out of the shop -- we did have a bus to catch that night...