From the hussle and bussle of Ho Chi Minh City we took a sleeper train (for 17 hours) to Da Nang, from where we were picked up and taken to our hotel in Hoi An. Arriving around midday on Sunday 27th October, we dropped our bags in our rooms and, after a quick freshen up, went for lunch in the hotel restaurant. After lunch we returned to our room for a rest and do some research on places to see and eat as well as tailors, for which Hoi An is famous for. Feeling rested after a few hours, we walked into town for an explore and to find somewhere to eat dinner.
On Monday we walked into town to have a look at some of the tailors we had shortlisted the day before. With almost 200 tailors on TripAdvisor, narrowing it down to a shortlist of four took a while. We decided on long-standing family business with enough good reviews on TripAdvisor. The first one we visited was call Rin My Fashion and we placed an order for a pair of smart trousers for Lindsay and a pair of Chinos for me. (Read more details about our experience of getting clothes made in Hoi An). With a view to getting other clothes made as well, we visited the remaining three tailors on our shortlist. We immediately discounted one because the staff were bordering on rude, one didn’t stand out as anything special, while the last one we were amazed at how friendly and welcoming the staff were – a change to the constant pressure to buy something felt in most shops and markets in SE Asia. When we said we were thinking of getting some things made but were quite sure what we wanted they suggested that we take our time, have a look in other tailors in town and on the internet for ideas and then to return later. After a stop at the Reaching Out Teahouse for Vietnamese coffee and biscuits we spent the majority of the afternoon wandering around town, popping into numerous tailor shops to look for ideas, before popping back to the hotel to spend some time doing some research on the web. Feeling confident that we had both decided what we wanted, we headed out to find a restaurant for dinner. After a delicious dinner in a restaurant called Morning Glory, we returned to Rin My Fashion for our first fitting and then back to Phuong Nam to place an order of a winter coat for me and a dress for Lindsay. Feeling rather pleased with our day’s accomplishments we decided to take a walk around the night market before heading back to the hotel for the night.
Our first stop on Tuesday morning was Rin My Fashion for the second, and final, fitting of our trousers. We took our new trousers back to our hotel and spent the remainder of the the morning catching up with writing our reviews on TripAdvisor – we use the site so much we felt it is only fair that we add our own reviews to help others – and doing some research on local cooking schools. With our cooking school chosen, we walked to their restaurant in to town to book it for Thursday afternoon. From here we walked across the river and ate lunch at Enjoy Hoi An restaurant whlist enjoying the views of the old town back across the river. After lunch we returned to the hotel, extended our stay by another two nights, and booked a trip to the temples of My Son for tomorrow. The remainder of the afternoon was spent enjoying the cool aircon in our hotel room, updating the blog and our journals and catching up with home. The evening came around quickly and we headed back into town to find somewhere for dinner. We settled on a restaurant called Cargo’s and wish we hadn’t – the food was hugely overpriced for the quality of it and the staff weren’t too polite. We returned to Phuong Nam after dinner for our first fitting. Whilst there we chatted with the staff and learnt more about the tailoring business in Hoi An. Phuong Nam have a small factory on the outskirts of town where multiple tailors will work on each garment – for example, we were told that four tailors would have been working on my coat to get it ready in time! We were really impressed with the quality of the coat and the dress and decided to place another order with Phuong Nam for a pair of cargo trousers each. Quite tired after another day of shopping and walking we headed back to our hotel for an early night – tomorrow’s trip would require an early start!
We were picked up at 0745 on Wednesday morning for our trip to the temples of My Son. We did a tour of the hotels in Hoi An picking up other tourists and set off on the hour-long drive to My Son. On the way we were able to see some of the real Vietnamese countryside – local people working in paddy fields wearing the traditional conical hat. It was a ten minute walk from the bus park to the temples and, with the path slippery from recent rain, it was an entertaining walk in our flip flops! Just as we started our guided tour of the first section of temples, it started to rain until we were in the middle of a heavy downpour. We hadn’t really considered this eventuality before leaving the hotel and had left our waterproofs behind! Luckily the downpour only lasted around 20 minutes and, although we were soaked by this point, it didn’t take long for us to dry out. Having looked around all of the remaining temples (many disappeared over time and others were destroyed by bombs during the war), we precariously walked back to the bus along the path that was now even more slippery! The bus dropped us back at our hotel just after midday and we enjoyed lunch in the restaurant attached to the hotel. We took a brief walk into town after lunch before spending the majority of the afternoon back at the hotel doing some planning for the days ahead. In the evening we returned to Phuong Nam for a fitting of the coat, the dress and the two pairs of trousers, before continuing to Morning Glory for dinner again, having really enjoyed our previous visit. After another delicious dinner we took a stroll around the night market again before returning to the hotel.
The first part of Thursday morning was spent at the hotel catching up with the blog and our journals, before we headed into town around 1030 for a fitting at Phuong Nam. Before heading to the tailor we visited another shop in the Old Town – Metiseko – we had walked past the previous evening. At the tailors we tried on all of our new clothes, which we were both really happy with, and then took them back to the hotel and had lunch. After lunch we walked to the Goian Cooking School for our lesson and met Vina, our teacher for the afternoon. We cooked fried pork spring rolls, chicken pho and chicken with chili and lemongrass. The class was great fun and we both really enjoyed ourselves as we learnt to cook some traditional local food. It was just the two of us for the class and it was very different to the class we undertook in Siem Reap, but just as enjoyable.
Once the lesson had finished, we said goodbye to Vina and headed into town to see the latern-lit town one more time before we depart tomorrow. We stopped off in the hotel restaurant for a couple of drinks – local beer for me and Lipton Ice Tea for Lindsay – before calling it a night.
Friday morning we were faced with the challenge of squeezing our new clothes into our already full backpacks! It took us a while to work out how to manage it, but did get it all in eventually. Having really enjoyed our time in Hoi An, we said goodbye to the friendly staff in the hotel and climbed into the hotel car for the journey back to the train station in Da Nang, from where we would get the train to Hue – our next stop.
Photos from Hoi An can be viewed below or at http://photos.andywicks.com/HoiAn
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