Posts Tagged “Hoi An”

Hoi An, the capital of Suits

Our travel sleeping choices have changed throughout the years. In the past, we have stayed mostly in typical “backpacker” hostels that usually contain a dingy private room for $15 or so. For the past number of years, our adventures seem to find us in small “traveler” hotels that range from $35-45 a night. These hotels are usually filled with local business men traveling to a meeting or retired German couples reliving their youth. The extra cost does add up but we have learned that maintaining the fortitude and morale of the group is critical in strange environments. We find ourselves in one of these hotels and spend the day hiding from the strange noises and smells outside.

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Eventually, we made it outside and were pleased to find a large town of European type canals, palm trees, rickety fruit stands on each corner and a tourist area of fine restaurants and tailors. These are the type of towns we try to avoid but like the hotel variable….we seem to be slowly changing into old Germans, reliving our youth. A local pottery family was offering free pottery classes and we ended up buying a few things to ship home. Nearby was a elderly Grandmother making “Ban Mi” sandwiches…which we had everyday for lunch ($0.75)

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At night the town seemed to explode with lights, music and food. Finely dressed Chinese and French couples stepped around smelly backpackers trying to bargain with locals merchants, while large groups of local teenagers break-danced on sheets of cardboard next to the canal. We shopped and ate to the sounds of “Rock me Amadeus” and old Justin Timberlake playing from kid’s boom-boxes while watching the giant nocturnal party. If we walked too far off the path, we found nervous looking backpackers buying bags filled with expensive substances and heavily make-uped women chatting economics with balding western men.

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During the day, we found a tailor with a good reputation (online) and started negotiating. Back and forth, we played good natured games of numbers that eventually we found a price and quality of fabric that suited our suits and tastes. I had two 3 piece suits, 6 shirts and a British style overcoat made, while Tamara had a vest, suit, blouse and fitted suit made. With shipping, it cost us a couple of weeks of income but with the price as long as we don’t gain much weight for a while. The fittings and alterations took a few days but eventually everyone was happy and we sent off the package for the transpacific journey home.

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Eventually, the time had arrived for us to face the train again. Another 18 hour, 500 miles of washing machine level comfort, medieval smells and epic scenery may seem like a strange choice considering a flight would only cost $100 each but the process of travel as important as the destination. Having said that, Tamara has always said that I am a “connoisseur of misery”. If I could, I would love to travel the 3 months via 17th century sailing ship to the new world or overland Asia with Marco or follow the path south with Livingstone. Fortunately, I love my Wife more and realize that there are more important things/responsibilities in life….but that is my default mentality that I layer my reasonableness upon.

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The train trip started so nice, with the room being fairly clean and empty. The air-conditioning succeeded in keeping the 90 degree heat out, as the South China sea crashed against the limestone shore outside our window. We enjoyed sitting in our private room, listening to music, chatting about some perceived insight while the ancient tracked machine pulled us south. That is a highlight I will store in my aging mind for later.

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Around the time, Tamara mentioned how lucky we were that our room was not filled with screaming children, the train pulled up to a small town. There was a knock at our door and in came a weary young mother with a newborn baby, a toddler, a grandma that seems to be recovering from a stroke and 3 sq meters of luggage. My Wife didn’t see the humor in the situation and headed to the food carriage. She ordered a few beers (I was disappointed when she would not share) and some local food, as I joked with the stewards.

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The evening found us in our bunks watching Despicable Me on the laptop with the toddler, while the Mother (infant permanently attached) quietly chatted with her ill Grand-mother. I can’t say it was a wonderful or restful night but it was all we could have hoped for.

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6AM found us pulling into Saigon; the old capital of Indo-China, the “Paris of the East” and the next leg in our Asia adventure.

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