Sewing capital of the world

Trip Start Jan 16, 2006
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Wednesday, March 8, 2006

We are back! After all of the concerned emails wondering where we are and if we are ok, we are putting in another entry. It is sometimes difficult to find a computer that won't drive us crazy, but we promise to put our entries online in more quickly and frequently. I think we left off at Nha Trang. Originally we hadn't planned to go to Nha Trang, but my buddy Rick R. has spent some time there and spoke highly of it. So we are glad we came here, thanks Rick! On our final day in town, we took time out of our morning to go to a local school for street children. They learn English from 9:30 to 10:30 and then another class for older kids, (8 to 11 years old or so), from 10:30 to 11:30. It was taught at a local bar, and we went for both sessions. When we were at the bar, called Crazy Kims, the night before, they had a page in back that encouraged native English speakers to come in and help teach in the mornings. We figured we could tear ourselves away from the beach and help out for a morning. Boy, are we glad we did. These kids, who otherwise spend their days hawking postcards and necklaces, are really good at English. The teacher is a Vietnamese guy who has us read out of a school manuel and the kids write it in thier books. Then one of them comes up and writes it on the board. They take turns reciting it in English and then someone has to read the English sentence and translate it back into Vietnamese. Outside of some pronunciation problems these kids have a real strong grasp on the language. They have incredible spelling and know the difference between such things as their, there, and they're. I also quizzed them on the difference between right and write, and they all knew the difference. Amy and I were joined in the class by an Australian gal, and the teacher even made the kids hear the different vowel sounds made in the pronunciation differences between us. Of course we were besieged by the kids after class wanting to sell us postcards. Of course we had to. So now we have a grip of postcards that we neither needed or wanted. So that night we took the 6 pm bus to Hoi An, where we are now. The bus went all night and arrived at 6 am. We followed our strategy of getting the first hotel available and looking for what we wanted later. Believe me when that bus stopped at 6 am Amy and I were ready to take anything just to go to sleep. At 8 bucks with hot water and a balcony we were sold. Slept for a couple of hours and then went out to see the town. Hoi An is a sleepy little town of about 75,000 people which predicates its income on sewing. There are tailor shops all over town. We were roped in by a lady who led us through the maze of back streets to take us to her family shop. So we got measured. Amy got two skirts, and I two shirts. "Come tomorrw for fitting". We will. So we went on our hotel search and found something right in the thick of the action with a balcony overlooking the street. It is a little more expensive than our other hotel, but much closer to the action and bigger. As I stand on the balcony and look across the street there are no less than 17 tailor shops in a row. That is what it is like on all of the downtown streets. I don't know how they all stay in business, but they seem to. We booked a sunrise trip to My Son for the next day. It was some really nice ruins, but not as nice as some of the others we have already seen, and the sun was blotted out by the clouds. There were some other travelers on the tour and they gave us some good advice on places to eat in town. We had to nap for a while after our 5 am start and our change in hotels. We did the walk around town and had lunch on the riverside. The next day we rented a moto to drive up to the marble mountains and then on to Da Nang. We got on the road pretty sure we are going the right direction but not sure where the turn off is. Two gals pull up next to us and ask where we are from and where we are going. We say the US and she says, "totarry awesome". We also tell her we are going to the marble mountains and she says that is where she lives. So we follow. She pulls us right up into her family shop, of marble carving, to park and gives us a map to the area. One of her friends shows us the way to the entrance. The mountains are really cool and full of caves. We stumble our way around the crags and are thankful that it isn't raining, as the smoothly worn marble is already slippery enough. The sights from the mountains down to the town one way, and down to the South China Sea on the other are really cool. We always continue to marvel at the fantastic vantage points we happen to stumble upon. After a couple of hours around the mountains walking along the paths listening to the constant tinleling of hammer and chisel working the rock into impressive forms, we go back to get our moto. Of course, we buy something from the lady who got us here and helped us park. We jump on to the beachfront road for the last 6 to 8 miles to Da Nang. It is the famed China Beach. There is nothing here. No really, nothing. Miles and miles of beach with nothing on it. No shops, hotels, or even people. We are shocked. In our American way of thinking we expected it to be totally built up with hotels, resorts, beachfront restaurants and the like. No, nothing. We really can't believe it. It is probably the widest and most well paved road we have been on in this country, but it services NOTHING. Maybe the construction boom is coming, but it obviously hasn't come yet. Part of our day trip was to see if we wanted to come up here to see the beach for a few days, but that question has been answered with a resounding no. The city of Da Nang is a couple of miles inland but we want to be on the beach. So we drive for a few more miles up the coast just to enjoy the salty breeze and view of the water. We happen on a bunch of motorscooters and figure there must be a bar down by the water so we park and go down. It is a Vietnamese tourist resort. We are the only westerners there. This is one thing that Amy has discovered on this vacation, I am good at loosing all other westerners. It always seems that I drive, or even walk, just for a little bit and then we are surrounded by a gaggle of people staring at us. Anyway, we get our beers and the waiters sit down to enjoy them with us. They don't speak English but that doesn't stop them from talking at 100 mph to me. They talk me into a bowl of soup and it comes out with snails in it. Oh well, when in Rome... So we enjoy a couple of hours there and then it is time to go from our little spot on the water. We get back home earlier than we expected, so Amy left to get a massage in the market area, and I needed to get a haircut. I had seen a little hole in the wall with a barbers chair in it the other day and decided to get it cut there. He, Dr. Ear, as he called himself wanted to give me a ear cleaning, shave and haircut. Sure, why not. He starts talking to me after the ear cleaning, while he is lathering me up for the shave, and asking me questions. He gets to, "where are you from", right as the straight razor is coming up to me. I would be lying if I told you I didn't feel some trepitation telling him America, as this unknown Vietnamese guy was holding a brand new, gleaming silver razor to my throat. But, it didn't seem to matter. I got my shave and haircut in no time. By the time I was done all of the local school children were gathered around watching and practicing their English on me. "Hello, what is your name?". "Where are you from?". Nobody here knows where Colorado is, so Amy and I have taken to telling people we are from California, since they all know where that is. So back to the hotel. We take the suggestion of one of the other travelers and go to one of the local "restaurants". It is down a side street, turn left at an unmarked alley, then another right at another unmarked alley and then listen for grease bubbling from the deep fry kettle. It must be good because they are doing a bang up business in to-go for the locals. We are shown to our table which is a plastic kiddie picnic table and kiddie stools situated under a tarp on the side of another establishment. They let me stack 2 or more stools on top of each other so I don't have my knees in my chin. "Tall, tall, more chair". We don't realize that there is no menu and they just start bringing food. It is really good. Some of the best we have had in Vietnam. Rice paper that you fill with some combination of the following: chicken or pork skewers, spring rolls, rice panckake with shrimp and beansprouts, and mixed greens including green bannana, basil, cucumber and ??? We never ask for more, they just bring it. Again and again and again. When we are done, they bring fruit. Since there is no menu we don't know what we are going to pay but the bill in only 90,000 dong, which is $5.66, a bargain at twice the price. We like our dinner at Ba Le Well. We have found that Vietnamese food is nowhere near as good as Thai, and are happy anytime we can have something really good. Hoi An has been good that way as they also have another local specialty called Cau Lao. It consists of fresh rice pasta noodles in a broth with beansprouts, croutons and slices of pork on top. I have been eating it all over town. Restaurnats, rolling carts, and alleys. I play no favorites. Well that isn't true. I have been boycotting, much to Amy's dismay, places with chairs. It isn't a real Vietnamese restaurant if there are chairs, I say. I will only eat in places with plastic stools. I also had something called che the other day. It is a cool dessert soup. I bought it from one of the traveling food people. She carries all her stuff with her, including the water to "wash" the glass. I think that washing means to get wet. That is what I gathered from watching her clean my glass before I had my unknown contents drink poured in it. Tasty. Since we aren't moving as quickly as we had thought through Vietnam, we had our visas renewed for another 30 days. So now we aren't rushing to get out of the country in another week, which wasn't going to happen. So we celebrated by going out to but more tailored clothes! We don't know how we will carry all of this but we will figure it out later. Just as an example I bought 9 ties, that I picked the fabric out for, and they cost me $35 total. We have spent most of the last 2 days picking out clothes and fabric, being measured, and going back for fittings. Repeat as necessary. It takes up most of our day. Fitting at one tailor at 9am and then at 10 am at another, then back to the first one to check on the adjustments. We are pretty happy with most of it, and some of the others are being fixed right now. So we are just taking our time along the road. We should leave for Hue (pronounced: way) tomorrow and then we will have another update for you all. Thanks for your concern and we promise to update more often in the future.


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