Friday, 1 July 2011

Recapping - Part 2

The second and final part of my recap, dealing with Hoi An and Hue, is about to commence.

Chris and I arrived in Hoi An with one goal in mind: to leave with suits. Awesome, tailor-made suits. We set about achieving this goal from the minute we arrived. We hussled over to a hotel with cheap rooms and dropped our bags off. We couldn't check in just yet as the room still needed to be cleaned so we headed out for some coffee. It's probably worth mentioning that it was 8AM when we arrived, not-so-fresh off a night bus from Nha Trang.

After coffee we set about scouting for suits and trying to find the best deals. We visited 6 suit shops in total and priced a large range of suits and fabrics. Two suit shops caught our eye, they were Minh Nhi and Nhat Vy. Both would do a wool-cashmere suit of incredibly fine quality for $110. Minh Nhi had just the fabric I was looking for and Nhat Vy had the fabric Chris was after. We didn't want to settle on anything just yet as we felt we needed to weigh up our options objectively to get the bet possible suit at the best possible price.

"To the Internet!" I cried.

I wish I'd said that, but that's exactly what we did. We hit the internet at our hotel and checked out the reputations of the places we had visited. Good reviews were scrutinised to make sure it wasn't a fake post by the tailor and bad reviews were equally scrutinised. No reviews meant no rep. We discussed our options and agreed that it would be best to go to the two standouts: Minh Nhi and Nhat Vy. But before we could get cracking we needed to wash the night bus off our bodies.

"To the Showers!" I cried.

And to the showers we went...

Getting sized for my suit.
After a thorough scrub and a bit of a rest we headed back to Minh Nhi so I could get sized for a suit. Getting a suit tailor made is a novel experience and probably one I won't experience again for a bloody long time. I sat down and specified the fabric I wanted, the colour of the silk lining, the colour of the piping, the style, the fit, the type of lapel, the number of buttons, the ride of the pants and the slant and style of the pockets amopng other things. I asked for a dragon to be embroidered on the lining of the suit. I had done a lot of research into the style of suits and what best to wear and how best to wear it before going suit shopping. It's best to be prepared and know exactly what you want. I was told to return the next morning for the first fitting, roughly 18 hours later.

Chris pulled this face just before being sized. Priceless
After the rush of being sized for a suit I took a back seat as Chris got sized at Nhat Vy. He went through the same process, being ultra-specific to ensure he got the suit he wanted. After being sized he was told to return the following day, just as I was. It amazes me to think that the tailors are able to produce a perfect suit in just over 24 hours.

We were excited about the prospect of getting our suits, but worried that they might not turn out as well as we had hoped. We decided the best thing to do was to have some bia hoi and stop worrying. At 3000 dong a glass (R1), one can hardly go wrong. We sat and sipped our beer and chatted about how our suits were going to turn out. After a couple of glasses we went on a stroll through the streets of the old town, found a place to have some coffee and sampled the Banh My. In the evening we headed down to the river to see the streets and river illuminated in yellow light from thousands of lanterns. Hoi An is a beautiful town.

The next day was D-Day. My first fitting was at 11AM and Chris's at 12. We didn't want to arrive early and be disappointed that they weren't there so we decided to arrive later instead. We took another leisurely stroll after breakfast and once again settled down for some coffee. We are complete addicts, if you hadn't already noticed.

At 11:15 we arrived at Minh Nhi and I tried on my suit for the first time. It was fantastic and fitted perfectly. There were a few touch-ups that needed to be made, but nothing major. The suit was better than I had hoped and all my fears were put to rest. I now knew what my suit looked like and I was very happy with the result.

The first fitting was incredible!
There's the dragon!
Chris had a slight disappointment with his suit. Nhat Vy hadn't had enough of the fabric he wanted to make a suit, but they had a fabric which was almost identical. They had cut the fabric and got the suit ready to be made, but were waiting for the go-ahead from Chris. After checking the fabric with his desired lining, Chris said he was happy with it and they could go ahead and make his suit. Four hours later he tried it on and it was a perfect fit. Barely any tough-ups needed to be made and Chris was told he could collect it in the next couple of hours.
Chris's purple pinstripe suit...

With a purple lining!

Collecting our suits was a simple affair. We arrived at our respective shops and tried the suit on once more. Checked that all the touch-ups had been made then payed up. We both walked away with huge smiles on our faces. We'd achieved our goal for Hoi An!

But a trip to Hoi An wouldn't be complete without a trip to My Son, the ancient Cham temples. Seeing as Chris wouldn't be seeing Angkor Wat it was only fitting that he take in some of the ancient history on offer in Southeast Asia. The day after we collected our suits we headed to the ancient temples. Chris was like a little child at the temples and couldn't help pointing out all the phallic symbols. I was, of course, a lot more mature about the whole thing. Needless to say, the dong jokes were flying.

The ancient cultures sure love their wangs...
Here's one such wang...

We left Hoi An the following morning and arrived in Hue at about midday. It was a scorcher of a day in Hue with the mercury hitting 40 degrees. We planned to go to the Citadel and Imperial Palace a little later in the day to avoid the midday heat. We avoided the midday heat, but caught the 2PM-4PM heat which wasn't much less hot. The Imperial Palace was just as aweome as I remembered it. It truly is an amazing group of structures and you get immediately transported back in time as you walk around the cloisters. You're constantly reminded that this was what the Asia of old looked like. The grandeur and wealth of the place is a show of power and the Palace oozes the strength of an Empire from every brick.

The next day we checked out of our hotel, visited an awesome pagoda and got conned out of lots of money. It was an interesting day. I'll start at the beginning. We were leaving on a sleeper bus that night so we checked out of our hotel in the morning and headed over the river to one of the 'National Pagodas.' It was midday when we arrived and all the monks were taking their afternoon nap. But this turned out to be a good thing as we had the entire pagoda to ourselves and we were free to walk around and explore as much as we wanted. I'm not entirely sure why it's called a 'national' pagoda because it was pretty damn similar to the other thousand pagodas I've visited. It was still great to see though.

He was nice, until he took our money.
We left the pagoda and got screwed out of money. We met a really nice English teacher and got chatting with him. He was very friendly and invited us back to his house for some beer. We agreed and headed back to his house and had some beer with him. It was all very friendly and welcoming. He then suggested we get some lunch. We agreed, once again. This was our mistake. He took us to a local place that served hot pots and we sat down and had some more beer. The hot pot came out and we all tucked in. After eating our fill we headed back to his place and had some coffee. He then told us the cost of the meal was 520 000 dong and we had to pay it. We refused. He had invited his family along and had to contribute. We wouldn't subsidise his meal... Or so we thought. We ended up coughing up 400 000 dong for a shitty meal. Trust me, hot pots are shitty. Seafood hot pots have literally no taste. I don't know why we agreed to have it in the first place.

It's fair to say we were pretty, fucking hacked off with that wanker! All of our previous experiences with locals and sharing meals with them have been fantastic and they've always put in just as much as we have for the meal. To be ripped off by that guy left me feeling angry that he thought we had loads of money simply because we're tourists here. We had told him we were students and we were travelling on a tight budget. We had even explained how our currency is not that strong and it doesn't get us as far as European tourists.

We left that night for Hanoi feeling outraged at that seemingly nice man. But thankfully my experience with him highlighted how all those other meals with locals are such special events. Events and experiences I'll remember forever.


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