Hoi An

As stated previously, I hit a bit of a wall in Hoi An, but it turns out that it was mostly a perfect little place to do so! Lovely, historic town situated on a river, just off the coast, so you really have the best of both worlds. I decided to stay at the same place as G&V, which was a cute little guesthouse about halfway between the beach and the center of town. They did my
laundry (for free! Which was possibly accidental on my part?), lent out bikes (for free!), recommended tours, spas, tailors, and restaurants, and even hosted everyone for a little dinner on my first night. Super sweet people, plus my room was lovely. All I really did for two-ish days is putter around town on a bike, ate good food (who knew I liked Vietnamese food so much?), looked at pretty, old buildings, and of course, got some dresses made.

I say "of course", because this is the thing to do in Hoi An. There are clothes shops & tailors about every other foot, lots of shoe shops as well. I went into the recommended place (Bebe's, though I am sure many are good) with the intention of getting one sundress made,hopefully for cheap. Well, I was a bit in the wrong place, b/c I ended up with THREE quite nice little cotton dresses. It was really the smoothest sales job ever. The way it works is you sit down & either draw what you want, or flip through a huge notebook of magazine pages & bookmark the one(s) you like. I picked three that I wanted to combine, that were the idea I was looking for, and then she brought me some fabric swatches. She brought me crepe, in solid colors. I was like, ummmm- no. How about casual cotton prints? So we walk over to a giant stack of just that, and I pull 5 or 8 ones that had potential. We brought those all back over to my bookmarked pages, and started matching fabrics to dresses, with me mentioning the modifications desired (eg: no sleeves here, no bow there, ect). She just kept saying, and this one, a little bit different style? And really, how could I say no? ;). I bargained down the price from absurd to merely expensive (but I figured they were going to be custom made dresses, and she swore she'd make sure I was happy with them, ahem). Two of the prints I was super excited about, one I was much less sure on, but off I pedaled with my fitting appointment for the next morning. At the fitting, the first dress I tried was the one I was least sure about. Well- it fit like a glove & was adorable. Total work dress, or perfect for wedding/baby shower ect. 2nd one was the cute sundress, which needed some adjustments, no big deal. I asked if we could add pockets. Who knew, you had to specify that at the beginning. Sigh. Third dress was the one I was most looking forward to, but even after adjustments, I'm not exactly happy with it. But, again, there were things I couldn't change b/c I didn't say them at the start. Worst case, I can cut off the top & have a cute skirt, but I didn't really have time after the 2nd fitting for more adjustments. So, again- 3 new dresses, but was it worth the money? We'll see how much I wear them! (And no photos yet- it didn't occur to me at the time!)
The other great thing I did in Hoi An was another cooking class. I really wanted to go to a rice farm, but that tour wasn't running when I needed it, so another cooking tour it was to be. This was in some ways better even than the one in Chiang Mai- more fun somehow? For example, in the market, we were right in there with locals, and the head chef was actually purchasing our ingredients, so we want right along with him from stall to stall, and even had baskets to help carry the groceries. As most things in Vietnam, it was WAY more chaotic, so it's not like we were given extensive information during shopping, but was still super cool. Then a lovely boat ride out towards the coast, then a swap to a teeny boat (there were only 6 of us in the class) to do a quick float through a water coconut farm. They actually use the leaves more than the fruit (for roofing), so we saw a ton set out to dry. At the farm/kitchen place, we actually DID get a rice-making demonstration, using traditional methods to grind the husks, separate husks from rice kernels, and then another grinder for soaked rice to make rice milk. Fascinating stuff. I still can't understand why rice is so incredibly cheap, because nothing about it seems easy, from planting & harvesting, to actual production.
Anywhodles, our guide introduced us to our instructor who was an ADORABLE lady who was insistent that we learned how to say "1, 2, 3, cheers!" In Vietnamese. I won't try to spell it, but I think I still remember it several days later. She didn't really actually speak English, so the guide did some translating, but we all got through it mostly. We started out the pho broth first, then made fresh spring rolls, or as they are called in my recipe sheet : "salad rolls". This is actually more accurate b/c there was a giant pile of fresh herbs more than anything really. Some peanut sauce to join it & yum! Then we made a slightly complicated Hoi An specialty, which they call a pancake that you wrap in rice paper (with yet more fresh herbs), but it's made with rice milk & a little coconut cream, so I still don't understand how it becomes pankake-y. I did successfully flip mine though! Again- some sweet & sour dipping sauce & we were off. Third course was a southern thing, which they called beef with vermicelli. Again, it was basically a salad, with sautéed beef & cooked noodles on top, but then you pour this fab reduction all over it to makes it all warm & fabulous. "Bun Bo Nam Bo" is what it's called, but the "Bo" = beef, and I'm sure you can have it with pork. Finally we put our pho together, but again, it was Hoi An style, which for some reason I'm not as big of a fan. At this point I was stuffed, though, so no worries. All throughout the day, they had been refilling us with fresh-squeezed passion fruit juice, btw- so tasty & refreshing! I think for dessert they grout out some perfect pineapple, which was the exact right last bite.
Right after I finished this, I had my pick-up for the ride up to Da Nang airport for my flight to Saigon. All in all, a nice, relaxing break, though not as beach-oriented as I thought, b/c rain was always threatening (tho it only sprinkled one afternoon & morning, thankfully). The beaches there WOULD have been great, and I'm bummed I only squeezed an hour or two in...
I'll try to get to my day in Saigon soon- am so far behind! I leave tomorrow morning already for the beaches of Thailand! Hugs to everyone!