First, it appears the Rathole Tradition of hotels is continuing for a third night: the current hotel turns out to be windowless (or rather, they have a window, and even have curtains for it, but it opens onto a blank concrete wall), damp, and musty. Unfortunately there are no better rooms and probably no drier ones in town: it’s winter, which is the rainy season here, and it’s been drizzling on and off all day. So the relative humidity is 100%; moss and plants grow plentifully (and picturesquely) on the roofs, and hotel mattressses are damp and unpleasant. I’m hoping that running the air conditioner will help with this, but I have my dark doubts. If it’s really bad tonight, I may try switching hotels tomorrow.
(Yes, I realize you don’t really care about how badly I’m suffering. But *I* do, and since I’m writing this I see no reason why you shouldn’t suffer right along with me. Friends share, right? 😉 )
I suppose this is also the time to point out that the hot water heater doesn’t actually produce enough hot water for a really good bath. *sigh* No, I’m not whining, I’m…well, okay, I’m whining. At least it’s not a concrete slab with straw mat and spiders; it could be worse, I could be back at the monastery. (I am not eating gruel for breakfast, either. 😉 )
At any rate, I have now walked all around Hoi An, about four or five times in fact (it’s a *very* small town). About half the shops are tailor shops–if and when I need a new wardrobe I’m coming out here! Prices are *very* low, and unlike Thailand, the tailors aren’t all conniving thieves. Which is to say, the fiber content is actually what they say it is, at least as far as I can tell. I’m having two pairs of silk-blend culottes (very wide-legged pants/split skirt) and a blouse custom-made, all for $41.
I’m also having a Vietnamese ao dai made for me. The ao dai is a uniquely Vietnamese invention, and very beautiful. Take a very tight sheath dress–like the Chinese cheong sam–made in shimmering silk brocade. (The silk is woven with warp and weft in different colors, in a brocade weave, but is very lightweight–so the overall effect is a supple, iridescent silk brocade that practically floats.)
Split the floaty brocade sheath dress up the sides to the waist, and wear it over a pair of lightweight silk pants. That’s an ao dai, and it looks stunning. What I’ll do with one I have absolutely no idea, but at $22 for the entire outfit (including silk outerrobe) how can you go wrong? I picked a very pretty blue/fuschia brocade, with white pants. I’ll pick it up tomorrow, and see if I can get a photo.
(The seamstress, incidentally, was shamefacedly gleeful that she had actually managed to charge some poor soul $35 (can you imagine that!) for the same outfit. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it would have cost at least five times that in the U.S..)
At any rate, having spent a pleasantly ruinous day shopping, I stopped by a tour outfit to see if there were any interesting day tours. It turns out that they have a tour to a silkweaving village! and to some other nicely scenic areas–but as soon as the guy found out I was American, he got very excited and really really wanted to take me on a tour himself. He used to work for the U.S. Navy–which I think means he was working for the South Vietnamese army during the war–and wants to know all about what it’s like in America, he loves talking to Americans. I’m dying to know what the war was like from the Vietnamese perspective, so I think this is really cool. Tomorrow morning he’s picking me up and taking me off for a motorbike tour of the silkweaving village and the Marble Mountains. Cost is “very expensive”–$20 for the entire day. Hey, I’ll pay it.
So anyway, I’d better get back to tonight’s very pretty, damp musty rathole, and see if I can get some sleep. I’m amazed how well I’ve been doing on no sleep, but this just can’t last forever.
P.S. An amusing aside–at the tailor’s, I ran into a very interesting Kiwi (New Zealander) and started up a conversation…it turns out that his sister-in-law is one of the ten best body painters in Holland (?), and her style is almost exactly the same as Richard’s! The world is very very small…so I got his card, and will be emailing him a link to Richard’s website, and perhaps I can introduce the two of them to each other. I am seriously starting to believe that everyone in the world is a secret body painter. 😉