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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Shopping, Failing to change plans Hoi An, Vietnam, Tuesday, 20 March 2007 3:00am

I woke up too early today. The travel is starting to wear me out. Yesterday's train was a marginal night's sleep, which would have been fine if I'd managed to get enough rest today, but that just didn't happen. Our (beautiful) room, with balcony has big windows that let in the morning sun. After I woke up because of the light, and closed the drapes, I didn't really get back to sleep. I spent the whole day out of sorts because I was tired.

Jessica and I did the Old City walking tour in the morning. We'd been through almost all of the streets already, but this time we stopped to go in to various historical buildings. Some of it was pretty neat. Hoi An was one of the foremost trading centers in Vietnam before the port silted up, and there were many immigrants from China. Communities from different places in China built temples and meeting halls. We visited several congregation halls. The Fukien was the most elaborately decorated. We also saw some small museums. Their collections weren't great, but the building that houses the Museum of Trade Ceramics is beautiful. Dark wood, elegantly carved.

We found the Ba Le well restaurant during our wanderings, and decided to go there for lunch. It turned out that they're not serving the dish that their well is famous for anymore. In fact, they were only serving a set menu. We sat down, expecting to be given a menu, but were instead given greens, bbq pork, shrimp rolls, and banh xeo, which the hostess taught us how to wrap in rice paper. It was tasty, but didn't satisfy my desire for cao lau.

Tomorrow calls for a pretty crazy schedule, getting up well before dawn to take a car back to Danang and then a train to Hue early enough to see some sights there and catch an early-afternoon flight to Hanoi. After the morning's sightseeing, I was pretty beat, so I floated the idea of leaving Hoi An this evening, and spending the night in Hue. If Jessica's clothes were ready at 3pm, and didn't turn out to need alterations after her fitting, we could make to Hue before dark.

With that plan in mind, Jessica went back to the hotel for a while, and I spent the middle of the day doing some souvenir shopping. It was a surprisingly good time to shop, since most of the tourists were eating lunch, and most of the shopkeepers were resting. I could go from shop to shop without being cajoled to buy things, take a good look, and buy just what I wanted. I found most of the things I was looking for by 2:30.

Unfortunately, Jessica's jacket wasn't ready at 3. The embroidery was taking longer than expected, so they asked us to come back at 5. That would have us getting to Hue well after dark. Still a possibility, if we booked a hotel ahead of time, but we decided that it was best to give up on that plan.

A good thing, since the jacket still wasn't ready at 5. We were asked to come back again at 6:30. At 6:30, the jacket was finally ready, Even with the delays, it was less than a 24 hours after it had been ordered, and it fit well on the first try. No alterations necessary for the jacket or shirts.

Since we'd given up on getting to Hue tonight, we had a relaxed dinner on the second floor balcony at a riverside restaurant. The food was only okay (except for the spicy shrimp with sugarcane, which was excellent), but we got to watch dusk fall on the river. There was a series of ferries that executed elegant S-turns and parked parallel to the street. Once the boat was packed full of students in their school uniforms with their scooters and bicycles, it would take off down the river and another boat would take its place.

The river is very beautiful in the evening. There are mountains in the distance in shades of indigo. And in the foreground there's a constant languid circulation of small boats.

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