Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Taste of the High Life

I've just finished a 2 night/3 day cruise on Halong Bay and between this and Hoi An, I'm getting a bit spoiled in Asia (of course there are always things to bring me back to reality).

Enjoying China Beach, Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam sits just south of the DMZ in Vietnam and near Danang.  The small French influenced city has become quite the tourist spot particularly for their tailors.  Each street in the village center is lined with tailors and shoe shops galore, in fact it was harder to find a place to eat than find a place to have clothes or shoes custom made.

With only two nights planned for Hoi An, and full backpacks, we weren't going to have anything made...or at least that was the plan.  But the shops are just too tempting and the fabrics and designs just too alluring. I've never had anything made for me personally and I've always found it nearly impossible to find dresses.  The seeds started sprouting in my mind.  My mom decided to have "just a look" at some of the options in their catalogue.  Pretty soon we were shopping at every tailor for the right combination of price, fabric and design capabilities.  For two people that hadn't planned on getting anything done we were failing miserably.

Mom getting measured
And once we found a place we liked (we walked all over and then settled on the one in our own hotel), my mom's order kept expanding.  Even as she was getting measured she was debating a pair of pants (which became two when she tried on the finished product the following day).  In the end my mom had two pairs of pants, two skirts, two blouses and a pair of shoes made for her.  I had three dresses made for me.  It was so much fun it's probably best that we didn't plan more time in Hoi An.

We arrived in Hanoi the following day (after another night train), and immediately booked our trips in the area.  A 3 day/2 night trip to Halong Bay, a 3 night/2 day trip to Sapa in the mountains, and our overnight train to China.  We've just returned from the first trip to Halong Bay and our spoiling continued.  The scenery was gorgeous and it only rained a bit while we were kayaking into lagoons and wet anyway so the weather was just about right. 

Marguerite, our Junk Boat
The junk boat that we were put on was on it's maiden voyage so we could still smell the lacquer on the wood.  Everything was beautiful.  There were 8 of us on a boat that slept 15, which meant we had lots of space too.  The only downside came when we had to switch boats after the first night so our boat could go back and get licensed.  It meant spending the day with four of us cramped onto a small boat with some semblance of a sundeck (but the motor had to be cranked by hand to start it).  Our tour guide was great and very knowledgeable about the area and Vietnam customs and beliefs.  We booked with ODC Travel and I would definitely recommend them to anyone else interested in going.  It was a wonderful way to spend a few relaxing nights in Vietnam.

Looking into our room

View of Halong Bay at sunset

Only a few weeks left now before I return home.  If I'm honest, I'm as apprehensive as excited about it ending.  I spent most of my time on the boat desperately trying to work out how I'm going to spend the next few months (of course I was also determining just what food I want most when I get back).

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