Hoi An & Hue: tailors and tropical storms


Our next stop, Hoi An, has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site, mostly for the colonial style architecture in the town's old quarter. According to UNESCO its an "exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century".

Hoi An is also well known for the prolific number of tailoring stores which all offer made to measure clothes at varying cost and quality. but all for a fraction of the price you would get back home. We had booked a standard room at the Thanh Binh III Hotel but the room was not very nice and there were ants everywhere. Brent managed to negotiate an upgrade to their top room for only $5 more a night (nice!) and we moved across the next day to a room with a balcony overlooking the pool and which had a big jacuzzi bath! (Tough life, I know!) We had internet searched recommended tailors and most peoople had given glowing recommendations of a place called Yaly. Although slightly more expensive than some of the other tailors, we had heard horror stories of people's tailored suits falling apart the first time they wore them so we went with the tried and trusted Yaly

Brent opted to get two suits made at Yaly while Cath chose a winter coat. She also had a skirt made at another tailor shop the following day while Brent had some shirts made. Once we had chosen our materials and design and were measured up we were then told to come back that evening for a first fitting.

We spent the day walking around the Unesco world heritage part of Hoi An before returning in the evening. It was impressive what they had managed to do so far. Cath had never seen Brent looking so smart in his suit (comparably to the cargo shorts and singlet she gets every day now!!). Cath had a bit of trouble with her coat however. Cath had been asked to indicate where she wanted the belt to sit on her hip and had that measured. However, Cath meant where the bottom of the belt would sit, while the tailor took the measurement from the top of the belt so that when she tried the coat on the belt now sat around her bum! Initally the staff tried to make out that it was Cath's fault and she would be charged an extra $15 if she wanted it corrected. We were told to come back in the morning as her saleswoman was not there at the moment. The next day after a lot of discussion they said they would change the coat at no additional charge. It was plainly clear that it had been a misinterpretation, however they still made out like it was Cath's fault, which soured her experience.

Brent on the other hand had a great time being fussed over with his suit jackets and trousers. He went back for several fittings until it was just right. We also bought some ties at the local market to match, so he will be ready to impress when it comes to getting a job (Gasp!) again. With the clothes safely ready to be posted off to New Zealand, we spent the last afternoon relaxing by the pool and organising our bus to Hue the next day.

Hue (pronounced Whey) is the ancient capital city of Vietnam and sits in the middle of the country and sits on either side of the banks of the Perfume River.

It was just a three hour bus ride north, a short hop compared with the 7-12 hour slogs we had become accustomed to. The ride itself takes in some of the loveliest scenery in the country. We also met some lovely people on the way up so it was a nice journey all round. The bus stopped at the “station” in Hue, which was actually the bus company's own guesthouse and we were given a short sell to stay there. However, we had pre-booked a place called the Holiday Hotel which offered a free pick up service. However, when Brent booked the room we don't think they realised there were two people, or else grossly mis-guessed the amount of luggage we have as they sent one lone man on a motorbike! He took one look at us and got on the phone to order a taxi for us and before we knew it we were there.

The Holiday Hotel lived up to its excellent reviews, the room was small, but perfectly formed and clean. The only downside was the small breakfast of a one egg omelett and baguette, but it was adequate enough. We found a lovely restautant down the road called Red Chilli and decided to spoil ourselves to a nice meal. However, when Cath's food arrived they asked Brent if he also wanted some food. He replied that he had ordered at the same time as Cath! He ordered again, the Pork Ribs. A wee while later out came a lovely meal made up of Pork and little salads and sauces. Then when the bill came it had the wrong meal on the bill and cost twice as much as the meal Brent ordered. We told them that we did not order this meal but apparently this was the one he had been given. In the end we paid the correct amount for our original order and left as it was getting late and we had already been there longer than intended as Cath had finished her dinner before Brent's even arrived!

The main point of interest in Hue is the fortified citadel which sits across the river from the main area of hotels and restaurants. It includes the Forbidden City where the emperor once lived, and a series of pagodas. Unfortunately the complex was severely damaged by the Americans in the late 1960s so little remains. The area is undergoing a huge refurbishment project with many buildings in the process of being restored.

As we had two days planned in Hue we decided to walk around the Citadel on the first day and then rent a taxi to visit the tombs of the emperors a few kilometres south of the city, on the second. However, the way things panned out was quite different from planned!

Unfortunately we also had to move from our hotel as they did not have any vacancy for the next night. The staff at the Holiday hotel were great, they took us to two hotels just down the street, the second of which we took. The Huenino Hotel was quite a new guest house so still relatively unknown. The room was very tiny - but had everything you needed. The owner was brilliant. He knew little English but was very welcoming and friendly and we would definitely recommend it.

Tropical storm Mindulle
We spent the next morning doing our homework like good kids, ie catching up on our blogs. The weather had been pretty bad all morning so we decided to wait it out and hope that it got better in the afternoon. However by lunch the rain was still pouring down so we decided to see if we could find somewhere to eat lunch close by. We had walked for about 10 minutes when we were forced inside a place called Hot Tuna by the onset of a torrential downpour. We had a nice lunch and decided it would be best to wait inside for a bit as the rain was really getting extremely heavy and starting to flood the roads. There were a couple of English girls who had the same idea in mind so I asked them to join us.

We spent a lovely afternoon over a few Huda beers (one of the local brews in Hue) as a massive lightning storm passed over us. The lightning got so bright and the thunder so loud it made us (well, Brent would say the girls) jump a couple of times when it clapped right over our heads. By now there had been torrential rain for about five hours and there was quite a bit of flooding outside. People were walking down the road with water past their ankles, and the roads were turning into mini rivers. At 5pm we decided we might as well make a run (or wade) for it.

By the time we got to our hotel up the little alley way the water was at mid-calf level! We decided not to go out anymore and asked our kind hotel owner if there was any food which could be cooked - perhaps some simple rice or noodles. He pointed us to a delivery service at a place down the road called the DMZ Bar - it was actually the place we ate dinner at the night before! We rang the bar and were in the middle of trying to look at their menu on the internet when a moto arrived with a waiter and two menus! What a service! We ordered and had our food delivered to us at the hotel and had a lovely meal in the relative safety of our hotel. It was not until later that night when we turned on the news that we discovered there was a tropical storm just off the coast from Hue!! Hue was the worst hit that night, with the storm due to move North East the next day - right in our flight path!!

Air Vietnam
We had planned to take an overnight train up to Hanoi but because we did not book in advance the seats were sold out (it is currently high season in Vietnam for domestic holidays). In the end we found a flight for just $10 more than what a 12 hour train ride would have cost us! Unfortunately for us our early morning flight now took us right into a tropical storm. However, a little to Cath's dismay, the flight was still running and on we went. It wasn't long until we got the warning about turbulence on the flight. Then not long after a warning about severe turbulence and then a warning for the cabin crew to take their seats. The the plane started shaking quite a lot and there were a few scary moments before we passed back over land and down to Hanoi. Despite swearing never to fly again, Cath found herself booking another flight a week later!.

Source: Travelblog



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