Monday, July 21, 2008

Hoi An: Better than Filene's Basement

For this weekend's adventure Doannie and I traveled to Hoi An, an ancient shipping village which was part of the famous Silk Road. A bustling port which once connected silks from Japan to spices from China, it is known for its unique blend of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and French architecture. During its heyday merchants from each of these countries maintained their own local governments in town while they went about their trades. The port ultimately filled in with silt but Hoi An was left with the regal buildings of these four communities and a legacy of fine craftsmanship. Otherwise known as...the place to do some serious shopping.

The adventure began when we boarded our bus Friday afternoon to find out that it was no ordinary bus, but rather a sleeping bus! Strapped in on the top level of the double decker like babies in bassinets, we traveled the four hours from Hue to Hoi An in style. The trip took us into the fog of the mountains and over the incredible Hai Van pass, after which we descended upon beautiful blue bays and white sandy beaches. After a week of saving money at the convent, we decided to splurge on a 5-star beach resort, a complete bargain at the current Dollar to Dong ratio.

But the bargins didn't end there. We had come to Hoi An on a mission: to purchase 8 tuxedos for Doannie's best friend Daniel's wedding (see related post: Buu Doan in the Buu Dien). Hoi An is full of tailors who will make anything you want in any material you want in a matter of hours. The shear number of choices was overwhelming. Wool coats for $50 (try trying one of those on in 100 degree heat), complete suits for under $100, shoes made to fit your feet...I could go on an on. And on it on it went, with the shopping and then the relentless haggling for prices consuming over 8 hours of our first day in town.

I realized things were a bit out of hand when on day two I said to Doannie over breakfast, "We really should see some of these ancient houses today" and he replied "Don't you remember walking past them all day yesterday?" (I did not). We had come to Hoi An for some R&R and to experience the famed Silk Road of old, and yet we were frantically consumed with modern consumerism. We did carve out time on Day Two to visit many of the old meeting houses, as well as several historic homes which had been in the same families for hundreds of years. We watched men and women executing the time honored tradition of lantern building, a special treat since the lanterns hanging from the rafters at our wedding were ordered directly from Hoi An. A trip to the Tran family chapel to hear a fellow Tran tell us about the 10 generations of Trans whose placentas were buried in the back yard (that way their souls are never far from home) was another highlight. Although she did eye me strangely when I said "I am a Tran too!"


emily said...

Being strapped in the "sleeping bus" reminds me of the folks in those beds in Wal-E.
Yet another unique experience!

Holly said...

we thought the same thing mama!

ButchMommyDaddy-Something said...

I read the first line of this to say " ancient shopping village..." which I guess isn't too far from the truth.
ps. I am loving the blog & the photos. Makes me want to head out there too.

The Way said...

You've done well Do-Anything Tran. Thank you for counting Dongs on my behalf. With every good deed comes just rewards...see you in Vegas for the bachelor party!

Anonymous said...