Thursday, 6 May 2010

Hoi An

To continue harking back to Top Gear, this is the place where the trio of presenters bought their crazy tailored suits, and that is because this town is the tailoring capital of Vietnam. It is very much geared towards tourists; there are streets full of tailors, cafes, restaurants, and markets, with a noticeably high ratio of Westerners wandering around. It's a wonderful place though. What first struck me was the brightly coloured lanterns strung across the streets, which when coupled with the vibrant clothes stalls, the hustle and bustle of the market, and the scenic estuary of the Thu Bon river makes the place quaint and pretty.

I was all up for buying a whole rucksack full of new clothes, but due to the guaranteed tourist market, and the fierce competition, prices aren't dirt cheap - don't get me wrong, cheaper and better quality than what you would get here, but not cheap enough when you're on a shoestring budget! So, I settled for a pair of linen trousers. I have never had anything made to measure in my life, so was a little taken aback by the process - before the words 'I'd like that style please' had managed to escape my mouth, one of the women had whipped my T-shirt up into a knot, and started measuring my waist, hips and legs, while another woman was trying to sell me a deal so that I might buy another pair. I resisted! So, I left the little shop, and merely three hours later I was back to pick up my new trousers. They're a really good fit, and, well, they haven't come apart yet!

Enough about clothes, Hoi An has a lot more to offer besides miles of material. The town sells an ingenious tourist ticket, and for 90, 000 VND (about £4) you can choose five attractions to see - museums, temples,'s a great deal! One thing on the list caught our attention; 'The Museum of Trading Ceramics', I joked that it was a definite yes, but then curiosity to see if it could really be as boring as it sounds got the better of us, so we went and had a look. The bits of broken pots in the museum confirmed that it actually is as boring as it sounds! Oh well.

As well as everything within Hoi An, there are some interesting places to visit nearby. We went on a trip to the ancient Cham temple ruins of 'My Son'. Again, a lot of these have been bombed and destroyed, and - oddly - none of the statues have heads because the French cut them off to take back to their museums, but there is still a lot to see, and there is a lot of reconstruction under way too. So, what's the big deal about My Son? I wondered the same thing, but our enthusiastic tour guide definitely swayed me into believing that the answer is 'A lot!' Not only are the ruins believed to be even older than Cambodia's Angkor Wat, but they are also surrounded by a bit of mystery. Looking at the construction of the temples, no cement has been used to secure the bricks together, instead they are also fused, and completely unaffected by weathering. In fact, we were shown walls that were reconstructed about twenty years ago, and they were covered in moss and looking in a sorry state, whereas the original walls that had been there for thousands of years looked almost new. No one, not international experts, not those whose ancestors helped build the temples, knows how it was done. Pretty cool, huh?

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