There were times when we never thought the day would come that we would finally reach Hoi An. (Bruised and battered rears are one of the many things everyone seems to forget to tell you when they are busy telling you how awesome it is to travel a country by motorcycle.) Hoi An has always seemed like a big milestone waiting just outside of our reach, but alas we have arrived! While at first it was a little strange to be around so many other tourists after not seeing a single other traveler since we left Sapa and opted for the not-so-beaten path, it was also quite nice to feel like we had returned to “normal”…for a couple of days anyways.
Known for being the tailoring hub of Vietnam, we had been day dreaming for many kilometers of the different custom pieces we wanted to have made when we got here. Not too long after we parked the bike we hurried ourselves over to one of the many custom clothing shops and began to explore our options and ideas. Talk about overwhelming! I usually rely on the combination of having only limited options and some of which do not fit correctly to aid in the decision making process when shopping for clothes, but those crutches are just are not available here in the land of everything-fits-perfectly-and-you-can-design-whatever-you-want. It was a whirlwind and before we knew what happened we were being poked, prodded, and measured to ensure the perfect fit while simultaneously choosing colors, fabrics, and buttons. When they said, “Okay. Come back tomorrow morning.” I had to ask again because I figured there was absolutely no way I heard that correctly. I mean, how could that possibly be put together in only a few hours? But, we did in fact hear correctly and did as we were were told. Each time we returned to one of the different shops we used I was floored by their expertise and ability to turn things around so quickly. After just one or two fittings with minor tweeks to be made, we had custom pieces that fit perfectly for only a tiny fraction of what it would cost to buy its not-so-perfect counterpart at home. Just crazy!
But Hoi An is not a one hit wonder. In addition to custom clothing, there are also a multitude of custom shoe shops. While shoes had not really been on our radar screen before we got here, all of the sudden we both realized just how much we needed custom shoes. (Weird how this sudden epiphany happened…I know.) Anyways, a few looks at their samples and a handful pages flipped through their magazines and we were yet again choosing colors, fabrics, and details. With a quick trace of our feet and notes scribbled on a scrap of paper they had all of the information needed and we heel clicked our way out of the store. When we returned, Ron’s boots were perfect, but mine…not so much. So we tried again. And again. And again one last time. In the end, there was not much to be done to save the shoes or the money already invested (and trust us…we tried.) But if that is our big worry for the week, I think that we are sitting pretty in the grand scheme of things.
While Hoi An itself was a certain kind of paradise, a huge highlight for us was our day trip visit to The Village of Hope Orphanage in Da Nang, about an hour north of Hoi An, where Ron’s parents sponsor a little girl named Trinh. The Village of Hope is a wonderful place with lots of kids running in and out and to and from school, all with big smiles on their faces accompanied by loud “Hello’s” and boisterous waves. Trinh is 12 years old an an absolute joy! We got to sit down with her and a couple of her “family members” (which is what they refer to other kids living in their same room as) and chat a little. While Trinh was a little shy at first, she started to open up a little as they tried to teach us some words in Vietnamese. As is tradition, Ron and I had to get a jumping picture at the orphanage and we were able to convince Trinh to join us. She thought that was so funny and from there on out it did not take long to crack her shell wide open. She is such a sweetheart and so smiley…not to mention that she is a little firecracker once she warms up! Example A: While Ron and the director were talking, I went to sit by Trinh on a bench and she starts slyly muttering “Kem. Kem.” (the Vietnamese word for ice cream) and acting like she is licking a cone. We thought it was so funny that we really had no choice but to oblige and devour some “kem” right alongside her. Deeeelicious!
Ron’s parents had sent along some money to put together goodie bags for all of the kids so before we left for the day we trotted over to the little corner shop across the street with Trinh and the director to pick out the treats. It is amazing what a dollar can buy here! Soon enough we had a PILE of snacks to haul back with us and quickly put together the baggies assembly line style. It was so neat to watch the faces of the kids light up as we handed out the treat bags. Even better maybe was watching Trinh handing out the bags with us. She was just beaming! It’s not a day we will soon forget.
We made a stop at one of Hoi An’s fantastic beaches on our last afternoon in town and just reminisced over everything that had happened over the last few days, weeks, and months. It is just wild to think about! Even crazier however may be everything that is yet to come!
Sadly, we have only two photos from these few special days. Ron accidentally deleted the rest before properly backing them up… such a bummer!