Friday, July 15, 2005

You Have Big Bum...

said the seamstress in the cloth market as she patted my ass and we watched a rat scurry across the floor.

Getting clothing made in Hoi An is apparently "the" thing to do and because I am in Hoi An (and easily get caught up in the fray) I am doing it. Mary Kay and I arrived in Hoi An Wednesday afternoon after a 3.5 hour ride on a "tourist bus" with ever gabbing (and Australian mocking) spice girls and none of the promised AC. Our driver wouldn't pass a cement truck on a flat straightaway, yet became Mario Andretti passing people as we drove up a curvy mountain road. One passenger was getting sick... no problem... barf in the stairwell and then they'll open the door (while we still drive up said curvy mountain road) and use some water to wash it out. Upon further bus travel in Vietnam, I apologize for being so harsh on our local bus to Ninh Binh.

Hoi An is great! There is a small old town, which reminded both Mary Kay and I of Lijiang in China. Lots of shops, restaurants, art galleries and right along a river. We have been eating fish wrapped in banana leaf, "white rose" (steamed shrimp wrapped in rice paper), and lots of noodles and fruit.

This morning we took a cooking class through a restaurant that gives a portion of their profits to the World Wildlife Fund and uses part of your money to clean up the river. The class started with a very educational trip to the market. The people on the inside sell fish from the ocean, people on the outside sell fish (and assorted water things) from the river. Old women run string around pineapples because poisonous snakes like to eat the edges and if they don't pull those parts off, well you'll be poisoned. Bitter melon is good for your eyes, painted would chopsticks will give you led poisoning and encourage the locals to chop down trees when everyone is better of using the plentiful bamboo. Whew!

After the market, we took a boat ride down the river to the restaurant/school. There are these huge nets strung up on sticks in the river. At night, the fishermen let the nets drop into the water, turn on a light in the middle and when all the fishies come to see what the light is about... they start rolling up the net to capture them all. (On another note, did you know geckos make croaky sounds sort of like frogs or birds? That's what the one above my head on the wall just did).

At the school we learned how to make warm squid salad, an eggplant dish, Hoi An pancake and shrimp spring rolls... using rice paper we made by hand! Luckily, I learned the trick of softening store bought rice paper, in the event that I can't be bothered (or remember) all the tricks to the hand made. We learned how to make a tomato peel into a rose... hopefully picture is attached (I'm having issues at this computer and will try to add the photos tomorrow). After that, we all sat down and ate our lunch. It was in an amazing setting, right along the river with big palm trees, rattan furniture with big pillows and a very attentive staff. All this for $12.

We're staying at a $12/night hotel that is spectacular though just out of town. The hotel lets the guests check out bicycles to ride into town or to the beach. They give you a lock, though what would possess anyone to steal these bikes is a mystery. They are like IV cruisers. Rusted as hell, wheels wobble as you ride, breaks don't really work. However, they do the job and are much faster than walking.

The cloth market is an experience. Jam packed full of workers, material, and yes, rats that run back and forth across the floors - no wonder all the workers take naps on their tables. My guess of why there are so many rats there is that they use all the material for nests. Yesterday, I saw a rat scurry out, grab some clothing scraps and then run back under the table (although nobody dare say my theory right...)

As for the process, you thumb through some catalogues get measured and return the next day for a fitting. While you're going through this process, women come in and give you massages (in the hopes that you will come to their shop for a full massage later... 1 hour = $5... I will go before I leave), other ladies come in trying to sell you the Hoi An version of peanut brittle and little kids come in with plastic bags. It did not take me long before I could talk to them before they talked to me, "no postcards, no necklace, no tiger balm". One must be vigilant.

I'll get you caught up on My Son and our last day probably from the airport. I'm trying to add pictures to this so we can head to the beach!

Miss K

P.S. For those of you in SF (or close to) don't forget to come check out my solo performance at Laborfest!

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