Breaking the bank in Hoi An

12th May 2014

As the Futa overnight bus rolled into Danang at 6am, it’s safe to say we were a little the worse for wear. Locating the local bus to Hoi An was straightforward, but the blaring horn, aggressive conductor and sloth like pace were not exactly soothing. A short walk into the old city and we were too early to check into our guesthouse. Breakfast was called for, and with a life changing bowl of mushroom rice porridge at a vegetarian joint called “Mild” and this naughty face, things were already looking better.

We had a room booked at a guest house called “Mrs Flowers”, with the only instructions that it was the ‘house with all the flowers’ on Thai Phien Street. And that was all the signs we needed to decide there and then that Hoi An was going to be awesome.

Hoi An’s old town has a real Disneyland feel to it – even down to the ticket you have to purchase to even walk around. However, the beautiful old shophouses and streets really are charming, and the throngs of tourists or oppressive heat can’t detract from that. The attractions that are included with your tickets (you can choose from up to five sights, including old houses, bridges, museums and temples) are at the same time dusty, uninteresting, and completely delightful. The market bustles and there are delicious street treats on every corner. The magic is only compounded at night when the lights go down and the whole town is lit by coloured lanterns. Oh – and motor vehicles are banned from the old town, which means a blissful respite from honking, revving engines and the cognitive overload associated with crossing any other street in Vietnam.

Seemingly every restaurant in Hoi An offers cooking classes, generally with mixed reviews. However after visiting the vegan restaurant Karma Waters for dinner, and spotting the elusive vegetarian bánh xèo on the menu, we couldn’t resist. For $30 each, at up to four people, you get two hours to cook any three dishes from the menu. The recipes are complicated, and you have to cook and scribble the instructions down at quite a fast pace, but the staff were friendly and helpful, and the results delicious.

Hoi An has even more to offer than that. A short bicycle ride out of town led us through the most beautiful rice paddies – slightly yellowed due to the time of year but still effervescent – where the farmer was only too happy to pop a nón lá on our heads and pose for a picture. Push on a few kilometres further and you get to the fabulous Cua Dai beach – golden sand, palm trees and blue ocean.

Hoi An

Hoi An

Hoi An

Most obviously, I also had to dabble into Hoi An’s tailor made clothing industry. Having read this blog post while in search for inspiration, I literally flipped my shit and went on a Pinterest rampage to try and find the most extravagant of my pins that I could have made to size and at a fraction of the cost. Mrs Flowers was ever so helpful and took me to the fabric shop, took my measurements, and, within 12 hours, had everything ready for a first fitting. I just couldn’t quite believe how they could make something so fast out of just a photo! For the shoes, I went to the excellent Friendly shoe Shop on Tran Phu Street and had a pair of my favorite Pinterest flats made in a vegan, faux-suede version. Here’s a little run down of what I had made:

The Pin:

My tailor made version:

The Pin:

My tailor made version:

The Pin:

My tailor made version:

The Pin:

My tailor made version:

Total cost: $125 USD for one pair of shoes shoes, two dresses and a jumpsuit.. Granted it is more expensive than your average shopping spree in South East Asia, but do bare in mind that everything is one-of-a-kind and tailor made for me. I think it’s a great price. Overall, I would say that I am satisfied given the price that I paid, but I am not 100% sold on the fabric choices (that were more or less made for me because I didn’t have a clue), especially for the red dress that turned up a little dressier that I would have hoped. I also find the dresses’ lengths very conservative and the jumpsuit’s legs too wide and waist a little tights, but this might have to do with a month of stuffing my face with delicious food. *tucks into 3rd bánh xèo of the day*

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