So I check into my in Hoi An room. My receptionist is extremely genuine and sweet. I make small talk for abt 5 minutes and she says I am her BFF....Ummm O.K! She tells me the best place for getting some clothes stitched and shoes made and says she has no affiliation with them. Ah, I am sold!
I go in search for something to eat -The lonely planet describes Hoi An as a charming town oozing with history and culture and a stroll down the street is supposed to be hassle free with lesser touts. Are you kidding me Lonely Planet!
In Hoi An every person's sister/mother/wife is a tailor. I am at the restaurant and the waitress/cook serves me and tells me her sister is (surprise surprise) a tailor and pretty much commands that I get clothes tailored from her sister. I burp, pay for my meal and leave. I look at some shoes in a shop and some random person walking on the street comes up to me and says her mother is a tailor. I ignore and keep walking. I go the public toilet, the lady there tells me her daughter is a tailor. Oh god, I cant even pee in peace!
I go to the tailor recommended by my receptionist....OMG it is every girl's dream. Now my friends will attest how I can spend 16 hours evaluating to buy something for $2. I am at the tailor and there are literally million designs to choose from. I sift through each design carefully until I decide what I want. Give them my measurements and they tell me it will be ready by 3pm next day. Perfect!
I go back to my hotel and start talking to my receptionist. I cannot fathom how sweet she is. She tells me she meets a lot of tourists but has never felt a connection like this. Wow! She tells me about her family and says her sister is a tailor - but never tries to sell her sister's services to me unlike every other person I met in Hoi An. When I asked why she dint tell me this before, she says if I dint like her sister's tailoring, she couldn't see me disappointed. Awww! Finally one soul in Vietnam that is not being pushy! That's it - I decide I want to get my clothes get done from her sister.
She invites me to her house next day to meet her parents and her sister. She is overjoyed to take me to her neighborhood and shows me off as her new foreign friend. Everyone is running around in her house frantically to get me something to eat/drink and make me feel at home. Geez! Such poor people but with a heart of gold! I am so humbled by their hospitality.
She tells her sister to charge me the bare minimum - I am a little low on cash as I have already ordered some clothes from another tailor and shoes from a friend she recommended. I feel terrible having to haggle with her but she willingly discounts the price for me. She tells her sister to stay awake all night and put her heart and soul to it. Awww!
She drops me off at my hotel. I meet my Australian friend from Hue and we go for dinner - the town is really meant for the newly weds and nearly deads. Its beautiful at night especially with lantern lit over a bridge. Every restaurant is full of happy young and old couples having a vacation of a lifetime.
I woke up next morning to experience what would be the worst day of the trip. My friend and I meet up for breakfast. After breakfast, I have my second fitting at my tailor (alterations made from first fitting). My bus is at 5 pm and it is 1. I am still waiting my shoes and clothes from my receptionist's sister. Everyone assures me things will be ready before I leave. I have a couple of hours to kill and my friend and I walk down the same streets for the 34526th time. There really is nothing in Hoi An apart from the millions of tailor shops next to each other. Even as a shopaholic, I am nauseating seeing so many clothes and I just want to run away from the town.
Its 4 pm and my clothes from my receptionist sister are not ready yet. Hmmm things dont look good. The next hour is crazy with me running around between my tailor, shoes shop and my hotel all 500 meters apart. Finally at 4.30 my receptionist gives my clothes. My bus is at 5 and I need to pick up my shoes and clothes from another place which is 500 meters away! I pay for my shoes. I am running low on cash so I run to the ATM to draw some money.
I cautiously count my money and put it back into my wallet safely. I come back and pay my receptionist. I still dont have enough Dong. I only have dollars and she doesn't have change. I am searching for any Dong I may have and as I am searching through my wallet I realise I have left my ATM card in the machine which is 500 meters away in the opposite direction! F*&%! NOOOOOO!
I run back to the ATM but can't see it. I am absolutely gutted and cant think straight. Its nearly 5 and I am yet to collect my clothes from another place and then take the bus. I come back to my hotel and I try to tell her that I have lost my bank card. She cant understand me and I have no time to explain it to her. She says its OK if I am running short. I am short by about $10 - this might seem not much for us but it is a lot of money for them. I feel so terrible for not being able to pay her the agreed price that is already heavily discounted but I m so helpless. I need to leave now or I'll miss my bus. While I m frantically shoving things into small bags, she hands me over a gift. Oh no! I feel even more terrible now.
She tells how much she has enjoyed meeting me and is about to cry seeing me leave. Shucks!
My brain is totally dead - I m still in shock loosing my card, hoping no one has misappropriated it and I need to run another 700 meters to get my bus and collect rest of my clothes. I give her a hug and all I can do is just feel helpless and terrible. I run like a mad woman with 3-4 bags in my hand. I stop at a street shop to buy a bag to shove these small bag in. I have no time to haggle and sensing my desperation, the lady wont budge with the price. Arghhh.... the bad karma for haggling everywhere is biting me at the most inappropriate time! I finally buy the most dirty overpriced bag and stuff everything. I run to my bus company and the guy there is yelling in Vietnamese at me for coming late. I have no time to explain. I tell him to wait for another minute while I collect my clothes from my another tailor. LUCKILY I have my credit card on me. All I can think is how lucky I am to not loose my passport. I pay them and run back to my bus company. He asks me to sit on his bike to take go the bus stop which is 1 km away. Far out! I have no time to call my bank and cancel my card. The guy shoves my bags. I get on the bus to experience the worst 14 hour journey of my life!
Next post: The worst bus ride. You're all going to love it! Stay tuned.