Yes the currency here in Vietnam is called the Dong. Quit snickering you gutterbrain. Anyways, here I am a millionaire in Dong (17,000=1 USD). And because so I decided I needed to look like it. Having heard as far back as before the start of this trip from many people that if I ever found myself in Vietnam to go to Hoi An and get myself some dirt-cheap tailored clothing. Now, as I sit here in 4 year-old khaki shorts and soon to be wearing swim trunks that have seen 5 summers, it is pretty easy to infer that I have little interest in the latest fashions but the chance to get a hand-tailored suit that start at $50, was an opportunity I could not pass up. I guess its an investment for returning to a life previously lived. A step closer to old Brian and a step back from vagabond Brian. The kind of progression that wakes me up in feverish sweating in recent nights.
So the deal here in Hoi An is that this quaint old trading village has turned itself into a mecca for backpackers and high-end shoppers alike to stop in and buy custom made western clothing for a fraction of the cost. And while orders are being sewn up in lightening speed, one can enjoy the scenic town and white sand beaches.
It was a bit of a ridiculous process actually. I went into a tailor shop, they gave me something similiar to a GQ Men's magazine and told me to point at anything I wanted and said they would make it for me in 24 hours. Now lets stop here and discuss just how I intended to pay for anything on my $12 a day budget that allows for little frivolousness. Credit card. They took it, I have one. Am I worried about credit card bills when I get back home? No, because I applied for a government bailout. And since everyone is getting one these days, why shouldn't I? I mean, this is a suit were talking about, not toxic assets.
With non-payment mentality in mind I got myself one suit, one pair of khaki pants, one button down shirt, and one pair of atrocious green "holiday pants" that I intend to wear every Paddys Day and Christmas for the rest of my life. I even had the tailors sew in some elastic into the waistband to ensure comfortable fitting during my more prosperous years. These were by far my favorite purchase. So the total for everything came to $150 and was done in 24 hours, followed by two quick adjustment try-ons. I posted them home so they should arrive around the time I will and just in time to serve as evidence to potential employers that I am am not afraid of stretching a buck with sweatshop labor.
Besides my brief foray into compulsive consumerism, I also rented a bike for a couple days ($0.60) to bike to the beaches and nearby fishing village. Amazingly, I had only pedaled 10 minutes outside of tourist populated Hoi An and came into a fishing village where most people seemed a bit surpised I was there. I was hanging out around the harbor and a group of fishermen were lounging on the bow of their boat and kept motioning for me to come out and join them. So I walked out on the bamboo gangway that led up to the boat and found myself in the midst of a little Sunday Funday celebration. I was immediately included in the continous passing of the communal beer cup and was strongly coaxed into eating the contents of a blackened skillet sitting on the floor of the boat. Another sample of unidentified animal that I will describe as not bad. Conversation was limited but not much was expected in the drinking ritual. The fisherman to my right was intrigued by the hair on my arms and legs compared to his hairless torso and petting them in wonderment. After repeated petting episodes I decided that this sailor had been out at sea a little too long and made a mental note to decline any invitations to head out to sea with them. I took a picture of the fishermen and they extracted a promise out of me that I would return the next day with a copy of the pic for each of them. Seeing as these 5 friends probably would never possess a picture of all of them, I agreed and brought this back to them today. I tracked down one of the fishermen and he was genuinely thrilled as was I.
Another great highlight of Hoi An and some other places in Vietnam is the Bia Hoi, which is essentially un-branded keg beer that they sell for about $0.20 a mug. Besides serving as evidence of God, these prices allow for a party even on my budget. Myself and some other travellers spent last night on a Fried Wonton and Bai Hoi crawl that probably only left me $4 lighter and gave me a renewed appreciation for the fun in activities that have "crawl" in the title.
Making a move soon. Check back to see what it is.