For the first time since being in Munich, we have experienced a real neighborhood feeling – going to dinner with friends and enjoying summer nights, sharing experiences and discussing issues, even going to gym class with other children! Any traveler knows it’s good to have friends around the world; they will give you tips, tours, and possibly even a couch to crash on! We have now learned it’s also good to have friends of friends of friends. The entire story is that my father got into touch with a friend from college, and she lived in Hoi An. Unfortunately, her plans have changed, but she put us in touch with her friends, also ex-pats. So during our time in Hoi An, we visited Dingo Deli, their little restaurant, and their unofficial school upstairs, which has a mini-classroom of expat children. We met, talked, learned about each other’s stories, and ended up making plans to join their basketball class and eat dinner together.
And I think this is one of the funniest things that has happened on this trip – we attended a stranger’s wedding! On the day of the dinner at the beach, we received an impromptu wedding invitation. Michelle and Gordon (our newly made friends) have a good friend who is marrying 2 people at the beach, and we are invited. We arrived, feeling a bit strange among the guests, whom we thought to be at least friends of the couple – but no one knew them! After we heard that we didn’t feel so strange about being in a stranger’s wedding picture… it was quite a fun experience. It was an informal wedding (let’s see where should the bride stand? – Oh there she is, get out of the way!), but very sweet and on the beach with a huge, frothing surf and a beautiful, stormy gray sky. Definitely an experience to remember!
I think the most idiotic question you could ask yourself in Hoi An is “Where is a tailor??” Because they’re everywhere. When I say everywhere I don’t mean on every second corner, like Starbucks – I mean one after the other after the next. Almost every single storefront is occupied by a tailor. We are, unfortunately, very confined when it comes to shopping because of the size of our bags, but we did allow ourselves to indulge in buying au dais, the elegant, traditional Vietnamese dresses. We only went back to the tailor 4 times for fitting and readjustments – but they ended up looking great!
During our time in Hoi An we attended a cooking class with Green Bamboo Cooking School and visited the local (and only) market. The women who teaches has been frequenting this market since a little girl, and the old women remember her and have known her since then – adding to that little-town, special-bond feeling you get between people who have been parts of each other’s lives forever. In a large city the person who works at the register in your local supermarket isn’t always the same – and so you never really get that relationship that builds over time. We cooked cau lau, a specialty to Hoi An and only Hoi An. These special noodles are flavored with the ash of a special tree and is rumoured to be cooked in special water from the ancient Cham well nearby. Anyway, they are unbelievably good – smoky and sweet! And since we can only get them in Hoi An, we ate as much of them as we could!
Hoi An is a quaint little town, and the entire feeling we had there was one of the closest to home in a while. It’s such a small town that we came to know its streets, visualize particular corners (in big cities you can only the visualize the street your hotel is on – everything else is a blur!), and walk around knowledgeably and comfortably without a map. Our tailor ladies know us, so does the coconut lady in the market, and the staff at our favorite restaurant Blue Dragon. Having friends (and talking to other people for once!), spending time together at the beach and having dinner together was really special since we haven’t done that in so long. We took walks by the riverside and biked through the rice paddies. It was the first feeling of… being locals.