Big Ma

We arrived in Danang around noon and were greeted by taxi drivers galore.  We needed to take the 30 minute journey to Hoi An, so we embraced the crowds and began bargaining.  Our research told us we would likely pay about $15-$20 to get to Hoi An, so we naturally decided to target the $10 mark.  To our surprise, a friendly Vietnamese man quickly allowed us to bargain down to $10 for the trip.  As we happily worked our way to his ‘taxi’, we learned that his taxi was no more than a motorbike.  We immediately started expressing our concerns that two people with two giant backpacks would not make it safely on the back of one motorbike for 30 minutes in Vietnam traffic.  That is when he introduced us to his buddy.  The two of them work together and each would take one of us on the back of their motorbikes.  To our surprise, the motorbikes actually appeared to be really nice and they even had a place to strap our backpacks in the rear.  It didn’t take us long to agree to this mode of transportation because it was obviously way more exciting than taking a boring taxi.  The two men were super friendly and happy and stopped at the beach en route so that we could take some pictures.  Shortly after, they stopped at a roadside stand for us to grab some coffee and tea (aka teach us about their services).  During this stop, we learned that the two men were ‘Easy Riders’, which is a common occupation in Vietnam.  They basically take tourists on short term or long term motorbike tours through the countryside of Vietnam and they mapped out a few possible tracks for us.  The price was actually really high (around $250/pp for 2-3 days), so we told them we would call them if we had an interest later on.  The journeys did sound really fun but we knew we could do the same path on our own for probably a fifth of the cost.  After denying them additional services, we got back on our motorbikes and continued to the lovely homestay of Moc Vien.  This homestay was family owned and we were treated to a huuuge, comfy bed, air conditioning, and breakfast!  This  was much more expensive than our usual guesthouse but Hoi An is quite touristy and this place came highly recommended by two of our friends.  We were not disappointed!  We could even rent brand new bikes from them to tour the area.

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We spent our first evening biking around town and getting acquainted with the area.  Although touristy, the cute town lies on the bank of a river and all the buildings are decorated with really pretty lanterns.  The city is known for tailoring and the streets are lined with shops ready to satisfy any of your clothing needs.  We ate at a delicious noodle place called Pho Xua which we frequented during our two days in the area.  Among other things, we ate a famous local dish of Hoi An called cao lao.  The noodles are much thicker than the usual rice noodles and supposedly they are soaked in water from ancient wells found around Hoi An.  They were very tasty and a nice change from all the rice and rice noodles!  We also had amazing wontons and mi quang, one of our favorite rice noodle dishes with turmeric.  After refueling our bodies, we did the Hoi An touristy thing and had some clothes made for us!  We went to a shop called Bebe that was recommended by our hotel and also some tourists we met when we were scuba diving in Nha Trang.  John selected a really sharp looking blue suit and two shirts while I pondered some dress designs.  It is quite a challenge to decide on a design when you can basically pick any picture in the whole world and ask them to make it!  A girl’s nightmare and dream.  I finished selecting my designs that evening and returned the next morning to choose my fabrics and get measured.  The shop was very pleasant and the workers were not pushy at all.  After placing our final clothes orders, we took a bike ride down to the beach a few kilometers away.  We passed some beautiful scenery along the way and enjoyed the ocean views even though they were a bit foggy.

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We returned to town for John’s suit fitting.  First try and in less than 24 hours and the suit fit like a glove!  Big Ma was the lady who had been helping us and she was so excited that she started calling in other Vietnamese women to check him out!  It was during this visit to the shop that I learned one of the dresses I requested could not be made because they ran out of a certain lacy fabric.  The ladies at the shop were so eager to please that one of them decided to abruptly take me on her motorbike to check out several nearby fabric shops while John finished up.  There is nothing like hopping on the back of a motorbike with a Vietnamese local, especially a woman!  We weaved in and out of city traffic going over 40 km/hr while I held onto the seat for dear life.  She was literally passing everyone and barely waited for me to get on the back before she would take off each time.  I only wish I could be as bad ass as her!  After surviving the Hoi An Nascar race (where we came in first), we topped off the evening with several amazing chocolate croissants at a nearby cafe and a balcony beer that cost us 25 cents.

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We decided to leave the following day to go to Hue, so we got up early to ride to Bebe for my fitting.  I arrived very excited to try on both of my dresses.  I expected them to fit me really well after seeing John’s luck the day before, so I was quite disappointed when I tried them on and they were AWFUL!  They both fit me like a giant potato sack (we can”t find the photos right now, which makes John very sad and me equally as happy).  I could even see it in John’s face that they were pretty horrible.  I was assured that within two hours the dresses would fit me perfectly and my requested alterations would be made.  To my surprise, they actually did fit me really well when I returned!  They probably won’t be my favorite dresses ever but they turned out nicely and the process was really fun.

On our way back to catch our next bus, we stopped at a shop to quickly bargain for some fancy lanterns.  We decided on four pretty colors and dropped them off at Bebe so that they could be shipped to the US along with our tailored clothes.  Of course, we also stocked up on some chocolate croissants for the bus trip which we subsequently left at Moc Vien by accident during the hubbub of being transferred to the bus station one by one by motorbike.  Don’t worry, John made the motorbike driver take him back to get them before our bus arrived!  They were thoroughly enjoyed although the motorbike driver was much less thrilled.

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One thought on “Big Ma

  1. 1. That suit looks bloody great! 2. I just laughed aloud at the thought of John adamantly insisting that he be reunited with his chocolate croissants. Love you both 🙂

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