There are three things to be done in Hoi An, and all of them can be dangerous if taken to the extreme. They
are: shop, eat, and have clothing custom made. I’ll move from least to most dangerous. First, the shopping. The
streets of this coastal city in central Vietnam are lined with ancient and intricate buildings. In traditional style, the
buildings are two to three stories high, with a family living on the second and third floor and their shop occupying
the first floor. As a result, we often saw several family members relaxing in front of their store, smiling at us as we
passed by or kindly inviting us in to view their assortment of goods.  Many of the buildings have vibrant paper
lanterns adorning their balconies that sway gracefully in the gentle river breeze. The whole ambiance just puts you
in the mood to buy something Vietnamese-ish. Luckily, the shops are conducive to this desire. They are lined with
high-end souvenirs. This was ultra exciting after three months of elbowing our way through countless markets in a
dozen different Asia cities only to be disappointed by the low-quality junk being sold. In Hoi An we were tempted
by quality handbags, silk ties, jewelry, wooden serving dishes, ceramic vases, and intricate statues. Our Christmas
shopping instantaneously kicked into high-gear.
One of the tempting shops in Hoi An
The supplier of all the lanterns in the shop windows
   The second most dangerous thing to do in Vietnam is eat. That is because the food is soooo good and soooo
cheap. A winning combination in anyone’s book. Hoi An is known for two delightful dishes. First there is cau lau,
which is a noodle dish mixed with vegetables, toasted rice paper and tasty slices of pork. Supposedly
true cau lau can only be made in Hoi An.
This is because the water for cooking the
dish must come from the Ba Le well, an
ancient water hole located in the middle of
a block of homes in Hoi An. The other Hoi
An food specialty is the white rose. It is a
delicate shrimp dumpling where the dough
has been scrunched up to resemble a rose.
Very simple, very delicious. Last, my
description of Hoi An would not be
complete without a fond word regarding
Vietnamese coffee. United States coffee
lovers take heed. This is different. But if
you give it a chance it is a fun and
interesting change up from our standard
brew.. It is a real treat, especially for those
who enjoy their coffee strong and sweet. It
is equally as good cold as it is hot. We will
definitely be purchasing a Vietnamese
coffee filter when we return home as
Vietnamese Coffee is as much fun to make
as it is to drink.
No better way to start the day, or enjoy an afternoon, than with a Vietnamese
    Last, the most dangerous aspect of Hoi An. The tailors. Hoi An is famous
for its tailors. You can have clothes custom made for half what you would
pay for off the rack clothes in the West. They can copy any design. Find
what you are looking for in a magazine and they will recreate it in any
color, with any fabric and with any unique touches you desire. As we
walked down the streets of Hoi An we were overwhelmed by the number
of tailors. They are everywhere—from high ends shops with teams of
beautiful Vietnamese girls working the front of the shop to small, family-run
shops where grandma takes your measurements, the kids pull down the
fabric bolt from the top shelf and mom and dad handle the money. We didn’
t walk ten paces without passing a storefront lined with mannequins three
deep sporting the various fashions. Just when we thought we resisted the
temptation to have just something made, just for the experience, one of
the beautiful Vietnamese women was at our side telling us how beautiful
we would look in that coat or suit that we thought we were eyeing so slyly.
The next thing we knew we were flipping through pattern books and
discussing the quality and color of wool that we wanted for our new
clothes. All in five minutes.
Jarrod's dress shirt getting a nip and tuck
     Three days and roughly 15 fittings later we left
Hoi An with one suit for Jarrod, one wool coat and
a dress for me, and ten shirts and ten pairs of
pants between the both of us.. It was a blast! Our
days consisted of two to three fittings,
intermingled with a bit of shopping and lots of
lounging around at the restaurants enjoying the
delicious food. We did manage to carve out one
entire morning to attend a cooking class. The class
started with a tour of the local market. After
moving past some interesting and unidentifiable
produce our guide led us to the meat and fish
section of the market. Not surprisingly, we
encountered some interesting and unidentifiable
cuts of meat and types of fish. There was one fish
that stood out, mainly because we wanted to be
sure never to accidentally order it in a restaurant.
I don’t remember the Vietnamese name for it, but
between fits of giggling our guide explained that it
is commonly referred to as “cow tongue” fish. After
looking at the picture I’m confident you will
Not one of Vietnam's most tempting dishes
understand why. After the market we boarded the Red Bridge Cooking School’s private boat for a short sail down
the Thu Bon river to the restaurant where we would learn to make rice paper, fresh shrimp rolls, crispy Hoi An
pancakes stuffed with shrimp, calamari salad served in a pineapple boat and Vietnamese eggplant in a clay pot.
Our cooking instructor also taught us how to make roses out of tomato skins and fans out of cucumbers, but don’t
be expecting that when you come to our next dinner party!
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In Heaven in Hoi An
Hoi An's riverfront