At home, the bulk of my close friends are people I’ve known for years. A few are from high school. One is from diapers–we were next door neighbors when we were a mere couple of months old. A big chunk come from college. We met thanks to proximity; we all lived in the same dorm freshman year. I didn’t have to search far and wide for these people. They were living down the hall or right upstairs and we basically couldn’t avoid each other if we wanted to. Not like we wanted to! I’m so lucky we were all placed in Prado Hall at UC Irvine nearly 13 years ago (13!). We’ve remained a tight crew to this day which is good because outside of arts-themed dormitories, I’m not great at meeting new people.
I can let loose around my friends. They get me and my odd sense of humor and accept that the words “This reminds me of an episode of Frasier/Seinfeld/30 Rock” will come out of my mouth at some point during any given conversation. But I’m still an introverted introvert when it comes to meeting new people. I’m not one to extend my hand first and introduce myself at a party where I don’t know anyone. I can be extremely shy depending on the situation. This has not been the case at all since I started traveling.
My first night in Saigon, I was immediately warned by hostel staff and other guests to basically not go outside with anything of value. I met two girls right away who dared to go out at night wearing bags which got snatched with their passports inside. I didn’t want to risk losing anything important, including my brand new phone, so I only left my hostel with some “bra money” and occasionally my slim camera in my pocket. I never really felt threatened at all while out, even at night. Still, as a result of my fear, I don’t have many pictures.
After Hoi An, I wanted to head south but stop somewhere before Saigon. Two popular spots on the route, Nha Trang and Dalat, didn’t appeal to me. I settled on a place I don’t even think I’d heard of before I left on my trip: Mui Ne.
Hoi An is known for its legions of tailors who create custom-made clothes really, really quickly. Although my budget has been pretty much blown during my week here, the prices are still a bargain. The women in the stores can be a little aggressive at times. At home, my instinct is to smile at people I pass on the street. Here, that’s met with: “Hello! You buy something?” I’ve had to train myself to not make eye contact, which is strange for me. Even though everyone is out to make a sale, they are actually mostly friendly. Just be careful. If you decide to get something, the next thing you hear is: “One more?”
The shops boast multiple mock-ups of dresses, coats, suits, and more. They’re filled with fabrics that overwhelm you with choice. You can choose a design you see and like it as is or make some amendments. Some people bring in magazine pictures or sketches as inspiration. Others bring in items they already own and want copied in another color. You get measured and the next day or even later the same day, you get a brand new outfit made just for your body.
I probably shouldn’t have packed any clothes for this trip because I easily could have replenished my entire wardrobe here. I was able to resist doing that but I did order a few pieces that will be great for the hot weather I’m encountering in Asia.