We left Cambodia and headed to another new country for me, Vietnam.
We started our Vietnam adventure in the city of Da Nang where we checked into the InterContinental, an expansive, award winning, luxury hill-side resort. The architecture of Vietnamese old tradition combined with modern elements and grandness makes for a visual treat every which way you look. It’s as though a perfectionist genius with an eye for ideal mixtures of old and new elements and just the right amount of opulence put this work of art here for all of us to enjoy. Turns out, Harvard educated, Bill Bensley, named by Time Magazine “the king of exotic luxury resorts” is responsible for this slice of resort heaven.
The entire resort is nestled on a hill-side with each room facing the sparkling bay, providing inspiring views, especially while starting your day over room service breakfast. Peter heard about this hotel from another Internet Marketer who blogs at CharlesNgo.com and couldn’t speak more highly of this secluded gem.
We were located on the “sky” level making it either a bit of a trek to get to the beach or a buggy ride which was always available with a quick phone call. The resort also provides a few restaurants, bars, pools, jacuzzi, spa, gym, yoga classes, and tennis courts – so we were set. We took a slow pace and enjoyed the resorts amenities and wonderful staff and service. The room alone provided enough luxury to never want to leave it.
Most early evenings we would head down to the Long Bar for happy hour and enjoy 2 for 1 drinks specials.
Double bonus when entertainment would show up while we enjoyed our sundowners.
Some days we opted to relax by the pool, aptly named the Long Pool.
We also enjoyed sampling the various restaurants on the grounds. Citron is located on the top level, which is where we delighted in the delicious buffet breakfast that was offered with a spectacular view at a unique table setting.
For dinner we spent most evenings at Barefoot Bar where they had an entire room filled with fish tanks where you could go in an pick out your meal. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. Another bonus was that you could sit at an outdoor table and dig your toes into the sand as you enjoyed your dinner. The ambience made even better with just the stars and torches as the only form light.
One day during our stay we ventured off the grounds to visit Hoi An, known especially for it’s Old Town which in 1999 was a deemed a UNESCO world heritage site. The Old Town exudes colorful charm with a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and European elements. The city dates back thousands of years and was once a prosperous trading port. Today its a top tourist destination due to it’s well preserved heritage which is exceedingly picturesque and enchanting.
Hoa An is also known for having some of the best food in Vietnam with likes of Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain passing through. I researched the various restaurants in the area and settled on Morning Glory. Located in the center of Old Town in a colonial style building the atmosphere and food both delivered. It’s a twist on street food with the cooks preparing meals in the middle of the restaurant, but serving you at a lovely table.
The other well known attraction in Hoi An is custom tailors. They are everywhere. You can walk into any one of them and show them a picture of what you like and voilà – you have your own handmade design for cheap. I was particularly intoxicated by the idea of this. Peter humored me by going along with this desire I needed fulfilled.
I had done my research. This is important because of the large numbers of tailor stores lining the streets. However, the problem was our phones weren’t working so we couldn’t Google Map our way to the one I had decided on. We tried asking a few people who fell into two groups. The first group would simply look at us like we were crazy and shrug their shoulders. The second group realized that we had “commissions” written about our head and were eager to take us to “a better shop.”
What did people do before smart phones?
Peter theorized that the nice looking shops were inviting due to their inflated prices. “How do you think they afford that fancy furniture, ” he mused. But he also figured that if you went to a hole-in-the-wall it’s because they weren’t successful or skilled tailors. We settled on one that wasn’t too nice to look at but also not a dump. They were also a shop that didn’t employ aggressive sales people on the street, luring customers inside. Peter had felt we made a good decision based on a complex algorithm only he could comprehend.
I showed the owner a picture of the dress I wanted made and she was on task from the start. She showed me different materials and colors and started taking measurements. All the while complimenting me, “You have a beautiful shape,” then patting my bum. Not only was she a gifted tailor but also an adept saleswoman. Her beguiling technique worked – I went for two dresses instead of just the one. Compliment then ass grab…works every time.
Peter got caught up in all the excitement as well.
These people are professionals. I took Peter in there kicking and screaming and he came out with two handmade shirts.
We were told to come back in a couple hours so off we went to explore Hoi An at night.
By dumb luck we happened to be there the night of the Lantern Festival which coincides with the full moon is held once a month and one of the biggest reason tourists visit this city.
The lights of old town are turned off and only lit by candlelight and hoards of lanterns. The streets are a buzz and packed with locals, tourists, and merchants all wanting to be a part of this special night. It’s during this time that locals pay homage to their ancestors by setting up offerings of fruit, flowers, and fake money outside their homes in exchange for luck and prosperity. It is believed that the dead, like the living are in need of things like food and money.
For tourists, you can buy a candlelit paper lotus shaped lantern and place it in the Thu Bon River that cuts through Old Town. As you release the lantern you are to simultaneously make a wish and hope for good luck and happiness.
Peter and I released our lanterns while standing on the bridge that connects the two sides of Old Town Hoi An. Afterwords, to escape the madness and get the perspective of the city from the water we took a private row boat ride. The buzz of the packed streets muted as we enjoyed some stillness and took in the beauty of the lantern lit town.
After our boat ride we walked the streets observing the various activities ranging from men playing board games in their pj’s, live music, and really random group games that I still can’t wrap my head around.
One of the more beautiful sights were all the different colored lanterns that adorned the shops, lighting up the town.
It was getting late and we needed to get back to our tailor made clothes so we headed over to see what our seamstress had come up with.
Since it was around closing time her entire family was now in the mix and they were having a party of food, drink, and laughter which they immediately brought us into. Within minutes they were putting beer, food, water, etc in front of us.
The man pictured with Peter is the shop owner’s Father who is in his 80′s and makes his own wine. Some might call it moonshine, but he calls in “liquid viagra.” That’s right folks. He had us sample it and then attempted to sell it to us. He was a nurse in the Vietnam War helping American soldiers stationed in Danang. He seemed very proud of his service.
So how did the custom clothes turn out?
Not great. In their defense, we didn’t give them much time. Peter’s buttons fell off his two shirts and stitching fell apart after one wash. We were about to attend Andrea and Joe’s wedding so I rolled the dice on a formal dress that ended up just looking cheap. Peter was against this formal-dress idea from the start and was happy to supply me with an “I told you so” look when I got the finished product.
Nonetheless, it was still a fun experience. Next time I would allow more time and go with the well researched shop. Another lesson in “you get what you pay for.” Pictures below are the dresses I had made.
Up next was part two of our Vietnam exploration that would bring us to Northern Vietnam to the capital city of Hanoi and then out to Halong Bay.
Thanks as always for coming along with us.