Here is where the master craftsmen - and woman - can be found deftly pulling needle and thread with usually no pattern at all; their skill has been passed down the line from generation to generation. We browsed in many shops before settling on one which was able to cater for my friends eccentric tastes (leopard print shirt anyone?). Before I knew it i had been swept along in the excitement and was being measured for a full-length fitted jumpsuit. The process was a swift, easy one which only made us more excited to return later that night to make any adjustments.
We whiled away the afternoon wandering around the graceful and atmospheric old town, seeing the intricately carved Japanese Covered Bridge, chinese temples of worship and many lovingly preserved ethnic houses. At 6pm we went back to the clothes shop to see our custom made garments for the first time and we were blown away by the detail and skill that had been put into making exactly what we asked for. A few alterations were penned down and we were to collect our items the next morning. Whilst not cheap, by no means were they expensive for the quality of the fabric and the skill involved and ultimately, a great experience.
We ate out that night and tasted Cao Lau for the first time. This is Hoi An's signature dish and is made from chewy noodles, Char Sui smoky pork, crisp greens, crunchy croutons and refreshing bean sprouts; resulting in a cornucopia of flavours hitting the tastebuds. Paired with an iced Vietnam tea, this dish is perfect for a witheringly hot afternoon and is a top favourite, not only with visitors and locals, but internationally too as famous chefs have descended on the town to try, and fail, to get their hands on the recipe. Hoi An is a concentrated mecca for foodies with an abundance of cooking classes and schools, and markets teeming with fresh produce and regional favourites.
The next day we hired a couple of bicycles as our means of transport to the beach, located a short 4km out of town. The roads are a frantic mess of cyclos, cars, motorbikes and cyclists, coming from all directions with no care for road etiquette but somehow it just works, as if the drivers are working on a communal inner GPS, so we had no problem gliding down the roads, tinkling our bell as we went. (You know what they say, do as the locals do!). We reached Cua Dai beach after cycling alongside the tributary rivers, part cultivated for crop growing, part emptying out into the ocean. This area will no doubt become the new 'It' place to go in years to come and hotel complexes were being thrown up all around us. I can understand why as the place is incredibly beautiful, I just hope that the tranquility is not forgotten in the race to conquer the area. The beach was wonderful; it was peaceful enough to really relax without being pestered by hawkers flogging souvenirs and the sand and water were that rich idyllic shade captured in the stereotypical beach photo.We spent the day here swimming in the tropical sea and hiding under the shade, reading our books. The perfect beach day!
That night we ate Ca Kho To, or fish in caramel sauce, which came served bubbling away in a claypot served with sticky aromatic rice. The sweetness of the caramel complimented the sour hit of the baked pineapple and among this flavour battle, the fish flaked and fell apart in my mouth. The best way to my heart is usually through my stomach and Hoi An did just that. It is my favourite place so far and definitely worth the international accolade and listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.