February 16, 2013
We got up early to have breakfast with Leonie. She was taking a bus to Hue and then Hanoi. This would probably be the last time we see her until Europe. As usual, we had a lovely time and were sad to see her go.
After dropping Leonie off at her hotel, we decided to go on a little bike ride around town. We headed down a main road, which wound through a neighborhood. As the road got narrower, the English signs disappeared. As we were talking about how tourists probably don’t often see this side of town, a huge tour group of westerners on rented bicycles go riding past us. Oops, nevermind.
Eventually, we found our way to the beach a few kilometers outside of town. As Chandler was locking our bikes to a palm tree, the beach patrol blows his whistle and motions no parking. We have to walk back down the street, park at a café which was apparently the designated parking area and pay someone for the privilege. This is another part of the Vietnam culture in tourist areas that really frustrates us: Small, pointless rules are occasionally vigorously enforced (often with a whistle), while seemingly more important things like basic traffic safety is left to chaos. After protesting a little with whistle boy, motioning to the other bikes and motos that locals had strewn about the entrance, we decided to keep riding, as it was very overcast and windy- not the best beach weather anyways.
We were getting excited for Chandler’s fitting but I must admit, I was feeling left out of the fun. As we rode into town we passed a small out of the way tailor shop with several linen pants on display. Chandler and I both put on the breaks at the same and turned around to have a second look. The shop owner immediately pulled me into store to pick out a fabric color the moment I expressed the slightest interest. She took a few measurements and told me to come back at 5 that night.
Back at Mr Xe’s, Chandler was sent to the back room to strip down to his skivvies (your welcome for not posting that pasty white photo). The pants were a perfect fit the first time. One of the dress shirts was a little too snug across the shoulders and the collar on the suit jacket didn’t lay right. Mr. Xe was all over it and took Chan back to the sewing room, fully dressed in his suit on the back of a moto. The small fixes would take only a couple hours.
At 5pm, we are back at my tailor to try on the pants. I am 5’8 1/2 so I have trouble finding pants long enough that aren’t jeans. It was kind of amazing to put on the pants and have them fit immediately. The tailor wanted to make a slight adjustment because the hips were too loose, so we’d have to come back in an hour. We head back over to Mr Xe’s for Chandler to try on the too snug shirt and funky collared jacket. Now everything looked and fit great. This was their second day of being open after Tet, and they had apparently done very good business- Mr. Xe was in a great mood and handed me a coke and Chan a beer to enjoy in front of his shop. After our suit fitting mini celebration we took a spin back over to pick up my pants and everything is ready to go. Fashion show time!
All our running around left us hungry, so we headed back to the river for some local food. Lucky for me, the kid taking orders spoke English and I was able to get some noodles without any meat. Chandler decided to get a feast of banh xe which were oily little crepes with mung beans and shrimp in them eaten torn up with fresh greens in spring roll wrappers, and a bowl of cao lau. We had a nice chat with an Australian woman on a holiday, on her way to Cambodia. She was doing her best to fend off a young girl who was trying to get money out of her by asking her for “souvenir money” from Australia for her “collection”. The woman gave the girl a coin, and after a little while the girl came back demanding more money, apparently having determined the value of the coin was not that much. It was quite a ridiculous scene, and very sad. We have heard and read that these children are often simply agents of larger gangs, and do not really profit much for their efforts.