He wanted a custom made suit. The Californian doesn’t have an occasion to wear one, but was told of everywhere in the world to buy an inexpensive and quality custom made suit, Hoi An was the place. After being warned to avoid eye contact and conversation with anyone on scooters saying, “Hey…where you going? You want a ride?” (which happened a half dozen times), he biked to The Ancient Town, AKA the city center.
Per TripAdvisor’s suggestion, he attended Tony’s Tailor shop and began the process of buying a custom made suit. The kind ladies showed him a British catalogue of suits to choose a style which they would make from scratch in less than a day. He chose his color and his linings from a wall of fabrics. The ladies quickly took over a dozen measurements and told him to return that evening for a fitting. When he returned the roles of fabric had been tailored into a suit identical to the one in the catalogue. After a few minutes of tugging and pulling he was told to return the next morning for the final product.
He biked down the road to a tourist shopping area filled with tailors and The North Face jackets and bags. A woman convinced him to come to her store for a custom made shirt. They wandered the area from shop to shop to find the right material and print for his custom short sleeve shirt. He told her the style he wanted and she told him to return the following day, after measurements were taken.
From there he went to Tony’s brother Roni to have custom made sandals created. Measurements were taken and assurance given they would be ready 16 hours later and waiting for him at the suit store. He would never pay the money to deck himself out with custom made clothing in America so he decided to ball out in Vietnam.
Once night fell he wandered the streets beneath strings of colored lanterns of various shapes and sizes. The lights above him illuminated something within himself: pride. The feeling came from making his way through a foreign land, buying clothes without his mother or a female companion, and not being afraid of exploring a city he knew little about.
The next day he collected his custom fit garb and the kind ladies at the tailor shop placed a phone call to the post office so he could ship his suit home. Fifteen minutes later a woman arrived on a scooter carrying a scale, a box, and paperwork. He filled the package to send home to California with his clothing and other goods collected from his travels and souvenirs (including delicious Vietnamese coffee) for his family.
The next day he flew to Da Lat – a mountainous town an hour (or 17 hour bus ride) away. He took a cab to his hotel and arrived hours past nightfall. It was nearly midnight when he ventured down the hill to the nightly street market. He watched food carts prepare items he had never seen, of which he purchased what he could only describe as an egg burrito wrapped in regular paper. The feeling of arriving in a foreign place and eating strange food with no one around to ask for direction or explanation felt strange. It was not frightening, as he expected, but open-ended. The feeling was not new but rather uncommon, one that can not be anticipated or prepared for.
The following day he set out on a 64 KM round trip scootering adventure. The destination of Elephant Falls looked neat as water roared downward, and the twisting railway over boulders created a new definaition of what capacity a handrail could function by connection massive boulders. But the landscape along the winding mountain roads filled him more than the waterfall filled the pond it poured into. He stopped along the way to take in the sights and stop at a couple businesses advertised enroute. He ate roasted crickets at the cricket farm (beter with chili sauce) and weasel poop coffee as he overlooked a Vietnamese valley. He returned to Da Lat to visit The Crazy House, a structure created by someone who probably enjoyed hallucinogenic drugs. It had winding staircases and narrow pathways that explored the property, sometimes leading to dead ends.
The following day he spent a half day canyoning. The hike down a canyon from point A to point B included rapelling, rock scrambling, floating, and cliff jumping. It invigorated his soul and worked his body as it had now been more than a month since he had hiked, one of his favorite hobbies.
His pace from city to city was quick and as such he didn’t have time to think long about his aloneness or tired body. Excitement from exploration filled his soul, and for the time being that was all he needed. But this type of gas only keeps his tank running for so long. Ho Chi Minh City would provide exploration as well, but one with less of a consumeristic and adventure based experience and one of a different reality.