After breakfast and check out, we were on our way from Hue to Hoi An which was a little over an hour’s drive in the rain. Just before arriving in Hoi An, we arrived at the marble mountains…five hills clustered together. Near the mountains were several marble/stone shops with various shapes and sizes of hand carved stones. They had tiny little souvenir statues to marble bowls to Buddha statues larger than Giff. Before exploring the mountain, we took our time browsing through the store and bargaining to make a deal. We left with four really cool hand-carved marble bowls at a very nice price!
After our marble shopping we walked over to the mountain and through the natural opening. There was a bridge-like walkway we walked over to get inside which was hand carved out of the mountain…it was all marble and had the 12 animals representing the Chinese Zodiac on each side of the little bridge.
Once we were inside the dark cave, we could see all kinds of carvings into the wall, Buddha Statues and other kind of strange-looking sculptures. Amongst the moss on the walls was writing and little indents in the cave walls filled with marble Buddha’s. It was so amazing to be standing inside a mountain which was made of all marble. We followed the dark pathways inside the mountain and up winding steps as we saw a little opening of light. Once at the top, there was a small space for the three of us to stand and take in a panoramic view of the area. Back down at the bottom, we made our way to the main entrance passing by the statue where our guide lit incense as he prayed.
Once we were back outside, our driver took us to the center of town and dropped us off at our hotel to check in. Our guide wanted to continue with the tour but being we could barely understand a word he was saying (English…not his strong suit) we told him thanks but no thanks. We got our stuff into our room and went walking through the cute town. There were tons of tailor shops with all kinds of dresses, coats and suits out on display. We walked into one right across the street from our hotel to see what these shops were all about.
The women spoke English and explained we choose a style and we choose the material…then she takes our measurements and will custom tailor it. We asked about prices and started to get excited as we realized this was going to be a very big shopping day for us. Being we saw so many shops doing the same types of things, we told her we wanted to go eat and shop around and then we would be back. As we walked down the street, we saw tons of little restaurants, shops and a market selling fresh goods and souvenirs. This is going to be a favorite town of Vietnam!
We found a restaurant and grabbed a table…it was within the restaurant but the front was open so we could watch people walking by as we ate lunch. Of course, we ordered crispy spring rolls…so mouth watering. We also ordered what soon became our favorite dish in town which was Cao Lau…it’s base is made of rice noodles, (similar texture to pasta) which was topped with slices of roast pork, crispy dough fritters and fresh herbs…it was so good. And the homemade dips they brought out for the food…were definitely a nice touch.
After lunch we walked around stopping in several of the 400 or so shops in the area. Giff and I pulled a Julia Roberts in Pretty Women…we picked out button-down shirts, dresses, ties, PJ’s, robes, shoes and winter coats all custom-made to our exact measurement from scratch. To give you and idea of the pricing we couldn’t resist…Giff’s button down work shirts were $12.50 -$15.00 each! My 100% long silk dresses in gorgeous patterns were $40 each! We had soooo much fun going store to store picking out our wardrobe. After we were measured and the fabric and style picked…they told us to either come back later in the day or the next day for a final fitting.
Time flew by as we shopped to our heart’s content…finally we had worked up another appetite for dinner. We found a cute table right on the edge of the restaurant and ordered a Cao Lau each as well as some dumplings. We were a bit disappointed with the Cao Lao in comparison to the first place we had it…there are many variations of the local dish and this one was just ok.
After dinner, we stopped in a couple of the shops for additional fittings so things could be tweaked and then got back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep after so much hard work shopping all day.