Thursday 26 Feb
Hoi An, Vietnam
Suits and Saliva
Hoi An is all about tailors. Getting some suits made to save myself some money next year was one of the few things I had foreseen before arriving in Vietnam. Getting suits made is an experience, particularly as you generally don't know whether people are going to do a good job or actually make the suits in the way you want. So I began the long process of figuring out what I wanted and where I could get it.
Meanwhile, after my first night in Hoi An I woke up with a strange swelling behind my jaw. It was strange enough to make me go to the local hospital, which while necessary turned out not to be such a great idea. The designated slightly-english-speaking doctor gave me a huge injection which didn't seem to really do much except nearly make me faint, and then insisted I should have an "infusion" (drip) because I had low blood pressure because of the injection. I managed to get out of that by waiting for half an hour and thinking high-blood-pressure thoughts. But no amount of argument could get me out of taking home (and paying for) a large pile of medication which I had minimal intention of taking. I think the doctor knew what he was doing, but after his "friend the ear doctor" failed to find anything wrong with my ear he got a bit sick of me and prescribed lots of stuff just to be safe. Anyway, so much for that experience.
I ended up getting some "serious" suits (i.e. not bright red) made at an expensive place. Once I had finally decided on this it still took two days of various fittings to get the whole process finished and I was a bit sick of it by the end. Of course, the fact that they made each suit in about 8 hours was pretty impressive. One of the other features of Hoi An is that you constantly bump into everyone you have met everywhere else in Vietnam. This is quite nice and led to me having some informed advice about suits! I had never considered the number of decisions needing to be made - I can make arbitrary decisions about the number of pockets, but what colour lining do I want?
As the suit circus rolled on, my illness got worse and I internet-diagnosed myself as having swollen salivary glands. What a bizarre thing to go wrong in a place which is either 14 or 24 hours by bus from the nearest city with good international medical facilities. While considering this I decided that being a backpacker and generally roughing it is slightly unsustainable and, in particular, isn't really justified by the profoundness of the experience it leads to. My assumption at the start of the trip had been that doing everything in a really basic way would be not only cheap but somehow authentic. I don't think this is really the case, at least in south-east asia which is backpacker central, so maybe I should take it easy, allow myself a bit more luxury, and not get sick as much. Can I afford it? I have no idea.
The consequence of this piece of reflection was that I have decided to fly to saigon and save myself from 24 hours in a sleeper bus.