Travel Ahhh….Lanterns

red lanterns against green building in saigon

Saigon, May 2014: I loved the contrast with the ascending red lanterns and the green and white buildings.

Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 2014. 

Lanterns make me happy and I’m not sure exactly why. They are hopeful and often remind me of long-held traditions, but also new beginnings. Perhaps that is because they are so prevalent in Asian New Year’s celebrations. They also provide a pop of happy color. The best place to see lanterns has to be Hoi An, Vietnam. At night, lanterns are friendly night lights. In the daytime, they add an Asian aesthetic to the mustard yellow colonial French architecture.  Below is a collection of lantern photos.

Yellow lanterns match the mustard colored architecture in Hoi An.

Yellow lanterns match the mustard colored architecture in Hoi An.

Hoi An, Vietnam, 2014.

Lanterns and lotus flowers, too?! Can't get much better.

Lanterns and lotus flowers, too?! Can’t get much better.

Hoi An, Vietnam, 2014.

Turning in for the night.

Turning in for the night.

Hoi An, Vietnam, 2014.

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On an Ao Dai High: Part II

Loan's stall

This story is a continuation of “On an Ao Dai High in Saigon,” and some of the information is repeated for clarity in the new version. 

Hoi An, Vietnam, May 2014 

In a frilly, white top, tight jeans and slip-on kitten heels, Loan hoisted her tiny self up on to a worn wooden shelving unit in her tailoring stall, No. 7 “Cloth Shop.” Like a librarian on a sliding ladder, searching a dusty floor-to-ceiling bookcase, her hands moved from shelf to shelf pulling various reams of silk and cotton fabrics. After lowering herself down like a gymnast, she showed me the selections for closer inspection. Easily a few feet taller than Loan, I felt oafish — like a 1980s burly and brutish East German swimmer named Helga. I doubted whether her Vietnamese measuring tape would even have enough units to assess my broad shoulders.

Loan measruing my biceps

I am Helga. Hear me roar!

Loan whipped out her measuring tape and, surely, released more of the white tailoring strip than was usually necessary. While lifting my arms straight out, I scanned the interior of the Hoi An marketplace, which was crammed with tailoring stalls like Loan’s, a food court and several souvenir stands with lanterns, fans, conical hats, trinkets and inflatable toys. Bored shopkeepers sat on plastic stools, playing cards. Their laughing children instigated a game of tag in the tight confines. A grungy backpacker couple in the tailoring stall next to Loan’s spoke to each other in German while holding a rather shapeless linen dress. The German man, in a grimy, ripped tank top, haggled in English with the Vietnamese tailor over the price of the linen garment.

Meanwhile, Loan gently wrapped the measuring tape around my damp neck, which glistened with a permanent necklace of perspiration. The day had been heinously humid, and I wondered how Vietnamese women could even bear to wear an ao dai, the beautiful traditional high collared, fitted tunic dress with side slits that is sported over silk trousers. The heat, however, would not deter me. I had come to Loan specifically for an ao dai.

But, somehow, I thought a fitting for the elegant dress that symbolized Vietnam and was emblazoned on everything from keychains and magnets to lovely embroidered wall hangings would be more…glamorous. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting.

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