Girls just love shopping – so when my sister arrived to join me in Hanoi it was a given that we would hit the shops. Well this is a little different to heading over to Chinook Mall for a dose of retail therapy followed by a Vente skinny latte. Nevertheless we knew what we wanted – a traditional Vietnamese suit called “ao dai” which is a long slit tunic worn over wide pants.
Cruising along the streets I spotted a colourful tunic hanging on the wall next to a dark narrow alley. Quick as a flash a tiny smiling Vietnamese lady bobbed up. “Bonjour… you like… come come” she beckoned. I followed her down the tiny alley squeezing past parked scooters until we came to – literally – a hole in the wall lined with shelves and packed with colourful silk garments. She eyed me up and down and quickly assessed my size and pulled out a silk tunic from a shelf. Bloody hell! It said extra large on the tag. Oh well – I guess in this land of exquisitely tiny women I must be like a giant.
“Come come you try” she urged – pulling off my shirt. There I stood in my bra, in the alleyway while busy commuters made their way down the alley pausing only momentarily to glance at this crazy half dressed tourist. Next thing came the silk trousers. Again she urged me to try them on by tugging at my shorts. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound (or a dong…. well I am in Vietnam after all). At this stage she realised that her husband/father/brother or whoever was watching all this anxiously – clearly wanting the sale. She also realised that maybe a little privacy would be in order and with a big smile she pulled across a curtain which covered half of the room and only a quarter of my fat butt.
Look, I thought to myself – I will never see these people again.
The situation deteriorated however when my sister spotted a cotton blouse further down the road. Again we were seduced down a long narrow alleyway but this time there was no hole in the wall – just a table with piles of shirts at a busy intersection of alleyways. No curtains here – just Trish in her bra trying on the blouse while two suit-clad ladies squeezed past her with their scooters in full rev mode. What were we thinking????