Throughout all our time so far we have refrained from buying anything, at the markets we have visited, despite the aggressive sales tactics of some of the owners. We kept telling ourselves "we are traveling light, everything fits in our carryon. We will not check any luggage." Until today. The markets of Hoi An have won.

The crack in the dam came yesterday when we visited an art gallery full of beautifully embroidered works of art. Today, during our free time, we went back. There were three pieces that we really liked. We narrowed the field down to my second and third choices. From there we nearly flipped a coin to decide. We thought about shipping the entire thing, frame and all, since the frame prices were so reasonable, but in the end we decided to just take the cloth. The cloth is easy to transport and takes up very little space, and can be ironed when we get back home before we frame the piece.

After that little purchase we were hungry and decided to have lunch. One of the places our tour company recommended in Hoi An is called Streets. We had a fantastic lunch, and learned a bit about this interesting organization for helping street kids by giving them 18 months of housing, food, and training in hospitality and the culinary arts. A delicious meal from a great organization. So I bought their cookbook.

I love buying cookbooks. I love reading cookbooks. I am a cookbook collector. There is no better way to remember the culture of a place than to be recreate the food you ate while visiting. And besides, what could be easier to transport and lighter to add to your luggage than a full color cookbook?

There was only one problem. I DON'T HAVE ROOM FOR A COOKBOOK. So we did what any sane travelers would do. We bought some chopsticks, and little wooden things to rest your chopsticks on, and a box to hold all of our new chopsticks. In fairness, I have to say that the chopsticks are made from the wood of a Jackfruit tree. Jane's new favorite fruit. Then Jane bought some Genie Jammy pants, and a scarf, and I bought a couple of leather bracelets. Accessorize, accessorize!

In an effort to stop the flow of new goods into our possession, we fled back to the shopping free zone that is our hotel. Sadly, we didn't make it past the leather bag store, Tu Chi, that we were "just browsing" in yesterday.

The young lady that runs the shop recognized us, and probably had us pegged as easy marks. She had some help from a guy who I imagine is her distributor in Russia. He did a nice sales job on the size, and construction quality of the bags. The one I really liked was a bit too large to make it past persnickety airline gate agents, so they said they would make me one that conforms to all the rules. Out comes the leather, in great big bolts. Which leather would I like, how would I like the top to zip open? How would I like the straps to be constructed. There was some discussion, from our new Russian friend, of carrying 20 kilos of potatoes. Sounds good in theory, but that would be over the weight limit of most airlines. Nevertheless this custom bag thing is all very cool. I'll update this post with the finished product tomorrow evening.

I guess we will be checking a bag for the flight to Hanoi after all.

Update: Here is a picture of the bag in progress, and the bag packed and ready for the airport in our hotel room in Hue.


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