Monday, March 30, 2009

Shoes, Cyclos, and Coffee by the River

I’ve already posted about the big Hue University festivities on Saturday, but that wasn’t all the excitement for the day. Our day started with a visit to a very upscale coffee house on the river, as the guests of two physics instructors at Hue University. It was a very beautiful setting. We sat right beside the river with entertainment provided by some local kids in boats. I have one photo of the kids that is pretty adorable, but given that two of the young boys weren't wearing pants under their t-shirts, I'm afraid to post it. Yes, I view it as art; my intention was to take a nice human interest shot of the kids. It honestly didn't hit me until I downloaded the photos just how exposed the two boys were. No, I won't e-mail it to anyone either, because that could get me into bigger trouble.

The coffee house doubles as event space, and many of the events are weddings. This symbol on one of the doors supposedly means “happiness.” I didn’t get a photo of it, but the stage was decorated for a wedding to be held later in the day. There were two dates noted on the state: 28-03-09 and 03-03-[some Vietnamese words]. The first date is obviously according to the Gregorian calendar. The other indicates that March 28, 2009, was the third day of the third lunar month in the year of the buffalo. The mixing of Eastern and Western cultures is fascinating. I have seen two brides during our visit: One was in a Western bridal gown, and the other was in traditional Vietnamese attire. I know that in Japan they sometimes have two ceremonies, one for each culture; it may be the same here.

We also took a break in the middle of the day to shop for shoes to go with the suits the sons planned to order. Both sons take after their parents and have incredibly wide feet (can you say EEEE?), so getting dress shoes that are comfortable for them to wear has been a real problem. They figured that if they were going to get suits, they might as well have suitable shoes to wear with them. Someone at the university had given the husband the address of a shoemaker. Since it was across the river and a ways into the Citadel area, we decided to speed things up by taking our first cyclo ride. You’ve seen cyclos in some of my photos here. The driver pedals a bicycle at the back, and you sit in a comfy seat up front. Usually, we’d rather walk for the exercise, but we wanted to take these at least once for the experience. Here’s the husband negotiating the fare with four drivers. The fare negotiated, off we went! Here are the husband and older son in their cyclos. I was only able to get a photo of younger son when we got to the address the husband had been given and discovered there was no shoemaker there. One of the cyclo drivers got on his cell phone, and a few twists and turns (including a U-turn in the middle of traffic), we got to the shoemaker. There was then some additional negotiation about the added fare for the extra couple of blocks and the cell phone call. And did we want them to wait to take us back to the hotel? They had trouble taking no for an answer and ended up hovering down the street the whole time we were in the shoemaker’s store. We ended up thwarting them by leaving the store, walking away from them, then as they started to follow us, we turned and went back to the shoemaker because the husband, realizing just how cheap the shoes were, decided he wanted a second pair in a different color of leather.

As for the shoemaker, they start by tracing the foot and measuring around it at several points with a tape measure. Then you look at all the shoes that they have on display and choose what color leather you want, what style toe you want, do you want tie shoes or slip-ons, how high you want the heel to be, and just about everything else you can ask for in a shoe. I know that I said the sons would be ordering shoes and all the photos are of the husband, but when he learned how cheap the sons’ shoes would be, he had to get into the act, too. The sons also decided to order sandals to go with the shoes. How cheap was everything? If I tell you, I’ll have to cancel my latest blog contest, so I won’t. Come back on Thursday morning (US time), and I’ll tell you when I announce the contest winner.


Debi said...

How long does it take them to make a pair of shoes?

Jean said...

Originally we were going to pick the shoes up on Saturday. However, the young woman at the reception desk phoned up to the room this afternoon to say that a man was down there with the shoes. Yea! Everyone loves their pair. Blaine said that while the leather felt stiff as new leather should, the shoes otherwise felt like well worn in and made for his feet. Blaine says that when we come back (I liked the "when") we will bring clothes for just a day or two and otherwise do a new wardrobe while we are here.

VA said...

40 years ago in Thailand, shoes were often soled with old tire rubber, with the original tread in them!l