Finally: here is part two of Saturday's shopping excursion (part two involves no perfidy):
This is the most famous market in Viet Nam: The Ben Thanh Market. The hotel where we stayed upon our arrival is about two blocks from here. Inside is fabric, food, fake name-brand purses... everything. Everything. It is a deceptively normal-looking building from the outside.
At 6:00, when the indoor Ben Thanh Market closes, this street in front of it transforms into the Night Market. Almost everything you can find inside during the day, you can find outside at night. Rows and rows of collapsible restaurants with tanks of live seafood line this street every single night. It takes about fifteen minutes to walk here from the castle, or about five minutes by bus or mototaxi.
If you go into the entrance of the market pictured here and turn left at the first aisle, you can find my downtown seamstress' sister's fabric stand. If you turn around from the spot of the picture, you can see a line of seamstress and tailor shops: My downtown seamstress' shop is the one called "Tram." That is her name.
Here she is. She is holding the two fabrics I have chosen for the #1 Dress Winner...many people liked this blue paisley, so I went with that, and my nephew Nolan mentioned that he thought I should make it in dark red. I agreed. Angie and Marie, I hope you are OK with these...if not, we will have to make a third. So I gave her the picture and the fabric and she made some measurements. She says they will be done by next weekend, but we'll see. She's rarely on time unless someone is flying out.
Here is a close-up picture of her shop: the mannequin on the right is wearing the Vietnamese traditional dress, the Ao Dai (pronounced "Ow Yi." This is one of this shop's specialties. Often when I stop by, Vietnamese women are being fitted for weddings or formal occasions. For some events, women change into up to five different ao dais, can you believe it?
This woman pictured to the right is Tram's loyal assistant. She just got her hair cut...usually she wears cute pigtails. She always offers me fruit or something when I come by. Sometimes Tram has as many as five women stitching away on the floor of her shop. Usually, they seem to be having a good time with all of the people coming in and out. I have no idea how she keeps everything straight, because material is lying around everywhere.
To keep you posted on cost...both the red and paisley material cost 65,000 per meter (arond $3.70), so the total for the fabric for both dresses is about $15 (I take 2.5 meters for a dress). When the dresses are ready, after the fitting(s), I will pay her 200,000 per dress ($12 each). So, grand total for two Maggy London dresses listed on Nordstrom.com for $118 will come to about $40 for both. That is a savings of almost $200. So, I'm sure some of you are doing the math. A round trip ticket to HCMC runs about $1000. Just think of all the money you could save!
And here are Shannon and Sharon looking at Tram's catalogue for ideas. Their eyes are wide with possiblities after their first dip into the world of clothes making. Both of them keep telling me that they are afraid of this world. They fear all of the possibilities and all of the money they will now be spending.
As for me, I am completely at peace with the money required for my new favorite hobby (after eating).