On the coast of central Vietnam near the mouth of the Thu Bon River lies the city of Hoi An, a city rich in culture and history. The day we arrived a tropical storm hit the city. When we rented motorcycles during down time the next day, our ride got a little deep in places.
Best known as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Hoi An is an example of a well-preserved traditional Asian trading port. Its architecture blends elements of Vietnamese culture as well as Japanese, Chinese, and European cultures.
But Hoi An is also known for the product of silkworms.
The streets of Hoi An are lined with silk shops. Windows and doorways are graced with silk dresses, suits, ties, and scarves. Expert tailors whip up beautiful clothing in hours if not days. Savvy travelers should consider bringing along an extra suitcase. We stopped into one shop looking for a tie for our son and were taken with a beautiful blue-gray raw silk. The price for a custom made tie? Fifteen dollars to be completed by that evening.
In order to create the shimmering fabric, white, wiggly worms feed on bright green mulberry leaves.
They soon grow plump and begin spinning a cocoon.
Once their job is finished, the cocoons are dropped into a basin of water. There a loom picks up thread from different cocoons and pulls them together in a single swath of raw silk.
Finally those strands are woven together in endless bolts of both raw and fine silk.
There are other ways the silk worms are used here. We stopped at a modern cooking school in Old Town Ha Noi. A restaurant sits in the middle of the school and around it are stations where you can sample, and watch chefs prepare, typical regional foods. The “Weird and Wonderful Foods” station caught my husband’s eye. No surprise there. Pig brains, frogs, jellyfish, pig’s ear and you guessed it–silk worm salad–were on menu.
I think I’ll stick with silk.