Hoi An is probably my favourite place in Vietnam so far. I was here three weeks ago with my brother but I couldn’t resist a return trip. Its charming streets, quaint atmosphere and gastronomy are a massive draw, not to mention the beautiful nearby villages and beaches I was yet to explore. The most notable experience to be had here though has to be the tailor made clothing…
Everywhere you look in the town centre and also peppering its surrounding areas are endless tailor shops waiting to sell you the perfect suit, an elegant evening gown or whatever the hell you like. You can’t come to Hoi An without being approached by a shop owner wandering the streets trying to lure you in and take your measurements. Whatever your need or budget, Hoi An truly has it all. The tailors here are copy masters, able to recreate any picture of your favourite design and if you’re short on cash, the lower end shops are still very affordable. Time is not an issue either; some tailors offer their services within a day, depending on demand.
Unlike my travelling self, my brother had the money and actual need for work clothes back home. After browsing a few shops and getting a feel for quality and prices, he decided to splash out in one of Hoi An’s higher end tailors – Yaly – a beautiful shop, the materials and designs were unbeatable (torture for a window shopper!). The service was impeccable and it was very apparent in their attention to detail that anything less than perfection was not acceptable. After the initial measurements, he returned for two further adjustments (they wanted to do more) before the seamstresses were happy that their work was good enough. In the end he paid around $650 (£400) for a suit jacket, two pairs of trousers and six shirts. This might seem like a lot to spend on holiday, but these clothes fit my brother perfectly and will last him for many years. If you have the cash, go for it!
Having tried to renounce my consumerist habits from home, Hoi An’s tailored temptations were impossible to resist – I had to give in. I found a lower end tailors – Maya – with a beautiful range of materials who made me a cotton dress for $20. This was slightly more casual affair than my brother’s experience. Measures were made, lengths and necklines were briefly discussed and I was told to come back the next day to collect. Hoi An is subject to frequent power cuts so the next evening back in the shop I tried on the completed design in the dark, shook hands, exchanged cash and then merrily wore the creation to dinner. Despite the slightly slapdash set up, I absolutely loved the dress and it fitted so perfectly that I ended up going back the next day for another! Even though I had to leave that afternoon, they put it together in four hours and dropped it off at my hotel. So I now have two beautiful dresses for my travels – even if I do only use them for beer drinking!
I aim to enjoy the rest of my time here in Hoi An without breaking the bank. This could be pretty tricky with so many inviting shops (not just the tailors but this town also has in my opinion Vietnam’s best range of traveller gear and souvenirs), but I really can’t weigh down my backpack anymore. Fortunately Hoi An has a lot more to offer than just clothes so I will be quite content drinking bia hoi (10p freshly brewed beer), chowing down on street food, cycling around town, relaxing on the beaches and taking yoga classes. Don’t miss Hoi An!