Published: December 3rd 2012December 1st 2012
'No, i definately don't want to get anything made' I said for the tenth time as we passed the many tailor shops in Hoi An. 'I'm just going to get a suit I think' Scott said. We are not quite sure then how we ended up spending a lot of $$ on three suits, three dresses, two pairs of shorts and a coat!
Ahh lovely Hoi An, a UNESCO town which is full of little lanes and car-free streets, has a pretty river which is lit up at night, and a gorgeous beach just outside of town - it's a very likeable place which we spent 5 days in quite happily. It is also full of tailor shops, apparently over 500, and with our love of clothes it's no wonder we ended up with a few brand new garments made by these talented yet anonymous people. Let's start from the beginning...
After we arrived in the evening from Hue, we set about finding a room and quickly discovered that Hoi An would be one of the more expensive places in Vietnam that we would stay. Luckily we found a lovely hotel with a swimming pool and breakfast (and free
bicycles) for $15 a night, more than we wanted to pay but actually good value in a town like this. We had been craving a good curry for ages so that night the 6 of us went to Ganesh, an Indian restaurant voted #1 in Hoi An on Tripadvisor and also reccomended in the LP, and as such was very busy so we were told to come back in 15 minutes. This gave Scott and I enough time to nip across the road to a tailor shop so he could enquire about getting a bespoke suit made, and after getting an idea of how it worked we said we would go back in the morning. The food at Ganesh was excellent - we gorged on a feast of curries, rice, naan breads and lassi's until we were so stuffed we almost had to be rolled out of the place!
The next morning we took advantage of the free bicycles from our hotel and cycled round the old town for a while, taking in it's prettiness and enjoying the sun on our faces. Then as promised we went back to the tailor shop...3 hours later Scott had chosen his materials
and been measured up for 2 suits and 2 pairs of shorts, while I somehow had convinced myself I needed a new black coat for next winter back in the UK, so I showed the tailor a picture of a designer one that I liked, and she promised to replicate it. We were to go back the next morning for our first fittings, so spent the rest of the afternoon riding around the town, having lunch by the river and chilling at the hotel pool. That night it was a full moon, which only falls on the 14th day of the Lunar calendar, so we were happy we would be there for it as Hoi An celebrates this event. We made our way down to the river and were met with lots of red lanterns and floating candles providing the only light as the restaurants all turn theirs off this one evening a month, a very magical feeling. As Scott put his floating candle in the river, I gave him mine to put next to it, having romantic notions about the candles replicating us and floating away together. Unfortunately Scott dropped my candle upside down in the water so it
sort of just half sank and dissappeared, but still. We then went for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the river which was quite good, before having a few drinks at a bar named the 'meet market'...
Back in the tailor shop the next morning, we were excited to have our first fittings and were very impressed with the speed in which they had turned the clothes around, as well as the fit and quality. We made a few alterations which were easy enough, but then Scott decided he didn't like the lining in one of his suits and wanted to change it. The tailor wasn't too happy with this as it would mean the whole suit would have to be re-made, but agreed in the end - she was a bit happier when I ordered 2 dresses - and we were told to go back again that evening for more fittings. We had hired a motobike so rode to the beach about 5km away to check it out and were thrilled to discover it was amazing! Miles of soft sand and clear waters fringed by palm trees and a few restaurants, we stayed there for the rest of the
day soaking up the sun until it shaded over. We were really enjoying spending time in Hoi An, especially as we didn't even know it had a beach until we arrived, and after much debate we finally decided to extend our visa's which turned out to be a good decision. Our original visa's were until Dec 9th but as we hadn't entered the country until Nov 13th we wouldn't get the full month, which we thought would be fine at first but as we were enjoying ourseleves so much we didn't want to rush it so went down to the embassy ourselves before they shut at 4.30pm. We filled in some forms, gave them our passports and were told to come back at 3pm the following day with $20 each - we also saved time and money this way, as agencies wanted $25-$30 each plus it would have taken 2-3 days with them.
After saying bye to Leigh & Hannah for a few days as they were moving on down the coast, and more alterations in the tailor shop that night (Scott was happy with his new suit lining and my dresses were fab), we met up with fellow
Travel Bloggers Chris and Lou for some drinks and a curry which was great - enjoy the rest of your trip guys and no more accidents Lou!
As the beach was so nice the day before we planned to go back, but got up late and spent far too long in the tailer shop (I ordered another dress and Scott got another suit!) and before we knew it it was 3pm, so collected our visa's, had a late lunch and strolled around the town for a while. That night was supposed to be our last in Hoi An so we decided to treat ourselves to a gourmet meal in a highly reccomended restaurant called Morning Glory - it was quite nice but the food was a bit underwhelming and overpriced which was a shame, and we agreed we would get back to our backpacker ways and eat cheap again from now on. We were expecting our clothes to be ready the next day, so packed our bags and checked out of our hotel that morning, had a late breakfast and went down to the tailor shop for what we thought would be the last time, but being the fussy
clothes-connoisseurs that we are, we needed some more alterations made to some of the items and they would not be ready until 4pm. Thinking that would be fine and still give us enough time to send them home from the local post office and leave Hoi An, we rushed round several agents to try and book on a sleeper bus leaving for Nha Trang that evening at 6pm but they were all full! Annoyingly we had to book the bus for the following evening so went back to our hotel hoping they would have a room for us that night, which luckily they did. It meant we would spend another night in Hoi An, not the end of the world as we liked it, but lucky we had extended our visa's.
We went back to the tailor shop a bit later and everything was perfect and finished - at last! You can get items made in 1-2 days but we were glad we had the time to allow for extra fittings and alterations, as if you are rushed you could end up with something you are not entirely happy with. Our clothes were great and good quality, we highly
reccomend Bi Hanh tailor on Tran Hung Dao Street (conveniently located opposite Ganesh) - the girls in there are lovely and really pay attention to detail and what you want. We then packed everything up and went to the post office to get it boxed up and shipped to the UK (along with some other stuff from our backpacks) - it should arrive in 3 months they said! Then, as we didn't want to go far and were hungry, we ended up in Ganesh for Indian food for the 3rd time in 5 days - it really was that good! Our Dutch friends had just arrived in Hoi An so we met up with them for drinks afterwards which was fun as always, and we all ended up in the only club in the town called Volcano a bit later - it wasn't great but we all had a laugh and we left about 2am to make our way back to our hotel.
On our last day and with no tailor shop to go to, we were up early and on the beach ready for a day of tanning by 10am. We spent the day there and it was
great, especially as the weather was so good and we negotiated a deal with the restaurant behind the beach - if we ate there we wanted free sunbeds (which they were charging $2 each for), so they agreed and we stayed all day. We can't wait to hit some more beaches further down the coast now as at heart we are true beach bums and love lazing in the sun! When we got back to our hotel we showered and changed and got ready for our 3rd sleeper bus to take us 12 hours further south to the resort town of Nha Trang, somewhere we were looking forward to but had heard so many mixed reviews on so it would be interesting to see what it was like for ourselves.
First though, when the bus came it turned out that the agent we booked through the day before hadn't actually booked us on, or the bus company had messed up - either way, the driver wasn't happy about lettng us on even though we had a paid for ticket. He gestured for us first to sleep on the floor - no way - or then sit up near him
the front for 12 hours - still no; they even offered to give us back 30,000 VND for the inconvenience, leading us to believe they had in fact overbooked - the ticket cost 230,000 VND ($11) so 30,000 ($1.50) wasn't exactly a good deal for us to make us be even more uncomfortable than we had to be, so we said no. Eventually we got on the bus as there were 2 beds free, but they were right at the back underneath in the middle a row of 5, the worst possible position. The bus was old anyway, the driver was a maniac (its a miracle we didn't crash), it was so so hot as we were next to the engine and there was a couple next to me getting it on - add this to bumpy roads, squashed legs and a bit of claustraphobia and it was a recipe for no sleep for us! Still, at least we were finally on our way to Nha Trang... S&V's Travel Info & Tips: General Info: Approx 33,000 VND to £1 / 21,000 VND to $1. No matter how hard you try to resist, you will likely end up getting some clothes made! They tailor shops can make anything you want, just show them a picture or look through their many catalogues. My dresses cost $30 each, while a suit can cost $100-$150 depending on material. Transportation: We got the private car from Hue to Hoi An as mentioned in the last blog for $12 each. In Hoi An we hired a moto-bike for $5 a day, used the free bicycles from our hotel to get around, or walked. Food: Food did seem a bit more pricey in Hoi An than elsewhere so far, but good deals are still to be had. Definately try Ganesh for Indian food, it was delicious, and we had a tasty Banh Mi baguette for 15,000 VND (less than 50p/$1) at a stall next to the tailor shop. The first beach restaurant did nice food too - if you eat there, get your beds for free. The restaurants by the river look pretty but food is nothing special and quite same-same. Accomodation: We got a good deal for $15 a night at Than Van 2 hotel inc breakfast; it was a bit further out of town (10 minute walk) but it offered free bicycles which came in handy. Rooms were very nice here and it had a pool. Other observations: x) As anywhere, you can haggle down in the tailor shops, and the more you buy the better deal you can get, but don't compromise on quality. xx) The Hoi An post office offers fair prices for shipping items home - both the tailor shop and our hotel offered to call a courier service to collect our items but it would have cost more than going straight to the post office so we did that instead. xxx) If hiring a moto-bike, watch out for scams. We came out of our hotel one evening and noticed the bike we had hired had been moved and had a big white 'X' on the seat, as if it had been marked to take in the night. We rode it straight back to the agency after that.
There are more photos below