Hoi An is the tailor capital of Vietnam, but even if you don’t go for the clothing, the charming town is well worth a visit and a good starting point for a sightseeing daytrip to the attractions around central Vietnam’s capital Da Nang.
We started our four-day stay with a good Vietnamese coffee and a relaxed stroll through the narrow streets of the town. Most of the businesses are tailors where they measure you up and make any piece of clothing you could wish for. Quality is good and the prices are very reasonable, too. But a little more on that further down.
Between the 15th and the 19th century, Hoi An was a trading port, and some of that can still be seen in the form of old merchant houses and the trader’s beautiful hangout places that can now be visited. The Japanese bridge in the heart of the city is another reminder of different times. Nowadays, it’s one of Hoi An’s main tourist attractions and a popular motive for photographers. In 1999, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Barbara’s distrust in the Vietnamese cuisine has reached the point of no return and so we mostly had dinner in two different Indian restaurants. Not a bad choice after all, they both served delicious food. One night we still went for some local food and we found a restaurant called Secret Garden. As the name would suggest, it’s a green place hidden in the back of one of the main streets. And this time, even Barbara enjoyed a Vietnamese dish and actually liked it.
Hoi An is charming during the day, but it shows its true face only after sunset when all the restaurant and shops lining the roadside turn on the lights. Most of the centre turns into a pedestrian zone and the bars and restaurants start to fill up.
On the second day, I found myself a tailor. Although the temptation is huge to renew your wardrobe and stock up on some things, we decided against it. But even though I didn’t go for a suit, I couldn’t resist and took the opportunity to get two shirts done with the idea to make sure they fit perfectly and then be able to order more when I am back in the office one day. First, I chose the material and then let one of the ladies measure me up. She almost got a ladder.
Before they can get to work, you want to make sure they know exactly what you are looking for and how you want that shirt or whatever piece you are getting made. They can do it all, they just need the right instructions.
Over the next two days, I would go back twice for fittings and point out a few details to improve. The result was more than worth the USD 35 I paid for each shirt.
What I also didn’t regret was getting two fruity shirts from the rack for a few dollars and the matching hats, but you’ll see. Just remember that part for when you read the posts about the Philippines.
Usually, we didn’t see much effort being made to recycle garbage in Vietnam. Hoi An was an exception to that; here, they even recycle the tourists they have no use for anymore. Probably because they ran out of money…
Our visit to Hoi An fell on the dates of a public holiday, the Liberation/Reunification Day right at the beginning of May. That night the streets were busier than normal. People would light candles and float them on the river, take a short boat ride or play some rather odd parlor games, not all of which could easily be understood and followed by ignorant tourists like ourselves. One we managed to figure out went like this: for a small fee, the participant would get a chance to blindfoldedly approach a ceramic jar hanging head high on a rope and try to smash it with a wooden stick. People, including us, had a blast when they made a fool of themselves.
In the next post, we’ll tell you a little about our motorbike day tour we did while in Hoi An.