11.06.2010 - 17.06.2010 38 °C
When leaving Hanoi we took the enormous bus journey to Hoi An. This was my first experience with a 24 hour bus journey and I have to say I found it to be rather enjoyable. The first crazy thing about the overnight buses is that they all have bunk-beds in them. As we departed Hanoi bound for Hoi Ann, we felt slightly like we were prisoners in straight-jackets being transported to the local high security prison. This was due to the fact that all passengers need to lie horizontally as the bus sped down the highway while everyone was strapped in holding onto the bunk-bed for dear life. The good news was that bed itself was very comfortable and after several diazepams (Valium) it was clear you were going to get a good night sleep. The only other concern was in the middle of the night, the bus as expected broke down. But the driver then reassured us by fixing the problem with some black tape and wire that he found on the street. Thankfully the diazepam pills made us feel we were in safe hands. We then arrived safely in Hoi An albeit 30 hours later and it instantly felt refreshing to escape the chaotic bus ride and the craziness of Hanoi.
As soon as the bus dropped us off we checked into the nearest hotel for convenience. This turned out to be a great choice so we continued to stay there for our whole visit as it was only $12 USD per night. I do not know what I expected from Hoi An but on our first day I instantly fell in love with the place. Hoi An is located in the South Central Coast of Vietnam and the beaches are just beautiful. It is also another UNESCO world heritage site and it is easy to see why. The architecture is distinctly French and Spanish where there are lovely coffee shops and picturesque balconies and buildings in an array of different styles and colours. But the main reason why tourists flock to Hoi An is for the tailors. Here you can pretty much get anything you want from shoes to bags, to dresses, to suits and you can even have your designs and styles copied from your most favourite garments. I was immersed in sun, sea, sand and shopping and quite simply, I was in heaven.
On the first day we got to business in kitting ourselves out with new wardrobes. When choosing a tailor it is very important that you do your homework. There are literally hundreds of tailors and they all tell you the same thing that they use good quality fabric and that they are different from the rest. The first thing I would recommend is for anyone who visits Hoi An they should allocate as much time as possible. Believe it or not, tailor shopping can be stressful and it is not so fun in the baking heat. So my best advice is to do all you’re shopping in the evening and spend the day on the beach. We bumped into so many people slugging around in the midday heat looking very stressed and most likely making bad decisions due to the pushy shop assistants.
Our strategy was then to start at the most expensive tailors and then work our way down the price line. Yaley and A Dong Silk are the most prestigious tailors in the town but we personally felt they were overpriced and overrated. Instead we read many reviews on this tailor called Mr Xe and decided to check him out. As soon as we walked into his slightly primitive showroom, Mr Xe turned out to be a short flamboyant Vietnamese man who greeted us with a shining smile and had his daughters’ rap fabrics around us while making us feel at home. Karl then worked his haggling magic and purchased a tailor made cashmere woollen three piece suit for only £100 and I ended up buying 2 skirts based on my favourite skirt along with a cocktail dress for only £40. The next day we went back for a fitting and my cocktail dress looked like a bridal wedding dress. Mr Xe was not happy about this and then demanded that I come with him while in this white dress and insisted that I jump on the back of his motorbike. With trepidation, I jumped on the back of his bike and I think every Vietnamese person thought Mr Xe had stolen the blonde Scottish bride as we jetted down the busy cramped streets. He then took me to his workshop where he began telling off the dressmakers how badly they got it wrong. The next day we then returned and both Karl’s suit and my dress and skirts looked great. Mr Xe then insisted that we join him for a special lunch as it was public religious holiday. He then forced us to eat food that looked unpronounceable and I hid the half of the food underneath the table in a napkin and thankfully he never caught me out. The thought still counted though and we were very happy with all our purchases.
Our other experience was with a tailor called Nhi Nhi on 64 Le Loi St and she is just superb for casual wear. Here I bought a jacket and a dress while Karl outshopped me buying 5 casual shirts, 2 business shirts and 2 jackets. One of the most difficult things about tailoring in Hoi An especially for females is to design something that is fashionable and will have a good fit. Therefore my recommendations are to go with a tailor that understands contemporary fashion as a lot of the examples are ill-fitting and outdated. Karl’s haggling was even fiercer here where he managed to use all his charm to get us a wonderful deal where we paid £130 for all of this clothing. When we went to collect the clothes everything was perfect first time and no alternations were needed. We were extremely happy with the service she provided. So if you are going to Hoi An for clothes make sure you visit Mr Xe and Nhi Nhi, you wont be disappointed and no we aren’t on commission.
For the remainder of our time, we cycled to the beach everyday which was an exciting journey every time. As I dodged the motorbikes, cyclists, cars, trucks, buses and animals on my bike I realised how much I loved it here and how Hoi An really is the perfect holiday destination. You have everything here you could need and want such as sun, sea, sand and shopping and it was the perfect way to end our 2 week trip in Vietnam. To be honest, at this point I really didn’t want to leave. Tomorrow we fly to Hong Kong the final destination our trip. Scotland is now beginning to feel very close indeed.
Hoi An, Vietnam