Touching down in Southeast Asia travellers will no doubt take notice of the numerous tailors advertising custom made suits. From Bangkok to Saigon, smartly dressed mannequins flaunt the clean lines of blazers and coats. But if you can make your way to Hoi An, Vietnam you will be rewarded in spades. A UNESCO designated destination, fashion seeking travellers can design and order custom fit clothing, footwear and jewelry. However, it's in the time spent between fittings that the humble destination impresses by over delivering on cuisine, beaches, atmosphere and aesthetics.
With over 600 tailors residing in Hoi An, there's no shortage of boutiques to choose from. Naturally the spectrum of quality is well represented and the age old adage 'you get what you pay for' certainly applies. Kimmy Tailors is one of the most well regarded shops in sleepy Hoi An, and the standard of service is impeccable without being pretentious. The process typically starts with customers lounging on sofas in a well appointed showroom. Clients are handed laptops loaded with PDFs of designer clothing and an order sheet. Following careful consideration the fun part begins: selecting fabric and patterns. After playing the role of fashion designer one is measured from top to bottom and instructed to return in 24 hours. It's also at this point that prices are negotiated. In subsequent fittings final adjustments are made to suit, and a reputable tailor will accommodate as many fittings as necessary. As a point of reference, mens collared shirts range from $30-35 and a knee length, double breasted, wool pea coat (unisex) around $80.00. Well prepared travellers can bring magazine pages or photos from home with which a tailor will be happy to recreate. Most shops also offer to ship garments abroad which is a nice alternative to toting them about for the remainder of your trip. It is advised to retain receipts for customs declaration purposes.
While fashion may be highly touted by tourists, the culinary scene in Hoi An is outstanding. There are few street vendors in the Old Town (head to the Central Market to locate some) and dining largely takes place in seated dining rooms in iconic timber frame buildings. By the standards of bustling Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An is romantic and manicured. Specialties one would regret not sampling include deep fried wontons, cao lau (a rice noodle dish topped with roast pork, veggies and herbs) and banh bao vac (shrimp dumplings shaped to look like a rose.) Popular restaurants are Miss Ly Cafe, Streets Restaurant Cafe, Ganesh and Reaching Out Tea House. In fact, all four have collectively received nearly 4,000 reviews on Tripadvisor.com.
Hoi An is exceptionally well preserved. The Old Town is an easily navigable grid, (a welcome relief from the chaotic alleys of Hanoi) contained on its south side by the Thu Bon River. Architecturally the town has strong Chinese, Japanese and European influences. Buildings are painted in warm hues and paper lanterns create a whimsical atmosphere. Of course no trip to Hoi An would be complete without visiting the iconic Japanese Bridge. Covered by a traditional pagoda style structure and constructed in the 1600s, the bridge has become a symbol of the town. Simply put, Hoi An bleeds charm and is a stunning model for hobby and professional photographers alike.
Hoi An is a coastal town, enveloped by white sand beaches. Cua Dai is easily the most visited, located just 5km from the city centre. Further, affordable bicycle and motorbike rentals make day tripping easy. Alternatively Ahn Ban Beach affords sun seekers a great beach escape.
It's well worth mentioning that there are few hotels located within the Old Town. Travellers arriving without prearranged accommodation wishing to stay in a centrally located neighborhood should head to the intersection of Trần Hưng Đạo and Hai Ba Trung (streets) and walk a short distance north to find comfortable and budget friendly guesthouses. Those wanting to be near the beach will find a generous selection of hotels and several luxurious properties to choose from.
Have you ever been to Hoi An?
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