BootsnAll Travel Network

Hoi An: The Clothes Maketh the Man

From Mui Ne, Bec and I were headed north up the Vietnamese coast to the World Heritage listed town of Hoi An. To get there, we decided to skip through the typical tourist stop of Nha Trang, a decision we felt was vindicated when we saw how developed the town was; huge hotels lit up by neon lights lined the foreshore of this mini Gold Coast. Nha Trang was a few hours north of Mui Ne, and after an hour or so of waiting there in the early evening we caught a ten hour overnight bus ride to Hoi An.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a sleepy little place just beginning to wake with the dawn light. The UNESCO listing has helped to maintain a wonderful old-time feel in the quiet place. Old buildings painted in soft yellows and creams and browns lined the narrow streets, with awnings hanging out over the cracked pavements.

After walking a short distance from where the bus dropped us (seemingly a random street in town – certainly no sign of a bus station here) we checked into what was, for us, a luxurious hotel for $17 a night. It was expensive by our usual standards, but we justified it with the thought that this was, essentially, our last stop before heading back to Australia after 12 months away from home, capped 6 months of constant travel.

Our plan was to spend a full week here in Hoi An. The reason; clothes.

Hoi An is known on the backpacker trail as the place to have clothes tailored in Asia. Stories of suits and dressed being made to fit with a 24-hour turnaround were commonplace – but if you wanted the best quality you needed to allow at least a couple of days. With a week, we were surely set. This was also the reason we’d organised to have Hoi An as the final destination on our trip, because we planned on getting whole new wardrobes.

After checking into the hotel and resting for a few hours, we headed back out into the streets around 9or 10am, and boy had the place changed in just a short few hours. The previously quiet streets were bustling with motorbikes and cyclists, the footpaths were drowning under the footprints of a thousand mannequins standing in groups outside every shopfront. Every shopfront. It seemed every single building in Hoi An housed a tailor. The entire place was one big clothing store where you could have anything you wanted made to order.

It was a fantasy land, and one we took full advantage of:

Four suits, each with two pairs of trousers, a vest and a jacket.
Five business shirts
Two casual shirts
One pair casual trousers
One pair cufflinks
One pair leather boots
One pair leather shoes

One dress
Three tops
Four pairs of trousers
Four skirts
Four pairs of leather shoes
One jacket

And I think that’s all, but I would not be surprised if I’ve left some things out, we did go just a little bit crazy.

On that first morning in town, we simply wanted to walk around and take in the sights and sounds of Hoi An. After around 15 hours on a bus we weren’t quite ready to begin having clothes made. Five minutes after leaving our hotel we were chatted up by a local girl who made us promise to visit her sister’s stall in the local cloth market. For in addition to every store housing a tailor, the town contained an immense cloth market where rolls and rolls of material were stacked against every wall, young girls stretched tape measures around the torsos of visiting westerners, old men and women sat at even older sewing machines and converted metres of cloth into dazzling outfits, and giant rats scampered from one stack of shelves to another.

We took this in as we were dragged into the market by the young local girl and sat down in her sister’s little area to be assaulted by sounds and sights. 45 minutes later we’d been measured up for three suits, one dress, a couple of tops, some trousers, and a skirt, and handed over a huge wad of cash as a deposit.

I felt sick as we left the market. I’d just done exactly what I’d wanted to avoid – being railroaded into a whole heap of items by the first tailor we’d visited. It was stupid. We’d been ripped off, I thought. But of course, it all turned out fine.

Over the next three or four days as we went back to the market for fittings of our new gear, we became increasingly confident. Confident about a lot of things, of dealing with the aggressive tailors who attempted to assure you everything was fine when you were still getting your second leg into the trousers so they could usher you out the door, getting changed in a change-room that consisted of a circular overhead wire with a thin curtain hanging from it resting in the middle of the market’s walkway, and dodging the rats that scurried past your feet.

Never in my life have I enjoyed shopping so much.

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2 Responses to “Hoi An: The Clothes Maketh the Man”

  1. Tony Hogan Says:

    No No Dave how could anyone in their right mind consider 27 items of clothing/shoes in one outing to be anywhere near obsessive.

    Nikki says that one has qualified you for honorary female shopping status!!

  2. Posted from Australia Australia
  3. admin Says:

    Mate, I dunno what came over me.

    Caught up with a heap of the family at Grandma’s 93rd on the weekend. Didn’t realise so many of them were reading this, probably shouldn’t have dropped the F-word so much!

  4. Posted from Australia Australia

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