BootsnAll Travel Network

Hoi An: The Saviour

After our lengthy, frustrating journey to get there, Hoi An proved itself to be worth the effort. Not for the first time, it was our saviour on a visit to Vietnam.

My friend Conor, writer of the greatest travel blog ever and superhero to orphans across Nepal (seriously, check out his blog at described Hoi An as ‘quaint’. And, as usual, he was pretty much spot on. Well, certainly when it comes to describing the architecture in the World Heritage listed town; for the narrow streets with their one and two storey terrace like buildings showing cracked yellow facades and wooden shutters over the windows conjure up few other words. The women pedalling dusty old bikes under their traditional conical hats, young and old alike, give the town an even greater old-timey feel.

But there’s a part of Hoi An that is pretty much the opposite of quaint. A vast majority of the beautiful old buildings are filled with tailors. Hundreds and hundreds of tailors. Bec and I had been here before, and on that visit we had to buy an extra bag to carry home all the clothes we had made. Walking into an open-fronted store, picking a fabric, being measured up, and then a day later picking up a finished product is a uniquely invigorating way to shop. And here in Hoi An it’s also dirt cheap. I’m talking rolling around in the mud cheap.

And that, my friends, is why we came back to this place – to buy the cheapest damn wedding clothes we could! It’s hard enough travelling around knowing that you’ll go home with almost no money, it’s even harder when you get home with no money and have to pay for a wedding. Since getting engaged we’d managed to organise quite a bit of wedding stuff (thanks mostly to the super-human efforts of Bec’s parents), and to have our outfits tailored for half the price (in my case) and about a tenth of the price (in Bec’s case) that we’d pay back home would top it off.

I waited at the tailor’s whilst Bec was having her first wedding dress fitting. Describing how much of a challenge it was for her is pretty difficult – she had never tried on a wedding dress, she had showed the tailor a photo she’d got from the internet, she didn’t have her mum to offer advice, she didn’t have her friends to offer advice, in fact, she pretty much had no-one given that I wasn’t allowed to see the thing. So when she walked out an hour-and-a-half later, at about 3pm, I was pretty tentative when I asked how it went.

She didn’t really respond, other than to give a slight shrug of the shoulders in the vaguest manner, while her eyes looked straight through me. Dazed doesn’t even cover it. Her face was white, we hadn’t eaten lunch, and she’d just spent an hour-and-a-half standing in a pair of high-heels two sizes too small whilst a gourp of Vietnamese women put a bag of fabric over her and cut it into a dress around her. I think she just about fainted, before uttering, “can we get some food?”

A few days later, after we’d finally met up with our friends Kennedy and Kate, she had her final fitting, and had Kate there for support.

Once again, we had to buy an extra bag to carry home all the clothes we had made. As well as our wedding gear, Bec got a dress, a couple of skirts, a few casual tops, two suits, and a pair of shoes, while I picked up another three-piece suit, a pair of pants, a couple of work shirts, a couple of casual shirts, two pairs of shorts and two pairs of leather boots. All custom made and tailored to fit.

It wasn’t all shopping though. Meeting up with old friends Kennedy and Kate was great, and between fittings we spent our days drinking cheap beer and eating delicious seafood; fish or squid grilled in banana leaf with lemon pepper sauce. Yum! A trip to the nearby beach was also a must, where was sat back on banana lounges drinking beers and eating spring rolls, before sqimming in the warmest possible water. It felt like swimming in a giant bath.

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