On the central coast of Vietnam lies the city of my dreams. It earned this title, not for its temples or lush green landscape but because it’s the center for tailoring in all of SE Asia. Hoi An is the city of a thousand mannequins where streets are lined with stores overflowing with fabrics ready to be crafted into whatever you want.
Hoi An is a tranquil town that used to be the site of a major trade port in Vietnam until Danang replaced it. Now the city is known for its well preserved downtown and its tailoring economy. On any street in Hoi An you will be able to spot at least 4 tailor shops. The outside are always packed with mannequins draped in dresses, pants, and shirts, beckoning you to come in and explore their offerings. Most stores offer most of the same but the real trick to Hoi An is getting them to make clothes custom for you. I scheduled myself a week and a half just to run around getting clothes made.
After I dropped off my luggage at my hostel I started walking around the city my peace was broken when a middle aged Vietnamese woman came up to me asking me where I was from. The point was to get me to come back to her shop and see her clothes, I politely declined but this was not the last time i had this interaction. In a city with so many options you really can’t just follow any old woman into a store. I looked up the best reviewed spots on Trip Advisor and then walked around them examining the fabric they had on offer, the prices for different outfits and the quality of their stitching. After gathering my info I whittled it down to three places and got custom outfits made to see what the process was like before I finally get all the rest of the pieces I wanted made. The entire process takes about 2-3 days for simple things like pants, skirts, dresses but it can take up to a week for complex items like suits.
When I wasn’t running back and forth between fittings I was exploring all that Hoi An has to offer. My favorite part of the city is the old town with its rustic yellow walls and paper lanterns strung across the street like ornaments. You could feel the history as you walked through the narrow alleys and along the banks of the river. Hoi An also had the best Banh Mi in Vietnam, with a stall aptly named the Bahn Mi Queen slinging some of the best ingredients between a french baguette i’ve ever had.
Sadly my days of getting clothes custom made and chowing down on Banh Mi had to come to an end. With a suitcase full of new clothes and a stomach full of food made with joy I headed back to Hanoi.
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