Sunday August 9, 2015 (Asia, Southeast Asia, Vietnam)
So… what have we been up to for the past four days or so? Why, getting custom tailored clothing of course!
When we read up on Vietnam, one of the classic "things to do" in the country is to have clothing custom made. And within Vietnam, the nexus of tailoring is definitely Hoi An. We've actually been preparing behind the scenes for weeks knowing that we'd be spending time in Hoi An. I started a Pinterest account for the sole purpose of finding pictures of suits that I might like. Sandra's list of "must-haves" got longer and longer as our first outings in the city drew closer.
Before arrival we'd done a bit of research. Specifically, we read a great blog article published last year about buying couture clothing in Hoi An. It prepared us with a list of helpful questions to ask and things to double-check before agreeing on a price. Once we actually started wandering around the city, though, it became apparent that this job would be mighty difficult. There are hundreds of tailors around the city. They all look nearly identical. How's one to choose? That's the hard part.
We'd seen some literature at the airport in Da Nang regarding a place called Kimmy Tailor. The brochures were well-produced and the shop bills itself as being the only "Western-owned" tailor shop in Hoi An. It's apparently a Vietnamese-Canadian person running the operation, so we gave it some obvious bonus points. It was our first port of call in the city, but we found it to be a bit overrun. They had slick iPads set out to show the styles they offered, but the fabrics they had on display weren't quite what we were looking for and the staff were so busy running between customers that we never really felt like they were paying much attention to us. We were still in there for about two hours just walking through what exactly we were looking for in order to obtain a reasonable quote. It's quite a process, and not one that you'd want to repeat too many times. There's no way we could visit more than two or three stores in a day – it's exhausting.
Our next stop was to Eli Cloth Shop in Hoi An. It was actually recommended to us by the staff at Thien Tan, our fantastic hotel. As a sidenote, if you're heading to Hoi An you should definitely stay there. The quality-to-price ratio is insane! Anyway, since it came recommended from the staff we were actually a bit hesitant. But we checked out reviews for Eli online and people seemed universally positive, so we slotted it in as our second stop.
The staff there were great, and almost immediately we located fabrics that suited us nicely. Hah, "suited us". Sandra was looking for a leather jacket, and this place would do it. I was interested in a blue suit. And hey, maybe a black one. The plan was to go for one… or maybe two suits. I ended up with five. Buy four, get one free! HOW COULD YOU NOT?! Sandra also purchased up a high-waisted maxi skirt, two blazers, a kimono, and a dress. We went crazy, in other words.
Almost all of this stuff was knocked up overnight. We came in for a fitting the next day, and there were five custom suits for me. It's absolutely nuts. The fit was a bit off the first time around, but it takes a couple of rounds to get things right. During the last fitting, Sandra's leather jacket was literally being tailored on-the-fly. She'd ask for an alteration, they'd stuff the jacket in a bag, walk out the door, and be back in twenty minutes with a re-tooled jacket. Madness. After the entire process was complete, we were really pleased with the results. Shipping prices were actually quite reasonable too – about 50 USD for 10kg if you don't mind waiting 3-4 months for the clothing to arrive. We're not even back home in that time frame, so we were totally cool with it!
Overall the tailoring experience was super positive. We'd highly recommend Eli Cloth Shop if you're in the area as we were very pleased with the service. It seems that the "big three" in town are Kimmy, Eli, and A Dong. Not even kidding. If you want your jackets emblazoned with "A Dong" labels on the interior, by all means take a peek!
Apart from the tailoring, we did a lot of morning running in Hoi An. Three days of 5:00am wakeups in order to catch sunrise over the rice paddy fields. Beautiful! We don't have many photos, but you'll be catching video of it when we ride that rocket. We also enjoyed some time on An Bang Beach and spent evenings frequenting some great local restaurants. A lovely time was had by all in Hoi An, and it was very hard to leave!
Be prepared for a bunch of sexy photos of me in slinky suits around Christmas time. Can you handle the anticipation?
We've since taken a short bus ride from Hoi An up to Hué, Vietnam. It felt a lot longer than the three hour duration, however. A bus driver honking constantly and the effectively non-existent air conditioning made for a sweaty, generally uncomfortable ride. But we're here and we're here safely!
Tomorrow we're going to check out the local sights and devise a plan to get ourselves involved in some Vietnamese caving just north of here. We're looking forward to it!