Picturesque Hoi An: lanterns, canal and tailors

We arrived in Hoi An early in the morning, so tired after having slept in the night bus from Nha Trang that we took the very first hotel offered to us by a one of the guys, a woman actually, waiting at the car park in the suburbs where the bus dropped us off. I must explain in the first place, that it was so because vehicles can’t enter the very centre to preserve its historic buildings. We checked in and took the free hotel bikes, it took us 10 minutes to get to the centre. As soon as we left the hotel and turned left a motorbike with two women overtook us and the one sitting at the rear asked if she could lead us to her tailor shop to present what she had in stock. We were indeed interested in taking advantage of the fact, that Hoi An was a city of tailors, just like Bangkok, and wanted to have a suite and a dress made for us, so we just followed her.

We established the price and promised to come back later in the afternoon, in order to compare other tailors’ offers. We discovered, that due to tough competition you could get a decent suit for 80-100 USD actually everywhere, with the noble exception of stands like the one in the above picture, where all three suits cost around 300 USD, since they were reputedly “made of cashmere wool imported from England/Italy/some-other-developed-country”, just as every other one we have seen was claimed to be. In the end, we decided to have a suite and a dress made by the tailor located in front of the one we visited in the morning, called The Bi Tailor.  After a long while of negotiating the total price we agreed on 170 USD, which was supposed to let us save 10 USD on each but, well, fair enough. Sewing both took as little as 24 hours, which required a lot of measuring in the beginning and then we came twice to fit and correct parts that were a bit to tight or too long. At the end of the day, we were perfectly satisfied with what we got, both things fit like a glove and it has to be pointed out that the staff were very helpful and professional. In the meantime, we were hanging around the old Hoi An, which proved to be the  most beautiful town we have seen in Vietnam, before and after having visited it. Cycling around old narrow streets and along the canal, stopping by for a cup of excellent coffee by the Japanese Covered Bridge or to buy a lantern or a postcard at one the numerous colourful stands made the time pass very pleasently for us, while we were waiting for the tailor to finish his work. We started the day at the great food market by the canal,  next we purchased an entrance ticket which allowed us to visit five of many monuments, pagodas and museums put on the UNESCO list. One of the monuments honoured a Polish architect, Kazimierz Kwiatkowski. Owing to his endeavours, the unique architecture of Hoi An was preserved, as it was planned to be rebuilt in a new style, while the whole town was going to be reorganized  according to the intentions of local authorities. Kwiatkowsky has also great merit to the imperial city of Hue, beeing the spiritus movens of the reconstruction of its palace.

We visited a restaurant behind the Japanese Bridge (itself  a must-see for every tourist) recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook, to taste the excellent Cao Lau, the plato estrella of the local cuisine. On the following day, before the first fitting at the tailor’s, we went fot the cheaper option: a street food bar on the corner between the covered bridge and the UNESCO boxoffice. We had a chance to taste a kind of local dumplings served in two forms, always with something that the waitress claimed to be roasted shrimps, though it looked like.. hair. It tasted great anyway. You can see it above in the picture with the steel table.

In the early morning of our second day in Hoi An we visited the ruins of My Son, an ancient Champ sanctuary, a remarkable temple complex, unfortunately almost utterly destroyed by the bombings during the US invasion on Vietnam. In the evening, before having collected the new clothes at The Bi Tailor, we cycled all the long way to the Cua Dai beach, a very pleasent ride especially after sunset. In the end, with the suit and the dress in our hands and with smiles on our faces we came back to the hotel to get ready for the bus ride to Hue in the morning. Hoi An is definitely our favourite city in Vietnam.

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