Sunday 19 August 2012

Days 499 to 506: Hoi An

View of the river on the 5-6km bike ride between the town and the beach
Hoian is a very touristy little old town, much too touristy for me really, but it has some nice features. Bicycles are at least as common as scooters here and much more common that cars so riding around is fun and easy. The old buildings are really lovely, but the whole town has been taken over by restaurants and cafes (some excellent) and tailoring shops. I gravitated to taking pictures of those parts of town that didn't have those features, but really, a street of wall to wall tailors would be more representative, though they are in pretty old buildings. 

Of course, the opportunity to get things made to measure is amazing since it's completely unaffordable for most westerners at home.  I got a winter coat done - not only would I normally never find a coat that fitted me this well, but I'd struggle to get the design I wanted.  I like super plain designs, whereas most designers for the mass market feel they have to compete by making their clothes elaborate in some way. 

I went to Kimmy Tailors which seemed to have one of the best reviews on Tripadvisor, sat down in front to a laptop and looked through over one hundred coat designs without the embarrassment of trying on things that make me look hideous.  I picked a Burberry pattern and asked to have the collar modified to make it even simpler.  The lady said we would fix that at the first fitting, which we did, with minor discussion and help from the older lady in charge of the fitting shop.  After picking the design, I chose my cloth, my lining and got measured.  I had to go back for two fittings and finally to pick up the coat, but I'm sure it still took me less time that picking one out off the rack.  Plus it cost $120 USD which isn't really a price for which we can get winter wool coats.

I had to turn the AC way up and try to photograph myself wearing this coat, but it didn't really work
I have only two minor criticisms of tailoring in Hoian.  First, the quality is honestly no better than you would get in average priced off the shelf clothing in Europe or America. If we were getting something tailored at home and paying ten times these prices we would expect it to be put together like a work of art. You really have to watch the quality at the fitting, for example, I asked them to straighten up the hem of the coat, which they said was fine.  It was a lot more fine two hours later after they had straightened it.  Secondly, they do rely rather on tourists being rushed.  I have heard this criticism from several other travelers who were only staying a couple of days, just time to get clothes made and no time to deal with quality issues after they got the clothes delivered. I was staying a week because I'm travelling very slowly and spending a lot of time writing, so I had plenty of time. Basically, you have to keep your expectations reasonable.

Boats on the river, on a day I cycled inland from Hoian
Oh, I nearly forgot! I also had a wallet that suited me perfectly but was falling apart. I took it into a shoe shop and they remade it for me in leather to exactly the same pattern. I was very happy about that, because I'd looked around the shops in Bangkok's shopping metropolis and found nothing that suited me.

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