A shopping we will go...
Trip Start Apr 15, 2011
94Trip End Feb 04, 2012
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It’s still raining raining raining but I need to go in search of tailors. Tailors in Hoi An are famed for being about knock something together overnight but in order to get things right you really need a few days to allow for multiple fittings. I find some cheap Pho (aka traditional Vietnamese noodle soup) and get dragged into a tailor by a tout. I figure I might as well get an idea of prices while I’m here. Shopping for custom made cloths in Hoi An is an interesting process. You can’t just walk in and say 'how much to get a women’s suit made?’. You have to sit and look at catalogues and choose fabric and discuss what you want. It is only at the end of this process you finally discuss the price. The hope is by this stage you’ll go ahead and won’t shop around for something else. But I’ve heard all about the scams here and told the tout I’ve just come off an overnight bus and am only looking today. I stand my ground despite a hard sell to buy now and walk out, promising to think about it. I want to get to the cloths market to find the tailor I found recommended on the internet but ‘pop’ into Kimmy, the tailor recommended by my guest house. It’s full of back packers, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good, it could just mean they pay commission to lots of the guest house to recommend them. I go through the whole process a second time and am once again heavily pressured to buy now. Once they have you in their shop they clearly don’t want you to leave again without purchasing.
I escape and find my way to the cloths market only to have two or three people try to drag me toward their stall
As I head back to the guest house via the closing market see some ‘silk’ sleeping bag liners being sold everywhere. I don’t need one but am curious as to how much cost. Unfortunately I forgot about the ‘once we have you we’re not letting you leave until you buy something’ philosophy which applies to markets here to, not just tailors shops. I ask about the price and am heavily pressured to buy. I don’t want one and start walking off. The woman insists, grabbing my arm and lowering the price. I’m rather spooked now start hurrying off but the woman practically chases after me, dropping and dropping the price and begging me to buy one. Apparently no one every told them this kind of sales tactic is about the quickest way to get a western tourist to flee your shop, never to return again, to the point where I avoid that part of the market for the rest of trip, fearful of a repeat performance
The following day I return to the cloths market. I warm to Miss Forget Me Not immediately. She is a small, sweet, softly spoken women. But she knows her stuff and is not the least bit pushy or aggressive. I am given time to think and peruse and choose fabrics at my leisure which make me feel more comfortable and wanting to buy more. I’ve always wanted to get a tailor made suit in Hoi An and have budgeted accordingly. It is still a bewildering process. They can pretty much make anything you want. The trick is knowing what you want. The tailors here are not stylists. They won’t necessarily be able to tell you what styles or colours look good on you, nore is it like a regular shop where you can try stuff on and you either like it or you don’t. To have a good experience you really have to have a good idea of the colours and styles that look good on you.
I’ve been searching on the internet for some ideas and have some photos to show her of what I want. I’ve also be scouring for pictures of me in a dress and a skirt I want copied. I spent ages last night scanning through my old photos, looking for pictures of me wearing the cloths in full length shots. It was an interesting trip down memory lane. As an aside note I can see how my weight seems to have fluctuated slightly over the years, even though I always feel the same size. And how different cloths, glasses and hair styles have suited me more than others.
But I digress, back to the cloths making. I order a suit, show pictures and explain what I want. To this I add a shirt and pictures of a dress and a skirt I want copied
Sat 17th Dec
This morning I am going to My Son (pronounced me son), a Cham temple complex near Hoi An. The temple complex is small compared to those such as Ankor and I’ve heard the place can be an anti climax
Back to my tailors for the moment of truth, my first fitting. The a-line skirt is perfect and I promptly choose some fabric for two more. They’re inexpensive, the style suites me and I’ll wear them lots. There are minor adjustments to be made to some of the other pieces but the suit needs quite a bit of work, especially the trousers, dam. I make an appointment for another fitting tomorrow and hope. My shoes are ready and they turn out better than I expected them to but I’m still not convinced about the workman ship or how long they will last for. My tailor, Miss Forget Me Not, has been a delight to work with. One day when I went for a fitting the power was out. We couldn’t do my fitting as there was no light. She invited me for lunch and sat me at her table in the dimly light market while she went and got me a bowl of Cao Lau, a traditional noodle soup made only in Hoi An. It’s delicious, a mix of fresh herbs and flat noodles made with water from a special well in Hoi An. The woman who makes it is locally famous so apparently I’m eating the best Cao Lau in Hoi An
It continues to rain rain rain in Hoi An but clears long enough for me to walk around and do some sightseeing
After two more fittings my cloths are all ready, just in time for me to put most of them into box to go back to Australia via sea mail, and catch my train to Hanoi. Hopefully my cloths will be home before I get there, but who knows. Into the box also goes all the stuff I’ve brought so far (did I mention the markets in Asia are cheap?) including several beautiful silk lanterns I picked up in Hoi An for a song. Best of all I know they’re hand made here because she had to finish making the second red one I wanted to give to me.
With a considerably lighter pack, a slightly lighter wallet and some new threads on their way back to Aus I jump in my taxi and head to my overnight train. Next stop is Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.