Hoi An is a city located on the coast of central Vietnam, about an hour away from Da Nang (where the nearest airport is located). Known for its ancient town centre, lanterns, and tailor shops, Hoi An is a tourist’s dream. When I first visited the city in 2011, I fell in love with its photogenic old streets and wonderful tailor shops where you can get just about anything made in a forty-eight hour period. I was excited to return, but I was not prepared for just how much tourist-centered expansion had gone on in the five and a half years since I last visited. While there were a lot of tailor shops last time I was there, there is now over six hundred of them, and areas I remember as empty fields are now chockablock full of resorts, or resorts-to-be. It’s…a lot. However! We spent three wonderful days in the city (well, two, as I managed to get not-even-food-poisoning sick for one of the days and ended up spending a whole day in bed, but that’s life for you!), and while I won’t be in a hurry to return, here’s my guide to the city just in case you’re planning a trip.
If there’s one thing Hoi An is known for above everything else, it’s its tailor shops. As I mentioned, there are over six hundred of them and choosing where to go to get your clothes made is basically the definition of overwhelming. Before leaving Australia I spent hours trawling the internet trying to pinpoint the perfect tailor shop but there were so many conflicting reports I ended up arriving with a short list and hoping for the best.
There’s a divide between tourists as to whether the “Big Name” tailors or personal favourite indie tailors are the way to go, but honestly, unless you’re getting something extremely important or specific made, picking any of the top tailors from Trip Advisor won’t lead you astray.
We wanted to get a few pairs of cotton trousers replicated from a sample pair and measurements for my aunty, plus a few additional pairs for my mum and myself, plus a dress made for me. We had no real particulars about the outfits and were just kind of going with the flow. We ended up at Yaly because they were easy to locate in the Ancient Town and had a huge selection of fabrics, and we couldn’t have been happier with our end results.
Yaly is one of the Big Name tailors that you may find mixed reviews about from those loyal to their smaller scale tailors, but the service and quality we received was impeccable. Athena, our sales associate, was beyond helpful and went above and beyond in assuring every item we purchased was exactly as we wanted it.
Turnaround for each item was around 48hrs, however last minute decisions to purchase additional trousers were turned around in 24 without sacrificing any quality.
Cost: Womens trousers started at $30USD, and the dress came to about $110USD (with multiple layers).
Hoi An is also known for their leather, and while there’s less leather shops than regular tailors, trying to find a definitive recommendation on where to get your shoes or bags made is next to impossible. Like our clothes, we didn’t have anything in particular we desperately needed made, but mum and I both liked the idea of getting a pair of shoes and/or a bag made as a souvenir. The pair of heels I had made in 2011 are still one of my favourite and most comfortable shoes, and we were keen to add to our wardrobes.
In a similar vein to how we ended up at Yaly, we decided on Friendly Shoes and their sister shop Friendly Bags for our leather purchases. With their high-rated reviews on Trip Advisor and their six month quality guarantee, we knew it would be hard to go wrong.
Mum ended up with three pairs of shoes, and I got a pair of boots and a messenger bag made and we’re in love with all five items. The quality is impeccable and the shoes are perfectly made to our feet. Three of the pairs of shoes were made with a 48hr turnaround, and the fourth pair and my bag were made in just 24hrs. The staff were extremely helpful with my extremely indecisive nature and ensured that I left with a product I was 110% happy with.
While others may have their personal preferences for bags and shoes, sometimes going with the popular option is a safe bet, and I doubt I could be happier with a product from anywhere else.
Cost: Shoes purchased varied in price from $35-$85USD, but we also received a $5USD per pair for purchasing multiple pairs at one time. We chose the most expensive options for each pair, so if you weren’t set on getting full leather and highest quality fittings, you can get them made for cheaper but honestly these prices are such a steal there’s not much of a point.
Other Things To Do:
If you have any time left over after choosing things to be made and then running around being fitted and refitted…and refitted again, there are a million other things to do in Hoi An and its surrounds. From lantern making classes, to trips to the beach (many hotels, such as the one we stayed in, have private stretches of beach for guests to make use of), to local area attractions such as Marble Mountain, to numerous biking tours around the countryside…you could easily spend a week in Hoi An and not run out of things to do. There’s also daily markets, including the night markets from 6pm every evening. Just a heads up, though, while the areas around the night markets make for adorable photos of lanterns (hello, Instagram likes!), the actual markets themselves are absolutely nothing to write home about and the whole area/experience is just a million tourists trying to get the perfect photo and a million locals trying to sell you things.
I could not believe just how many new hotels had popped up in Hoi An over the past five years, and how many more were currently in the process of being built. Based entirely on a good deal I found on booking.com, we chose to stay at Little Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel and Spa
The hotel was located approximately ten minutes walk from the ancient town, and has only been open for about six months. The rooms were lovely and modern, and the facilities were excellent. We made use of the spa facilities for massages (and a facial!) on multiple days of our stay (including the free ten minute foot massage included with each booking) and couldn’t have received better experiences anywhere and the prices were obscenely low.
The only downside to the stay was the restaurant which had pretty low-quality breakfasts and definitely sub-par lunch meals, but it’s not like there’s not a million other places to eat within walking distance so it’s not too much of a deal breaker (especially when breakfast is included in the extremely affordable room rate).
Cost: For a connecting room for four people with breakfast included, we paid $153AUD per night. We also made use of the hotels airport transfer service to and from Da Nang airport for $47USD return in a private, air-conditioned 4WD.
Next up – Ho Chi Minh City