Van Loc Restaurant
We had our worst meal in Vietnam here. We had decided to splurge on a seafood at this upscale place as we were finally near the coast. But were very disappointed in the garlic shrimp that was more garlic than shrimp. At 50,000 dong (over three dollars) per meal, it was very over-priced by local standards and quite small. The service was less than friendly as well.
Fun Alternatives: Stay away from Van Loc Restaurant on 27 Tran Phuc.
Buying Clothes From the Hoi An Tailors
If you go to have clothes made in Hoi An, do research before you get there to find a recommended tailor. If you use your hotel's recommendations, the tailor has to pay up to 40% commission to the Hotel.
We went straight to a tailor recommended to us by another traveller and told them they'd been recommended to us by previous customers. We got excellent service, excellent recommendations from them on quality fabncs and suitable (and unsuitable) designs, excellent prices and we didn't have the painful process of bargaining. We didn't have to - no commission had to be paid and the tailors knew that in a city with 400 other tailors, word of mouth recommendations from tourists to tourists are gold.
Unique Suggestions: Here are some ways around this.
1. Don't say you were directed there by the hotel or tell them where you are staying.
2. Spread your business around a few places. If you don't like the work of one place, you are minimising your risk by using a few different ones.
3. Get a recommendation from one of your fellow travellers (eg see below) about places where they found quality.
Fun Alternatives: You could bring your own fabrics if you want to be sure of the quality.
We were most pleased with a family tailor business: Vu Thu, 115 Nguyen Duy Hieu St. They specialised in silks and cottons and cashmere wools from the UK. Out of the tailors we used, these people could not do enough to get the clothes absolutely to our satisfaction and were very easy to communicate with - which is saying something. Ask for Vang and tell her you saw her recommended on this VT internet site.
Hoi An - Tourist Trap?
The town of Hoi An is surely quaint and it has nice hotels and good food, but it is not a great destination. It is full of little shops that are there to get your money. There must be 100 clothing shops in this town. While it advertises itself as close to the beaches, in reality it is 7 or 8 Km from the beach. it's no wonder most tourists wander off after 2 days in town!
Unique Suggestions: Stay at a hotel near the beach, or go to Na Trang where the hotels are near the beach. You could also take some tours to local sites.
Fun Alternatives: Just relax for a couple days. Go down to the river at night and enjoy the good food and cold beer. If you want to go to the beach, take a motor bike. The sun is so intense that you won't stay there too long anyway.
- Study Abroad
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
My Son Ruins
Some people might list this in the "Things to Do" category, but I found the My Son ruins a place that could be missed without regret, especially if Cambodia's Angkor ruins are on your itinerary.
A UNESCO World Heritage Sight that is about an hour's drive from Hoi An, the My Son ruins are a collection of temple-towers which were built over time during the presence of the Champa Kingdom between the 4th and 13th centuries. The My Son ruins are significant as a marker of the migration of Indian Hindu culture into Southeast Asia and a focal point for the growth of the region's significant Cham culture.
Now, if you're really interested in Cham culture, the My Son ruins are an essential stop, perhaps even the whole reason why you'd go to Vietnam's central coast. Myself, I just wanted to see some cool ruins. I came away unimpressed and I had still yet to see the Angkor temples. I signed up for a tour with Camelback Travel that cost 70,000 dong (a little over $4) and after exiting the bus, but before entering the ruins, we were treated to a tacky Vietnamese "traditional dance" performance that had nothing to do with Cham culture. I took that as a bad sign that the tour operators felt that the ruins themselves were not worth the price of admission and an enhancer was required. They were right, but the enhancer failed in its objective. At least I met some people to go drink with that night, so it wasn't a total loss.
Unique Suggestions: Poke fun at anything you possibly can. That always makes outings like this more enjoyable.
Fun Alternatives: If you're just up for some grand ruins and aren't that into Cham history and culture, cross My Son off your list and stick with the Angkor temples. If you still need to something to do around Hoi An, go to Cua Dai beach or get some more clothes. Maybe take a cooking class. If none of that interests you, pull up a bar stool.
- Historical Travel
Taylor-made clothes are the biggest tourist trap in Hoi An... one hard to avoid, as they really look great... especially the flower embroideries themy create on silk. However we were told by manny, including a local insider, that the quality is very poor... true, clothes are cheap in Hoi An, but apparently they are not worth the money paid. Even our local insider, who lives in Hoi An and knows plenty of people, did not succeed in having a pair of trousers made by a friend.. and still they did not last a year...
Unique Suggestions: Admire the clothes in the windows... and then say, no thanks. And look for a magnificent clothes shop with some golden furniture... it was once a theatre (see photo)
Fun Alternatives: If you find some silk that you like, buy it... if you are northbound, have your clothes made in Hue... the quality is much superior... the beauty the same (and sometimes even better)
Boat ride on the canal
It's very beautiful to stroll along the canal street in the old city, but as you pass boat owners will offer you again and again a tour in their boat
Unique Suggestions: Take the ride, after all, you wouldn't be here next week to change your mind. Unless you are in a very romantic mood, take the motor boat. The row boat is a bit boring
Fun Alternatives: If your hotel is close to the canal, you can take it as a ride back home. If you don't take it at all, you'll regret it later
Hoi An- Tailors
Hello, I would have listed this under shopping, but thought here was more appropriate.
My fiance and I travelled to Vietnam, from South to North. Hoi An was high on our priority list- mainly for the tailored clothes that you can have made at unrealistically low prices.
We were walking down one of the main roads and a lady started talking to asked us if we wanted to have come clothes made by a friend of hers. We were weary at first because of the reasearch that we had done regarding tailors in Hoi An (yes, on this website), but then said yes because of her demure nature. We followed her down the road, past the market..to this huge textile place. (I wish I could remember the name of this place-sorry =(. It must have been some sort of 'collective' as there were a good fifty or more people each working on the clothing, and the selection of textiles were piled high up to the ceiling. This day, I put in orders for 2 Ao Dai (Vietnamese Dress), and my fiance 2 suits, and 2 shirts. Well, it ended up that out of 3 days we had to go back everyday for a fitting. Now, I have had experience in clothing making so I know that if you take enough and/or proper measurements, you shouldn't have to come back 3 times. This was the first warning sign. The last day, I had mentioned that I would like embroidery on my Ao Dai. I had a photo of it, and because I didn't want anything to go wrong, I even made the stencil for them to use and specified the colour.
Unique Suggestions: We told her that we would be going on a 1/2 day trip in the afternoon and wouldn't be back until her store was closed. She said that she could drop everything off at the hotel to our room. When we got back that evening, we waited for her but she did not come. It was about 10:00pm. We went down to the lobby and she had left the clothing with the front desk. Before we even opened everything, we knew we had trouble. My fiance's adjustments had not been made, the buttom holes on his shirts were not cut-through, my 2 Ao Dai pants were 3 inches shorter than specified, the stitching was poorly done (understatement), and they were stained with dirt.
Oh, not to mention that regarding Nghia's suits, the drycleaner himself commented on the low-quality material and craftsmanship on the tailoring. His exact words: if you get this drycleaned again, there will be puckering everywhere".
Fun Alternatives: I was lucky that my fiance was not so upset by this experience at first. He said that he would buy me another Ao Dai when got to Hue, to save some cost on the money that I lost. It was clear that I couldn't wear these. In Hue, by suggestion of the Hotel receptionist, the best place to have Ao Dai made: Nha May Chi.. I had 2 made again (I wanted to put the wrongs to a right) and they fit like a glove. I also had on made for my mother and they had them complete in one day, only alteration needed was the length of my pants. I was so surprised and relieved!
What I would suggest for all thinking about having clothing made and Ao Dai made in Hoi An is to avoid this area completely. There are plently of good tailors in the smaller towns like Hue, that can do a better job at better prices. With Ao Dai, they have tailors who have done this for generations, and know how these should be constructed to fit the body perfectly. The market for Hoi An is so saturated with average tailors that the good ones are far in between. Even after we did research on the internet and took the names down of the reputable tailors, we either couldn't find their store or they were flooded with tourists. Needless to say that the quality may have been lost somehow. If you're like me, you would rather pay the extra, or in this case, by again so it wasn't a total loss.
Another thing I would suggest would be to take after my fiance's attitude about this. Knowing that I could probably find this somewhere else, he suggested to have made again. He also didn't want this to ruin our trip so he let go of his disappointment until he got home.If you will not be going to the smaller towns, then I would even have clothing made in Saigon (everyone goes to Saigon). Yes, there are fantactic tailors in Saigon. =).
Shoes in Hoi An?
There are quite a few places you can have shoes made in Hoi An - but you need to understand that these are not going to be the Italian leather jobs you might get back home...wherever home is.
Unique Suggestions: Realise that these shoes are cheap shoes and cheap shoes are what you are going to get. The shoes are ok but the finish is rough and the styling is, well, lacking something.
If they are run-abouts or shoes for kids who want to dress up pretty (and grow out of them in a year) or fashion shoes that you know you will get sick of soon or practical shoes that are not going to be a beauty item...then you will probably get good value.
On the upside...everything we had made was very comfortable, good leather and good value. I just wouldn't wear them anywhere fancy.
Fun Alternatives: Don't buy shoes here if you are fussy or have high expectations about finish.
Cua Dai beach
Cua dai beach is located 5 km out of Hoi An, and - as a website puts it - it's a "ine white sand, clear and blue water, moderate slopes and small waves, which make it ideal for recreational activities like swimming and other sea sports". We found it neither pleasant not saw the white sand... blue water? Mhhh...
Unique Suggestions: Check out the beach for a day, maybe, but don't book a vacation in the expensive hotels nearby... there are better sea-side locations in Vietnam than Hoi An.
Fun Alternatives: If you like partying, go there at night. There are often some... someone in the old town will hand out flyiers to you.
Communicate Carefully When Ordering Clothes
Many of the tailors don't, surprise surprise, have English as their first language. And it's odds on that your Vietnamese isn't too hot either. So sometimes, you think you've described what you want and they think they understand what you want and when the item of clothing turns up....well, it isn't what you'd thought.
Then there is unhappiness.
Unique Suggestions: Have a picture of what you want, or draw it.
Label on the diagram or picture particular aspects that are important to you...like good zippers, lining, invisible hem, or particular features... whatever. Think about this very carefully before you get there.
Write down how many of what colour/fabric you have ordered and make sure they have a copy and you have a copy - even if it's a receipt.
Fun Alternatives: Order your clothes as soon as you get to Hoi An - make it the first thing you do.
Leave time to order them, try them on and identify amendments, try them on and identify final alterations, and then to try them on again for final fit. This needs three days.
If you don't have three days, don't have unrealistic expectations about the fit you can achieve.
Seen one temple...
To get inside many of the temples and hand carved buildings in Hoi An you have to purchase a pass. You can buy them singly or as a batch of three. But honestly, the buildings and temples can be viewed from the street without having to pay. Sure this is tight but when you are on a budget any saving helps.
- Budget Travel
Beware of clyclos ripping you off
Always negotiate a price with the cyclos before you start...we were told it was 50.000 dong for a ride around the ancient city but on when they dropped us off it had doubled as we had taken longer than an hour which they definitely hadn't stipulated at the start!!!!
Admission ticket to Hoi An sights
The standard way of seeing Hoi An's sights involves buying a 5-sight tour ticket 50,000D at the entry to the old town. This ticket allows you to enter four places, picking one place from each of the four groups:
1 from 3 museums, 1 from 3 assembly halls, 1 from 4 traditional houses, The Japanese Bridge or Quan Cong's temple and one extra sight you may choose. It's not a very practical system, but this is how it works and there isn't much you can do.
Unique Suggestions: Try to visit more than one place from each group: show the used ticket and pay an extra 10,000D.
- Historical Travel
Hoi An Beach Sellers
Hoi An beach looks very inviting with its lovely white sand and its warm blue sea. But when we visited it was full of people peddlars. We spent 3 hours on the beach and the WHOLE time we were being asked to buy something. These peddlars wont take no for an answer. If your expecting a quiet laze in the sun you wont get it here.
Unique Suggestions: The only time they left us alone was when we were in the sea. So perhaps you could spend your whole time in the sea or just paddling or sitting in the surf.
Fun Alternatives: Your hotel pool.
Hoi An clothing trap
I went to a tailor called Thu Thuy, 60 Le Loi st. Because they had very nice fabrics I decided to buy a silk jacket there even though they were very expensive. I was measured up and the next day I had a fitting. Before anyone had a chance to say anything my husband, who knows nothing about clothes, said "that is far too tight". And indeed it was way too tight although the shop assistants thought it fitted beautifully. I could hardly move my shoulders and had difficulties getting my arm out of the sleeves. I insisted that they fix my jacked. I had also bought pair of pants which were double the price of other shops but these were thank goodness OK. After an uncomfortable discussion they reluctantly decided they would change the jacket after telling me I had asked for it to fit tight. (I have always hated tight clothes).
I came back for the second fitting and the shoulders were alright but the sleeves had remained unchanged. I had noticed another jacket hanging in the shop and measured my sleeves against those sleeves and my sleeves were at least 3 inches too narrow. After I showed them the difference they had to accept responsibility and had to get extra fabric to fix up the sleeves.
This third time it was finally fixed but they could not be bothered to iron my jacket. I accepted the jacket as I had enough and did not want to deal with these people anymore.
Unique Suggestions: It is important to go to shops that are highly recommended. A Dong Silk had been recommended by our Hoi An Riverside Resort but I knew better and tried 3 different shops. A Dong Silk won with flying colours.
If you go to other tailor shops make sure you can understand them as it can lead to unpleasant situations if you cannot understand each other.
Fun Alternatives: My husband and I together bought 9 pair of pants at A Dong Silk plus a silk top for me. The people at A Dong Silk in Tran Hung Dao St are very professional and friendly. They measured accurately and their tailors did an excellent job. Their price for our slacks were half the price of those charged at Thu Thuy in Le Loi St. Both my husband and I were very impressed with A Dong Silk and can highly recommend them. We have not been in their other shop in Le Loi St.
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