Searching for gifts in Hoi An, Vietnam, may make a traveler feel a bit like a shopper on Rodeo Drive – hundreds of designers at your beck and call, gorgeous jewelry, and handmade shoes, all readily available. Yet shopping in this beach-side town takes a bit more patience than just choice and checkout. A traveler must come armed with the word “no,” have an eye for detail, and be prepared to haggle for the best price.
Within the first few seconds of setting foot on the streets of Hoi An, a coastal city in central Vietnam, a traveler is bombarded with merchants’ requests to buy their goods. Whether they’re hawking something as simple as a can of soda, or as intricate as a hand-made silk evening gown, all the merchants in this city beg for your business. It may make you feel a bit guilty at first, as children are often even sent to the streets to flash a pout and peddle their goods, but a simple “no” is a useful tool. Implying you may be back later, or wavering with a “maybe” only incites more pleading. The Vietnamese people are aggressive salespeople, but respectful of a traveler’s appeal to be left alone.
After a traveler has braved this initial barrage of requests, and the short walk into the heart of the city, they will find that a fashion-lover’s dreams can be indulged. Tailors line the streets, all skilled in re-creating American fashions, and armed with the latest celebrity magazines for inspiration. Each design is custom-made, from the fit to the fabric, and finished overnight for next-day pick up. However, it is not wise to wait until the last day of your vacation to indulge in a shopping spree. Like any tailored clothing, designs often have to be altered and re-altered in order to get a perfect fit. While merchants are patient and obliging, often re-sizing garments within hours, getting an outfit to fit perfectly takes time.
When purchasing custom made clothes in Hoi An, remember that attention to detail is the key. Because items are made quickly, tailors may often miss a seam, hem an item too high, or forget a button. Make sure to check each piece before you make a final purchase.
Given the high price of such garments in the states, you may expect such creations to be impossible to afford, but the price tags on these goods beg for your attention. In Hoi An, an attentive shopper can find a three-piece suit for as little as $50, with evening gowns running about the same. While prices will vary according to the fabric and design, travelers should not expect even the finest goods to cost more than $100 per piece. Also, haggling is encouraged. Merchants expect travelers to try and knock a few bucks off the price, so they set the bar high. For every $50 spent, a traveler should be able to take $5 off the final price.
The cheap deals and beautiful clothes make shopping in Hoi An hard to resist. However, remember that Hoi An also features historic sites (such as the Japanese covered bridge and Quan Kong Temple) and beautiful beaches, so try not to spend all your time searching for bargains!