Thursday, July 21, 2005

Every Girl's Crazy About A Sharp Dressed Man

Hoi An is rightfully regarded as one of Vietnam's cultural jewels. It was spared during both Indochina wars and therefore retains many of its old, characteristic little shophouses with yellow facades, time-worn wooden fittings and slightly convex, Chinese-style roofs. The Chinese influence is also evident with the numerous community centres, each one catering to the Chinese community from a particular province (Fujian, Canton, Hokkien, and so on). All this has earned Hoi An its deserved World Heritage status. And although the art galleries and antiques shops do a brisk trade from the many tourists that flock to the city, there is a greater force vying for those tourist dollars. Clothes.

It probably would not be an overstatement to say that in Hoi An (and the town is pretty small) there are close to a thousand clothes shops. The vast majority of them will make you very good quality clothes, made to measure, within a day. I thought I'd be calm and collected about it and take my time. By 10am on my first day here the friendly girl from a tailor shop already had her tape measure round my neck; by half past four that very afternoon I was in for my test fitting and by five o'clock I was walking off with two brand new suits (one cashmere) for only $80. Bargain! And although I'm the archetypal retrosexual and know nothing about clothes (embarrassing really as my grandfather was a tailor and my mother knows her stuff when it comes to stitching and ... other garmenty things) the suits definitely seem to be the real deal. The tailors here are incredibly good and can rustle up anything you throw at them, indeed they have many Western catalogues and magazines (Next seems to be popular) that you can flick through for inspiration. If I wasn't on such a tight budget I know I'd probably run amok on a wild clothing spree, which I would no doubt later regret. At least this gives me an excuse to send a package back home and thereby get rid of a lot of the crap I've accumulated so far (various books and museum entry stubs mostly) and significantly reduce the weight of my backpack. Thank god.

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