Everything You Need To Know About Tailoring in Hoi An

Tailoring in Southeast Asia is vast and world-renowned, although perhaps nowhere as much as Hoi An. Hoi An – a small town in central Vietnam – is known for many beautiful things, among which include a thriving tailor industry. Over 700 tailors reside here, with the trade often existing generations upon generations back within a single family.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts from Southeast Asia, you’ll know that I am unapologetically suspicious of anything that doesn’t quite stack up. So when I discovered how little it cost to get six items of clothing made at various tailors across town, I was skeptical about the quality of the garments I would be receiving. Yet after doing some research, I was quickly reassured that I would not be sacrificing quality for price. The low prices are attributed to the low cost of living (and consequently wages) in Southeast Asia.

In saying that, you should always be vigilant of tailors that are prepared to rip you off. Despite the cost of tailoring in Southeast Asia being low, there are still those that will try and sell you inferior fabric or overcharge for substandard service. Although I didn’t encounter any tailors that I was unsatisfied with, I have heard from a handful of travellers that there is an outrageous number of tailors who actually do not produce garments in their own shops.

If you are being accompanied by a tour guide, be wary that they may take you to certain tailors regardless of their quality of service simply because they receive a commission. This happened to me thanks to one shady tour guide, but luckily the tailor we ended up at was absolutely superb 👌

So how can you tell which tailor to invest in? Unfortunately, simply consulting TripAdvisor won’t always suffice. Tailors often pay companies to remove negative reviews and replace them with fake positive ones for the sake of improving business. Instead, I recommend engaging in some good old fashioned research. If you have the luxury of time, go exploring and investigate the different tailors on offer in Hoi An. If you have a particular design in mind, keep an eye out for tailors with fabrics to cater to your needs. Not all tailors have an abundance of materials on hand, so if you are looking for something special such as leather or chiffon, it pays to do your homework in advance. Furthermore, inquire about the experience of the tailors. Generally speaking, there is a reliable correlation between years in the industry and service satisfaction.

The Tailoring Process

  1. You walk into the tailor shop (without a reservation)
  2. You decide on the design(s) you would like madeA question I often receive is whether you need a preconceived idea in mind of what you would like made. There is no right or wrong answer to this; you can either bring a picture of a garment you would like made or you can collaborate with the tailor to create a design using their ideas. I myself have experimented with each option and have been ecstatic with the results of both (if not more so with the collaborated design).
  3. Your measurements are recorded with photographs taken if need be
  4. You will be required to make a deposit on your orderIn my experience, this is typically 50% of the total price. In return, you will receive an itemised receipt as proof of order.
  5. You will return for your first fitting where you will try on unfinished garments
  6. The tailor will make chalk marks and/or insert pins where changes need to be made to ensure the clothing is the right sizeThis step may be repeated a number of times depending on how long it takes to get the perfect fit. This generally depends on the difficulty of the design and the fabric used.
  7. Once the garment(s) are all finished, you will return for the final fittingReaching this final part of the process can take from between a few hours to a few days. When you are satisfied, you will pay what the deposit did not cover and the tailor will package your purchase in plastic sleeves.

Bonus Tips and Tricks

☞ Capitalise on the fact that they are tailors!

So you want an A-line skirt. Fantastic! But why are you traveling halfway across the world to buy one? The whole idea of tailoring is to order something original, so make the most of the opportunity.

☞ Be flexible!

As I mentioned above, not all tailors have the materials you may specifically request. To ensure you will be happy with the final product, endeavour to entertain all ideas and avoid a fixed mindset.

☞ “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”

Cheesy proverb aside, if you are utilising the service of a tailor, it is only fair that you reciprocate. A little positive feedback on Tripadvisor goes a long way for small businesses (if you are satisfied with the experience, of course). This is especially the case as tourists rely on such means to finalise their itinerary. Tailors will also give you their business cards so that you don’t forget their name, and won’t be subtle in their hints for you to leave a good word or two on their social networks.

I visited a variety of different tailors in Hoi An, but perhaps my favourite was Two Ladies. There, I had the most stunning forest-green coat with a satin lining made that makes me feel somewhat like a Tolkien elf. I brought a similar style back home in New Zealand about a year previously on sale, where the original retail price was NZD$900 (approximately USD$630). In Hoi An, I paid around NZD$50 for the new coat (approximately USD$35) and — although I’m no couture expert — I am convinced that the quality of the latter is far superior.

The ‘Deats

Name: Two Ladies

Location: 71 Tran Hung Dao, Hoi An, Vietnam

Contact: +84 510 3928 123

TripAdvisor: Two Ladies Tailor Shop

Facebook: Two Ladies Tailor

Have you ever visited Hoi An for some unique retail therapy? What tailor(s) would you recommend to future travellers?

All photos sourced from unsplash.com

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6 Things to Look for in a Tour Guide

Should I hire a tour guide?

It’s not a straightforward yes or no answer. There are countless reasons people decide to fork out for this service, whether that be to gain historical or cultural insight, to translate information from a foreign language, to ask for recommendations or purely out of safety. I personally have been motivated by the latter, as there are certain places in the world where being an accompanied young woman is not in the interests of my wellbeing.

Having a tour guide can be fantastic, but it can also make or break a trip.

I’ve had tour guides who have followed me into an ATM room and have physically taken cash out of my wallet in an effort to ‘help’. I’ve had tour guides who have refused to take me places I specifically asked to go because they received commission at other businesses. And I’ve had tour guides who have outright shouted at me for not understanding their instructions.

The problem for me is that I am not naturally upfront; I’m the first person to admit that I am something of a pushover. In these situations — although the idea of standing up for myself crossed my mind — I was not confident enough to put my foot down. So if you want to avoid getting stuck with a tour guide like this, then the following six things are what you need to be mindful of…

Flexibility

Your tour guide needs the flexibility to be able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and roll with the punches. Their priority should be to cater to your interests and to be sensitive to your needs. If you want to skip an activity, then they should accept that. If you want to stop and grab a bite to eat, then they should recommend a nearby café. If you are tired and need to slow down, then they should match your pace. An itinerary that is meticulously planned with no room to improvise is doomed to end in failure.

Knowledge

This is kind of a given. Perhaps one of the main reasons people enlist the help of a tour guide is so that they can gain a further dimension of understanding for the location. If your tour guide is not up to date with historical, political and cultural information, then you’re not getting bang for your buck.

Language Barriers

You may be surprised by the number of languages tour companies cater to if you make the effort to seek them out. You need not settle for a tour in a second language that you have to continuously translate in your head just to make sense of what they are saying. Your tour guide should also be able to speak the national language so that you have the opportunity to interact with locals and read written texts. A further thing to keep in mind is that — even if your guide speaks your language — their accent needs to be understandable. From experience, constantly asking them to repeat themselves can be very embarrassing.

Sense of Humour

While tour guides don’t need to be stand up comedians, it’s important that they have the ability to deal with their client’s… well, stupidity. In short, they need to be able to laugh when you make mistakes and not take anything personally. A red flag is when they are offended by questions you may ask. As a naive kid from New Zealand, I remember unintentionally insulting a Vietnamese tour guide once by asking them a question related to communism. Tour guides need to be equipped to deal with enquiries like this. Tourists want to learn, and they can’t do that if they don’t feel comfortable asking for clarification.

Professionality

And yes, I did just invent that word. Nevertheless, many aspects fall under this. You should expect your tour guide to be punctual, well-dressed and ethical whilst still being friendly and welcoming. You want to feel comfortable enjoying their company whilst at the same time knowing that you can approach them regarding serious matters.

Passion

This may sound clichéd, but it’s true. The more passionate your tour guide is, the more you will get out of the experience. Enthusiasm is contagious; I have found myself getting really excited about activities I was tempted to skip purely after seeing the smile on my tour guide’s faces.

If your tour guide is making you feel uncomfortable, then it is important that you communicate this. At the end of the day, you are the one paying them, and it is your holiday that is being sacrificed if you keep your thoughts to yourself. A lot of tour guides will also appreciate your feedback, as it is in their best interests to provide a satisfactory and memorable service. Think of yourself and your tour guide as a team; both sides have to participate for the experience to be a success.

All photographs taken during a walking tour in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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The No-Bullsh*t Guide to Surviving a 12-Hour Flight

Ugh. Flying. The bane of travel.

At least, that’s what I think. As someone quite tall I hate the cramped seats, I’m super sensitive to the pressure on your ears, and I’ve never had a satisfying inflight meal. True, I ask for the vegetarian option, but I’ve never encountered an airline that seems to understand that vegetarians can eat food other than vegetables.

On the other hand, some people love it. They anticipate the thrill of taking off and landing, the adrenalised buzz of airports, the extensive range of inflight entertainment and the friendliness of the staff.

But if you’re anything like me, then a long-haul flight can be a major drawback to a trip. But fear not! I’ve gathered together a collection of tried-and-tested tips to help you survive a 12-hour flight. So kick back, relax, and try not to scream at the obnoxious kid behind you kicking your chair the whole flight.

Set Goals

There’s nothing like half a day of sitting on your ass to be productive. If you’re one of those people who never seems to have enough time to tick off everything on your to-do list, then what better time than when you’ve 30,000 feet in the air?

Draft those emails you’ve been meaning to write. Finish that podcast you’ve been putting off. Update your resume.

I personally try to seize the opportunity to prepare blog posts in advance so that I’m never stressed about not making my schedule. I set myself a goal; for example, “I am going to write 5,000 words before this plane touches down on the runway”. Not only does this make the minutes fly by (excuse the pun), but it also gives the trip purpose.

Power Up

This may seem like common sense, but the one time I was caught out on a flight with a half-drained battery was one time too many.

Ensure your laptop, cellphone and all other electronic devices have a full battery by the time you leave the ground. If this means sitting next to a charging port whilst you wait for your boarding call, then so be it. I’ve only ever been on one flight where there were in-seat power outlets, so it is not something you should rely on. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through your flight when your laptop decides to die

Catch Your Forty Winks

As far as I’m concerned, the best way to experience twelve hours in the air is unconscious. Whilst I have been known to resort to sleeping pills, this is not something most people advocate. Not only can sleeping pills render you useless in an emergency, but you will more often than not wake up feeling groggy and unable to adjust to the new time zones.

A much better way to approach this is to encourage natural sleep through comfort and ease. Preparation is key! Ensure you have packed some sort of travel pillow and an eye-mask if you are light sensitive. Airlines do provide pillows, but let’s be honest here; they’re about as useful as using a tea towel for a blanket. You can purchase cheap alternatives at the gate before you board, and whilst you may be embarrassed climbing aboard the aircraft with your neck support pillow, it’s a damn sight lot better than being kept painfully awake because you cannot physically relax.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

I cannot emphasise this point enough. The frustrating thing about drinking water on airplanes is that you never want to. I don’t know the science behind this, but there has never been in the air where I’ve thought to myself, “What I really want right now is a bottle of H20”. Nevertheless, discipline yourself to keep sipping throughout the flight.

Because the cabin environment has low humidity due to high altitudes, travellers are especially prone to dehydration. Consistently drinking water helps combat undesirable effects such as exaggerated jet lag, dry and chapped skin, fatigue and constipation.

In saying that, go easy on the alcohol. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t treat yourself – I’m no spoilsport – but that glass of champagne you ordered will only dehydrate you further.

Go Easy on the Carry-Ons

If I had a dollar for every second I’ve had to wait for fellow passengers to get their shit together and pack up their belongings after the plane has landed, I could probably upgrade to first class. You will not be popular if you are the reason people are waiting to disembark because you didn’t have the good sense to make sure you were ready ten minutes ago.

The way to avoid this is to pack light. Unless you are in a situation where you for some reason have to pack items in your hand luggage as opposed to your suitcase (don’t worry, I’ve been there before),  there is no reason to be packing half of your life into your carry-on. Pack the bare essentials and then draw the line. Not only will this save you the embarrassment of trying to organise everything when the plane lands, but it is so much less stressful when you’re not trying to keep tabs on all your stuff.

♫ Let Me Entertain You ♫

Despite most long-haul flights offering you more movies than twelve hours permits, sometimes you just have to channel your inner Robbie Williams and make your own entertainment.

My two go-to platforms here are audiobooks and kindle. Aside from the fact that they are not prone to running out of battery as quickly as other electronic devices, they are catered towards long-lasting enjoyment. Furthermore, you can store numerous titles on your account as opposed to lugging round heavy and cumbersome paperbacks. Just make sure you’ve downloaded everything you need before you leave wifi!

If you’re looking for a book suggestion, I highly recommend you download Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari. I think it is the number one book travellers should read to understand human culture and civilisation if they are passionate about the world around them and how it came to be.

Chew Gum

As a child, I used to have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the airport. Why, I hear you ask? Because I suffered from intense ear pain whenever the cabin depressurised.

This is not something that resolved itself with time, but thankfully, this has an easy fix. For a couple of bucks, you can buy a packet of chewing gum from a shop at the airport which you will be allowed to take through security aboard the plane. I find that consistently chewing gum throughout a flight prevents your ears from getting clogged. Or, if you prefer a more scientific explanation; chewing gum prevents the phenomenon of mucous membranes swelling in your ears and nose which makes it harder to equalise the pressure in your middle ear.

Flavours featuring menthol and eucalyptus work a treat, although I personally prefer strawberry as the more muted taste doesn’t effect food to the same degree.

All photos sourced from Unsplash

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