Land of 20,000 Tailors

Long weekend in Hoi An, Vietnam, former port town halfway down the long thin Vietnamese coast. Like all of this area, Arabs, Chinese, and Japanese traded here for centuries until the river silted up and the boats couldn’t land any longer.  

I wonder about this recurring theme.  River silting. And really, who wouldn’t? I mean off hand, I recall, Bruges in Belgium and Acco in present day Israel.  There are more. Not being a hydrogeologist, I’m purely speculating, but I imagine that man’s agricultural practices would have had something to do with it. Clear cutting forests.  Poor soil management all lead to more soil in the water and so on. 

One thing that gets left behind are quaint cities. Wealth pours in and then ebbs away until rediscovered by UNESCO or some such organization and BOOM! Economic rebirth in form of tourism. Whereupon the city is silted in T-shirt’s and selfie sticks. 

Hoi An’s not quite inundated. There is still a pretty cold balance, the big huge chains aren’t all here, yet. The weekdays are pretty quite.  They do bus folks in in the evening for the evening candle festival. Setting a candle afloat nightly in an attempt to make one’s wishes come true.  A nightly birthday or wish granting ceremony? It is a beautiful sight, if not a little crowded. Couples canoodle. Hawkers promise. Strains of music bounce across the water. All the while candles float by downstream toward wherever wishes come true.

And if one’s wish was clothing, then Hoi An is also the place to come. Maybe it’s the rent.  Maybe its the proximity to fabric, but whatever the reason, this place is home to some 20,000 tailors, and they’re all waiting to replace your wardrobe.  

We were recommended to Yaly’s by some friends. And our hotel staff verified they were one of the best.  

We had two and a half days, so we headed there right after breakfast. We’d done a bit of planning and brought our own fabric fro home, but they have walls of their own to pick from, some imported, lots domestic. 

We got assigned to Natasha and Maureen and they were with us every step of the way. For men, it’s kind of easy. You pick out your fabric and you tell them what you want.  The measure you conventionally and then, for added measure, they took what I’m sure are unflattering pics and then made me wear some nude colored women’s undergarments and scanned me with a laser. I’m sure they’re out there on the internet somewhere. 

If you’re a woman, it’s a little more complicated, but you pull up your Pinterest page, tell them what modifications you want and they just take notes and measurements. If you want to hide some perceived flaw, they’ll offer a suggestion. If you want pockets in everything you wear? They will look at you quizzically, and put in pockets. 

The most impressive part is the time.  There are elves in the back to make it all happen. We left at 11 in the morning.  We came back at 4:30to a nearly completed order. We tried a few things on to make sure they got things right. The made some adjustments. A nip here. A tuck there. Do you always wear a watch? Let’s make your right cuff a little bigger.  If you’re gonna wear this untucked, maybe we’ll shorten it. 

Come back tomorrow for a final fit and it is all almost complete!  They do shoes, too. Custom cobbled right there, by Gepetto Nguyen himself. 

All in, custom fit , 11 shirts, a sport coat, a pair of shoes, 6 dresses with custom added pockets, a skirt with pockets, two tunics with pockets and two pairs of pants with pockets bundled up and delivered to our hotel room in 32 hours for far less than a trip to Macy’s.  

In between fittings, there are Banh Mi sandwiches to be had, coffee to be drunk and people to be watched. We’ll be back for a return visit soon!

If you go, the Lantana Boutique Hotel was a quaint little place away from some of the fray, but close enough to see it all. Try the Cao Lau noodles along the river. Quite yummy. Drink coffee to your heart’s content at any one of the shops in town. And take a ride along the rice paddies on the way to the beach.

Categories: Travel

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1 reply »

  1. Oh, shoot, I lost a new Yaly shirt recently and meant to ask you to have them make a replacement. One of a kind. Guess I will gave to go back. Enjoyed your travelogue.


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