We finally arrived in Hoi An. A spot I had been looking forward to since we arrived in Vietnam. Why? Because it was here that I would get my custom made dresses! We headed straight to the tailor on day one. I had been given a recommendation by a girl we met in Sri Lanka for a tailor and also had the name of a tailor that was used by a girl who’s blog I follow, one was closed so it made my decision on which to go to quite easy. Ha Na tailor won. I had been on Pinterest every chance I got looking at different dresses, trying to find the ones that I wanted to make. I went into the shop and showed the girl there the styles that I wanted (I had a few spare styles in case they didn’t have a fabric that I wanted). We settled on 4 different designs, 5 dresses in total – one that I got in two different colors. Then I picked my fabrics and the seamstress came in to take my measurements. She took very careful and specific measurements for each dress and then said to come back the next day for my first fitting. On our way back to our hotel we stopped at a shoe store and found that it was incredibly cheap to get custom made shoes as well. We stopped by a store for Rob and began looking at different styles. He decided to get 2 pairs of leather work style shoes made along with a pair of suede loafers for a more casual look. We once again picked out fabrics and the lady took Rob’s measurements – she drew an outline of his foot and jotted down a few notes and instructed us to come back the next day around the same time as my fitting. I couldn’t believe that both the shoes and the dresses would be ready so quickly!
We went back the next day for our fittings. Rob’s went swimmingly. His loafers fit perfect and looked wonderful! The leather shoes were a smidge tight but she said it was an easy fix. I was surprised because I assumed if they didn’t fit that she would have to start over again. By the next day she had them fitting great and looking just as good! When I went for my dresses, 2 of them were 100% finished and fit like a glove. Having something fit so perfectly is not something I am used to. The dresses hugged my body just right. Three of the dresses still needed a little tweaking, thankfully they were a little big instead of a little too small, which likely would have led to more work. By day three we had made all the adjustments and my dresses were complete! I was SO happy, but bummed to be shipping them all back right away. Rob very sweetly encouraged me to keep one with me to wear for my birthday and I did just that!
We had a bit of downtime amidst the fittings so we were able to do a little bit of sight seeing. We spent one afternoon doing a cooking class. The tour started in a local market where we bought all the ingredients needed for the class. Then they took us on a boat to an island about 30 minutes away. Although I could see where this part would be quite enjoyable usually, the weather was cold and rainy (just as it had been every day that we were in town) so being on a boat was pretty brutal. We finally arrived on the island and made a stop to learn how to make rice milk. We then got to our cooking class where we were shown how to make Pho Ba, Fresh Spring Rolls, a fried crepe type item that I can’t remember the name and a Vietnamese salad with beef. They served us an endless amount of papaya juice during the course, which was a highlight for me as it was incredibly delicious. All the food we made was healthy, easy to make and delicious to eat. This was our third cooking class of the trip and so far they seem to always be one of our favorite activities.
In the spirit of custom made clothes, I was anxious to learn more about how they make silk. Silk factories are common in Vietnam and are quite fascinating. In Hoi An there is a Silk Village where you get to see the whole process from start to finish. We could arrange a tour from our hotel for $20 each, be picked up, given a tour and taken back to our hotel OR we could get to the village by ourselves and only pay $5 each to get the same tour. Thankfully the village was about 1KM from our hotel so we opted for the cheaper option. The tour started out with a glass of the most delicious juice ever. Fresh Mulberry juice – if you have never had it, try it. It tastes like a jolly rancher! From there, our guide showed us many different traditional Vietnamese silk outfits and then continued by showing us the silkworms and how the process of growing them goes. They start off the size of crumbs and they feed them mulberry leaves. They grow very quickly and then they move them to an area where they spin their cocoons. After their cocoons are finished, the silkworms are put into boiling hot water and the thread is then unraveled from the cocoon. They dry it, boil it, dye it, unknot it and then bring it to the looms to be made into tablecloths, table runners, scarves, clothes – etc. It was really amazing watching the women work on the different style looms that they had and see the product from growing silkworms all the way to the finished product.
Hoi An was one of my (Athena’s) favorite stops in Vientam, mainly because of the clothes, but also because it was a city filled with great food, a lot of culture and A LOT of tailors.