Foreword: If you’re here to just read about tailors in Hoi An, scroll down a bit and look for the sub-headings related tailoring and shoes.
The bus drops us off somewhere at about 5:30 am and there’s not a soul in sight. One by one other backpackers either get in a cab or walk off to their hostel, until I was the only one left. I had no idea where to go and my Google Maps weren’t loading, but luckily the restaurant on the corner were already at work prepping food and were kind enough to let me leech their WiFi for a few minutes. Figured out my bearing and I was on my way for a 30 minute walk to my hostel T_T.
My first impression of Hoi An is it’s a very sleepy town, even accounting for the fact that it IS 6 am. The architecture is very old-school and you get a very different vibe from the fairly modern Nha Trang or the beach town feel of Mui Ne. This is no doubt a place of culture, of which I know none.
Basically I just have to follow along this river, where a lot of oldies are already up doing their daily dose of fishing.
I wondered if they actually catch anything or they’re just here to socialise, but one quickly proves me wrong by landing a small fish. Good job!
By the time I arrive at my hostel, I was pretty tired, not to mention hungry. Since there’s no way my room is ready so early (doubt the previous person has checked out), I decide to just take a nap.
I woke up a few hours later and the sun is already way up in the sky, magically I’m no longer hungry for some reason, maybe I’ve gone past the point of no return. Now it’s time to venture out the town! The hostel I’m staying at – Hideout Hostel – while highly rated it is a bit far out of the town centre, so I rented a bicycle. Hoi An quite small so unless you’re in a rush or you haven’t got enough of scooters, it’s a good place to traverse around leisurely on a bike.
Hoi An is a town with rich history and culture, and and the Old Town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town was also the major port of what’s known as the Cham Kingdom, a different ethnic group from the Vietnamese that controlled the area hundreds of years ago. I will be exploring more of their culture and relics on another day. Today is mostly about getting a hang of the Old Town and getting a taste of two things that Hoi An is known for – local specialties and tailoring.
I have no idea how tailoring became the lifeblood of the town, but there are literally hundreds of tailors in Hoi An, all concentrated within the Old Town area. Seriously if you walk along any given street it’s a good bet there’d be 4-5 tailor shops. So if you’re looking for cheap tailor made suits then this is the best place to go in Vietnam, as the competition keeps the prices down. Or if you’re a girl, the tailors here are known for being able to replicate dresses, so just bring a picture of a designer dress you want and it can be made to fit here for a fraction of the cost, just without the brand name.
Going a little off the tradition of my blogs, which is to do coverage day by day, I will cover all the clothing related content in this post. This is because over the course of next couple days in Hoi An I frequently went back to the tailor for fitting sessions, and there’s just no point scattering them out over many posts. Therefore, within this post I will talk about my experiences with tailors in Hoi An, and tips I can pass you to you guys, in addition to other stuff I did during the day.
Shopping for Tailor Made Clothes in Hoi An
The best advice I can give you is do your research and come prepared. I was fully committed to get a fair amount of clothing done here so no expenses were spared when it came to research. Here are some tips I can give, but seriously this isn’t something you want to look into yourself!
- While there are hundreds of tailors, most small shops do not have their own in-house tailors, but send their order to factories on the city outskirts. Only some of the bigger shops have their own tailors
- Bigger shops will of course be more expensive than smaller shops, but I believe they are worth it since it will still be significantly cheaper than any western country. They have hundreds of reviews on TripAdvisor to make you feel more at ease, plus they are so frequented by tourists that their staff have been some of the best English-speakers I’ve encountered in Vietnam so far
- Allow at least 3 days in the town for the whole exercise to ensure the clothes fits you well. However, anything longer than 4 days and I think you’ll struggle to find enough things to occupy yourself in the town while you wait for your clothes to be made and altered. This does mean you have to make your decisions quickly upon arriving so the tailors can get to work ASAP. Therefore, I recommend you do what I did, skip all the small shops and do a round of the bigger shops on the day you arrive.
- It will take multiple fittings to get everything right, so don’t be afraid to tell them it doesn’t fit well! Some items of clothing took me 4 fittings to get everything done satisfactorily, and I still think I rushed some of them as they still don’t feel perfect now that I’m back in Sydney, but now it’s too late! Tell them if you want something tigheter or looser, longer or shorter, etc., their customer services are very good generally at the big shops, as they are all competing for that tourist money and word of mouth actually draws in a LOT of their business, as they will almost always ask you to leave a positive review on TripAdvisor, so make them earn it
- Following on from the previous point, the “Big 4” of tailors in the town based on my research, all of which have multiple locations within the Old Town, are:
- Bebe Tailors
- A Dong Silk
- Yaly Couture
- Kimmy Tailor
- To make the most efficient use of your time, figure out beforehand what clothes you’re looking for, how many you want and what you’re budget is. Here’s a guide on what different clothing items (sorry men’s only) will cost, with higher quality materials obvious occupying the higher end of the range. Note that these prices are in USD, as this is the currency they are likely to quote you on apart from dong. A general guide is the prices are probably closer to what the clothes would cost at home from an off-the-rack store rather than tailor made, so yes it won’t be dirty cheap but you’ll still be getting a great deal.
- Suits (jacket + pants): $100 – $500
- Shirts: $30-$100
- Pants: $60-$100
- Coats: $100-$200
However before I get started with my day on clothes, there’s another thing I wanted to get tailor made that is less expected – shoes. The leather shoes I use for work have all but worn out so I was in the market for some quality leather shoes. I’ve only ever bought leather shoes from Florsheim which has always impressed me with their style and quality, but only when their sales are on, otherwise they are too expensive :(. The most I’d pay for a pair of leather shoes is probably $150, that’s no knock on Florsheim’s quality, just I don’t want to pay anymore for a pair of shoes, of ANY brand. Therefore, I was fairly excited when I heard Hoi An also has expert shoemakers that can make affordable but quality leather shoes. However, there’s only a few good shoemakers in Hoi An compared to tailors based on my research, but lucky for me, even though my hostel is outside the Old Town there just happens to be a well reviewed shoemaker a mere 2 minute bike ride away.
Review of Roni’s Shoes & Bags Shop
Shop & Services
The shop is called Roni’s, and unlike the big tailors I named above which are much more commercialised, here the shop is ran by a husband and wife duo. Roni is the name of the wife, takes care of the sales and speaks excellent English, while her husband is the shoemaker. They specialise in both men and women’s shoes as well as various types of bags, all made from leather.
As soon as I stepped in, I was greeted by a smiling Roni who handed me a chilled bottle of water. As I will soon find out later, this is standard customer service in any clothing shop in Hoi An, but not knowing this at first I thought they were just super friendly, which definitely gave me a good impression of them, especially since it was a super hot day. She sat me down and gave me two giant catalogues of different kinds of leather shoes for me to browse through. These catalogues are obviously not their own, it’s just a mish-mash of different brand’s catalogues, but the purpose is to help you pick the style you want.
The shop itself also has many shoes on display so you can get a feel of their finished products. After a solid stretch of flipping through the catalogues, the two pictures above contained my final picks – High Shine Derby & Derby Lace-Up.
Now because my time in Hoi An was limited and the main focus was on clothes, I really didn’t want to spend too much time looking around for shoes. And since there’s really only 1 other shoe shop I wanted to check out aside from Roni’s, I was kinda set to just take my money here since I found the exact style of shoes I was looking for anyway. Plus they were so friendly, although you should take this with a grain of salt when it comes to salespeople. Still, I really thought I hit the jackpot when it came to shoes in Hoi An. After some haggling (yes definitely haggle, especially if buying multiple items) we settled on $60 USD per pair for 2 pairs, one tan and one black. I also chose a pair of leather thongs for $25 USD haggled down to $20 USD, because a. I lost my Havianas at the White Sand Dunes and b. I wanted a pair of sturdy thongs since they are fairly prone to breaking apart, so a leather pair seemed like a good investment. She did try to up-sell me suits and shirts from a her father’s tailor, which I didn’t mind, but declined politely as I already had a list of tailors in mind.
Her husband the shoemaker then traced out my feet on a piece of paper so he can make the shoes according to the shape of your feet. After that I gave her my preferences on certain aspects of the shoe, namely the colour of the laces and specified that I wanted the tip to be pointy rather than round. I really don’t like round tips because they look like school kids shoes or old people shoes, whereas pointy tipped leather shoes look much more professional. That’s just my opinion.
It took two fitting sessions after the initial measurements to get the fit right, as they were initially far too tight. I have no idea how they loosened the shoes, as I can understand if it was too lose they can just cut it down, but how they go other way around? Maybe they just started from scratch again, but that seems like a waste. I also had to ask them to make it pointier the first time, and again on the second fitting but they said they couldn’t make it any pointier. Tbh I don’t actually remember how pointy my old shoes are, but they seeeeeemed okay and fitted very well, so when I came back after the final fitting I settled the bill (a 500k dong deposit was placed initially) and left fairly happy.
Firstly, I am not an expert when it comes to shoes, although I’d like to think I know just a little more than the average after the research I’ve done. This review is purely based off my experience actually wearing the shoes for about 3 months, which mainly involves me wearing it to, from and during work in an office, so what I consider standard usage of leather shoes.
So how did the shoes do? Not great at all.
Firstly, the leather quickly wrinkles and fades. Now I know all leather wrinkles but this is on another level. I’m no expert on leather but I assume they are treated chemically to reduce the wrinkling, but these pairs basically started fading and wrinkling after the first week, like very noticeably. After a month or so the wear and tear on the leather is at a level that it’s distracting, especially the tan pair, at least with the black pair it’s harder to see. In comparison, the old pairs I had from Florsheim took almost a year to reach this state.
Secondly, the construction seems shoddy. Both the heel and the outsole (the part that comes in contact with the ground on the bottom of the shoes) started falling off or peeling away. This happened on literally the first day I wore this to work, as I could feel something coming off the shoes, which at first I thought was gum or rubbish stuck to my shoes. In comparison, my old Florsheim shoes never had this problem, but the part sticking the outsole to the rest of the shoe did rip in a few places after 2 years of wearing them.
Thirdly, is there such thing as ventilation for closed shoes? I’m not sure but with my Florsheim pairs they never felt particularly hot and stuffy. But with these pairs my socks were drenched in sweat by the end of the day and feels disgusting. I’m not sure if it’s the material or what, but these shoes while fitted well was not comfortable for wearing the whole day due to how stuff it is.
Lastly, and most importantly, they are not fucking pointy!!! I know this may be nitpicking but I did specifically ask for the pointy style, which is also what the catalogues showed. So technically this is false advertising -.-! I actually just gave up on this pair and bought a new pair from Florsheim during their Black Friday sale. For reference here’s them side by side, you can tell how much better the leather looks and how much pointier it is.
In conclusion, I could only handle wearing it for a few month before I decided enough is enough and forked out $130 for a new pair. This is definitely a case of you get what you paid for, and for me it’s a lesson learnt. When I mentioned I’d review the shoes on my blog, Roni was quite excited as she said normally she only gets TripAdvisor reviews and never gets talked about on blogs (she doesn’t know that my blog is as tiny as you can get lel). However, I can only review based on my honest opinion, which was a thorough disappointment. Is it a one-off case of bad luck or is this the standard of their shoes, I don’t know, but in good conscience I can not recommend Roni’s Shoes and Bags Shop to anyone looking for a pair of leather shoes in Hoi An.
Tbh I think if you want a new pair of shoes just invest in a good pair at home on a reputable brand, as while I can understand tailor made clothing to suit people with various body types, feet shapes doesn’t get THAT weird. My feet are actually quite wide compared to their length, but Florsheim shoes still fit pretty well, so it’s probably not worth the extra effort to get shoes tailor made.
On a side note, the leather thongs did turn out decently. It feels very sturdy and I think the construction is very durable as I wore it for the rest of the trip. The only downside is that the sole is pretty hard, not like Haviana’s that are plastic so it feels spongy. Think of the difference between stepping on carpet vs. wooden floor. Therefore, it doesn’t feel as comfortable walking around in it after a while, so while it does what it’s supposed to do, I still think it’s better to just get 2.5 pairs of Haviana’s for the same price.
So the rest of the day was spent wandering around the Old Town on my bike, visiting the big tailor shops I mapped out in advance. On the way I stopped at various shops to try out some local food. The first stop was literally just a small cart on the side of the road that caught my attention. She had a simple menu and a makeshift kitchen, and quickly pumped out a nice plate of pork chops and eggs over broken rice for me.
It was cheap and delicious, so definitely a great find randomly on the streets.
After another stop at a tailor, I went down to the local market in Hoi An which can be found towards the eastern end of the Old Town. It’s marked outside by an ancient well called Ba Le Well, from which water is used to make one of the local specialties called cao lau, a type of noodles, or so they say. I just picked up a freshly made juice of a bunch of fruits I can no longer remember and had a look around. Like most markets in Vietnam, the front is a collection of food and drink stalls while the back are for goods.
I was a little overwhelmed now by the amount of freaking clothes I been looking at, and could not make a decision on which tailor to go to. I have extreme difficulty with making decisions, no matter how small, so I figured the best way to go is to take a rest first. I cycled my way back to the hostel hoping to find it empty for my contemplation in peace since it’s like 2 pm in the afternoon, however there’s all these white people hanging out in the reception area. They asked me if I wanted to join their beer pong tournament of because they only had 7 people, not enough to form 4 pairs. Yeah fuck it whatever why not. Got myself paired up with an American guy called Dominic, who just got discharged from the US Navy as an engineer and is taking a trip around the world before finding another career. We each put in 20k dong to the pot and the tournament is under its way.
Is 2 pm too early in the afternoon to be playing beer pong? Should I be here doing this rather than making use of my limited time in a foreign country? Meh. I’m no fan of alcohol unless its free, but Vietnamese beer are very light so it’s not too bad. They must’ve thought this small Asian kid must suck at beer pong but they forgot Chinese people rekts ass in ping pong so the skills are like half transferable. They also got some strange rules here that I’m not familiar with for tag team beer pong, such as:
- If the first person get it into a cup, the second person get theirs in the same cup it knocks out all adjacent cups too
- If both teammates hit something on the same turn, they get 1 extra shot that has to be a trick shot of some kind.
- If your shot somehow bounces back to your side of the table and you can grab it before it drops off the table, you can go again
- If their shot hits the wooden box or the edge of a cup and you catch it on the full, that knocks out one of their cups
Okay tbh I might’ve remembered some of those rules wrong, but they’re something like that. Either way with our combined might Dominic and I made it to the finals, against the boss duo who are also the bartenders at the hostel. These guys are your typical tattooed-hippie-traveler-hermit-vagabond type people with dreadlocks and has surfing for a hobby (seriously not kidding), but they seem like the resident champion that enjoys making money off waves of tourists that come here. But they did not anticipate a fearsome foe that is ore-sama, and after a tense match we rekt their ass to pocket a cool 160k dong. Not used to being bested by the best, they offered a rematch of double or nothing, and the stage is set for…
…the easiest 320k dong I’ve made in my life. Here’s our photo to commemorate this momentous occasion where I actually made money while traveling.
Fresh off making a killing hustling, I went back out to the town ready to spend my well earned cash. After a final round of hearing the pitches from the big tailors, I finally decided on Kimmy’s Tailor, which I will now do a full review on. Again this includes information from various fitting sessions I did over next few days, but all condensed here for practical purposes.
Review of Kimmy’s Tailor
Shop & Services
Now there’s 2 locations for Kimmy’s in Hoi An, but the location I went to can be found below, which I believe is their main shop in town.
It was fairly busy when I visited around 4:30 pm, with plenty of other travelers (so a good sign!), but a lady with fluent English quickly came to serve me. Around the store you can see various suits and dresses on display, as well as a range of fabrics for you to feel out.
I told her what I wanted, starting off with a suit and business shirts. She gave me a sheet of paper with different types of materials available for suits and their prices, ranging from $150 USD for the cheapest material (cashmere & polyester blend) to their most expensive at about $350 USD (silk or Italian wool). I told her I wanted something quality but not too much of a splurge, but also lightweight and breathable since Australia can get bloody hot, and had my eyes set on the $250 USD fabric (wool & cashmere blend). What I appreciated was she suggested a cheaper fabric at $200 which had a bit of polyester blended into it, which improves the longevity of the fabric as well as higher breathability for summer. She could’ve easily just said nothing and made another $50 USD off me, but instead she tried to actually sell me what met my needs. Now I don’t know enough about fabrics to know if what she said was right, but I had no reason to not trust her since it’s not like shes trying to up sell me here.
The next step is to choose the style and colour I want. Remember how I said I’m especially bad with making small decisions? Yeah this took a fucking long time as she handed me an iPad with all the different styles (tbh a lot of them looked the same). In the end I chose a grey suit, as I already had the staples at home of black and blue suits. After another arduous session of choosing which shade of grey I wanted (seriously that was even harder), it’s time to move on to the shirts.
They did not want to make this any fking easier for me T_T. She pulled out a huge booklet filled with samples of different shirt fabrics. So while it was easy for me to choose a material (full cotton, always go with full cotton imo for shirts, worth the relatively small price upgrade from polyester or a blend), there was so much more variety of not only colour, but the weave of the fabric too. Weave basically means how the strings of the fabric was put together to make cloths, which is then made into shirts. The different types of weaves are often hard to distinguish unless you look really closely at the shirts, but here’s a website I found useful from Charles Tyrwhitt explaining the different types of weaves.
I actually recommend CT for shirts if you have a fairly standard body structure. They are probably the best place to buy shirts that are not tailor made, when they are on sale for OzBargain for about $50/shirt, which occurs quite often. They also do a free returns to help you get the sizing right.
So yeah fml it took a while but I was able to ultimately decide on 5 shirts of various colours and weaves. After that the pants and coat was much easier to choose. Then comes the measurements, as one of the tailors will get a measuring tape and go all around your body.
Finally it’s time to pay. All up my order was around $720 USD, which included 1 suit, 5 shirts, 2 pants and a coat. For relatively big orders there’s some room for haggling, and I was able to get about a $40 USD discount after some push and shove. You can probably get more if you were more adamant, but I was pretty tired at that point. Now they do take card payments, but they slap on like a 3% processing fee or something around there, which is actually pretty significant when you’re order is almost 1k AUD, so you’re better off paying cash. But here’s the problem, most ATMs in Hoi An, and similarly rest of Vietnam, either charge a 20k-50k dong withdrawal fee and/or have a daily withdrawal limit of 2-4mil dong, which is going to be a pain when my order is something like 16.5m dong. Luckily, I found a solution after some online sleuthing, which may come handy for you guys one day too. The ATM you want to use is for the Military Bank, which not only has no withdrawal fees, it also has a daily withdrawal limit of 10m dong! Their ATMs are rare and I’ve yet to see one anywhere else, but there’s a perfectly situated one just 5 minutes walk north of the Kimmy’s Tailor shop on the left.
Not many other places you can feel like a millionaire 😉
Once you put down the deposit which is 50%, you can come back to the ATM another day and withdraw the rest to settle your bill.
Over the next few days, I’d come in for fitting sessions and let them know what fits well and what doesn’t. You can see the in-house tailors working in the floor above the showroom, so that gives you some level of comfort on the quality. Given how they are also all women, you can get a sense of how important tailoring is in providing opportunities in this town.
The night before I was due to leave, I came back one last time to pick up my haul of loot
Now you must be wondering, if all I carry is 2 backpacks how the hell am I gonna carry so much clothes (don’t forget the shoes too) around until I go home? Fear not, as the tailors here have obviously prepared their infrastructure to cater to the foreigners who come here to get their clothes made. Just let them know which country you want to ship to and there’d be a menu of various options for you to choose from. They didn’t let me snap a picture of their pricing for clothes, because presumably they want to retain that info as their advantage when customers come in, but they were happy to let me snap a picture of all the shipping fees.
Mine was about 7.5kg and I choose the 15 day option, mainly so that when I’m back in Australia I can start wearing them ASAP, and it wasn’t that much of an increase from the 3-4 weeks option. They actually arrived in less than 15 days, as they were already delivered to my house by the time I flew back to Sydney. There’s also the option of insurance as shown on the bottom, although I didn’t bother with this.
It’s kinda funny watching the small girl from the post office try to cram all my stuff into a card board box and tape it shut in retrospect, but at the time I was more like “fk please nothing get destroyed during the shipping”.
Then it’s time to say goodbye to the nice lady who served me every time I came in from the start till the end. I have no idea if she’s the branch manager or something, but she did look the most experienced and had the most authority. As always, the customer service is excellent.
After wearing the clothes for 3 months, my honest opinion is that the clothes were very good. This was a far cry from my experience with Roni’s shoes, and I can see myself wearing most of these items for a long time to come with no need to replace them. In terms of durability, so far I’ve had no problem but take it with a grain of salt since it’s only been a few month. In terms of the individual items:
- Both the suit and coat fitted extremely well and was comfortable to wear, no complaints whatsoever
- Pants were not the best I’ve had as they are a bit harder to stretch in compared to some of my other pants, but nonetheless comfortable enough for a day sitting in front of a computer
- Shirts were a bit of a hit or miss. I guess the problem with hand making each item is that there’s less consistency compared to factory made clothes, so it’s not just a matter of getting one shirt right and duplicating it x times. Some of the shirts fitted very well, while the others didn’t, but this is I guess partially my fault as I did try on each shirt so I could’ve said something, but I was running out of time. Hence why it’s so important to have fitting sessions and to speak up, so you don’t regret it when you come home!
In the end, everything I bought is still in my usual rotation, with the exception of the shirts that doesn’t feel comfortable and the coat which is for winter, so that should say everything. Could I have gotten all these for cheaper at a smaller tailor? Probably, but to me it wasn’t worth the risk and I’m happy with my purchases. However, I’m sure if you decided on one of the other big tailors I mentioned earlier, I doubt the experience would be that much worse either. For me I chose Kimmy’s for a combination of customer service, variety and cost. At least I can say one of my decisions for tailoring in Hoi An turned out well -_-
So on the actual day of this post, I just paid the deposit and left the order with them at about 7:30 pm. After spending 3 hours making all these gut-wrenching decisions and discussions such as what shade of grey I want for my suit, my mouth was pretty dry. Here’s the pro-tip for those on a budget here in Hoi An – take advantage of all the free water they give you. Seriously, every time you visit a clothing shop for ANY reason the standard is to give you a bottled water, and anytime you leave they’re more than happy to give you one to go too. Therefore, it is entirely possible not to buy any water during your time in Hoi An.
Now I didn’t abuse this TOO much, but let’s say I got my fair share of water. I didn’t go in any store JUST for a free water with no intention of looking at their offerings, so yeh uh a moral victory. I just spent like $1000 today so I think I’m allowed to try make some money back okay.
I was also very hungry by now, and making a decision on where to eat in a town known for food was not something I was prepared to do after all the decision-making I’ve already done. So I simply picked a place off the Bible, which was known for making Hoi An’s local specialties apparently. Unfortunately it’s on the other side of town just outside the Old Town, so it took a solid 15 minutes to cycle there.
I ordered the Hoi An local specialty called cao lau, which is a type of thick noodle kinda like udon noodles served dry with bean sprouts (fuck), pork and crackling. These noodles are the ones supposedly made from the water of the Ba Le Well I mentioned earlier, so they say that authentic cao lau can only be found in Hoi An.
The sauce was easily the most amazing part of this dish, and the tangy noodles does a good job of soaking up the sauce too. Cao lau is what they are known for, but strangely on the night I visited I was the only diner, nevertheless I’d give this dish a solid 7.5/10, which would’ve been higher if not for the bean sprouts. Needless to say I didn’t touch the weird green shit on the left.
This family-run restaurant is called Bon Restaurant and its location is shown below. Since it’s an actual restaurant the prices a little higher, I think this bowl was either 50k or 60k, compared to around 20k-30k at food stalls or markets.
The restaurant is very close to the Sunflower Hotel, which is I believe the number 1 rated hostel in Hoi An. I initially wanted to stay here because of its reviews and also because they said there’s a basketball hoop here, but they were booked out, so I went to the Hideout Hostel. Being literally a 2 minute walk, I decided to go check it out to see what I missed out on. Just act confident like you’re a guest and nobody will stop you from going in. It has all the feel of a hotel, with a very very large building and a proper reception, although once you walk through to the back where the pool and bar/restaurant are, you can definitely tell this is a backpackers destination. The atmosphere was very rowdy and jam packed with your typical white backpacker drinking their kidneys away. I actually prefer the Hideout’s atmosphere, which was much more chilled and being a lot smaller everyone kinda gathers around and you get to meet everyone. Also the “hoop” was just one of those shitty portable stands and it was broken too, so I was glad I didn’t miss out on anything. FOMO cured. However, if hard partying with a shit tonne of people is your thing then I’d recommend staying here.
One thing to note about that cao lau is that the service size is quite small, I’d say even for a regular person’s appetite this wouldn’t be enough for a full meal. So I once again consulted the Bible for more food, and my eyes landed on what’s being touted as the “best banh mi in Vietnam”, according to Anthony Bourdain. He’s a celebrity chef from England, kinda like his more well known contemporary Gordon Ramsay, just with less swearing and rage. Apparently he proclaimed on his show “No Reservations” this stall had the best pork rolls in all of Vietnam, so having tried some successively better pork rolls in my time here I could not pass this one up.
The stall is called Banh Mi Phuong, and once you’re on the street it’s pretty hard to miss as it seems to constantly have a line of customers which are almost all locals, a sign of truly great food.
They sell a variety of different pork rolls, and you can watch the staff make them from different kinds of pork and fillings.
Not sure what’s good, I just picked one off the menu that I thought was the closest equivalent of “the lot”.
It was good. It was even great. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the best pork roll in Vietnam. While the meat was tasty, I feel like they shoved in too much filling and at times it was a bit greasy and difficult to eat without making a mess. I can see why people like it, but it’s just not my style.
Here’s the location of the stall if you want to go try it for yourself, the so called best pork roll in Vietnam. But set realistic expectations, because it didn’t like blow me away or anything and it probably won’t for you, unless you make this your first pork roll in Vietnam.
It did make me full however, and now that I’m full I wanted to walk off the food. Perfect for this occasion is Hoi An’s night market, which stretches along the mythical Thu Bon River that separates the Old Town and the island Hideout Hostel is on. This night market runs everyday after dark I believe, and is attended by locals and tourists alike. The main entry point is the Bridge of Lights, and on the other side is a looooong stretch of stalls for both random souvenirs and food. This is also the strip where all the bars catering to tourists lies, so it’s definitely the place to be for a night out in Hoi An.
Here’s the location of the bridge.
But you really can’t miss it, since as long as it isn’t raining it will be absolutely jam packed with people. It was not fun trying to get my bike across the bridge.
On the other side is probably the best market I’ve seen thus far in Vietnam, both in terms of the sheer volume of people and the variety of stalls. I guess in a small town like this there’s not much else to do for locals at night. It’s also the first market I’ve seen in Vietnam that has games, as that’s always something I really want to see in a market. Even better its not those basic carnival games but traditional Vietnamese games, and they are all found along the riverbank.
Starting off with this one where you toss rings on small mystery prizes, okay I guess this one is pretty common all around the world.
Next door is this game, the aim seems to be balance yourself on the bamboo and hit the drum at the end. Seems quite easy but most of the kids that attempted were unsuccessful. Both of these games only had kids playing so I didn’t end up trying them out.
This game seemed quite fun, they dangle a little flower pot and the aim is for you to take a look, then approach it blindfolded from some distance away with a bat try to smash it. You only get one swing, so you need to get the distance and height perfectly right to win.
Don’t be a pussy like me and try some of these games, language isn’t an issue because after watching it a few times they’re all easy to figure out. All except this one, which seems to be a type of Vietnamese bingo with a bit of random activities thrown in. For the life of me I could not figure out how it worked, and the white guys that participated looked equally clueless.
After all the games, you can turn left into a street full of random stalls selling trinkets and souvenirs. Most of them are not worthy of any attention, so I recommend you just skip them
The only ones worth your time are the stalls showcasing local artisanship, such as these beautiful lanterns Hoi An is famous for.
And the local caligraphers and painters.
Beyond that, there’s long stretch going almost all the way back to Hideout Hostel where people sit on plastic stools around tables along the riverbank, just chilling, chatting, playing cards and eating random street food from stalls or carts that go up and down the street peddling their offerings.
It has been a loooooooooooong day and I am super tired, but I’m glad I found this night market to end the day. This kind of night markets is exactly the kind that I enjoy, although it would be best enjoyed in a group, so definitely gonna try to come back tomorrow with other people 😉