Saturday, 23 November 2013

Charmed by Hoi An

Hoi An is as lovely, quaint, and charming as everyone says it is.  Hoi An is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site due to the "rich architectural fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and European influences dating back to the 16th century" (according to Rough Guides).  200 year old wooden shop houses line the streets, colored lanterns hang outside, and most of the traffic is people walking, bicycles and only a few motorcycles.

These little girls sell lanterns with candles for you to send out on the river while you make a wish.

Hoi An at night 

Japanese Covered Bridge

Lanterns of every color light up the riverside at night

"You buy candle, make you lucky"
As I mentioned in my last post, Hoi An is my "Vacation within a Vacation" and I am treating myself to four nights in a relatively upscale hotel (the Sunshine Hotel), too much clothing shopping, and some relaxation.
Hotel Pool

My room with balcony overlooking the pool

Lush bathroom
Three of the girls at Yaly Couture, including Marina, my consultant discussing a wool coat I ordered

Based on recommendations on Trip Advisor as well as word of mouth from other travelers who had been to Hoi An, I decided to test out two tailor shops while in town.  Yaly Couture got great reviews on Trip Advisor and it is a huge shop with lots of fabrics and a very streamlined, high tech approach.  300 tailors in the area are under contract to Yaly only and do not work for anyone else.  When you arrive at the shop (like I did at 9pm on my first day) a beautifully uniformed girl will greet you ask you what you are looking for and take you under their wing while you discuss what you would like to order, how much it will cost, fabric selection etc.  I decided to get a winter wool coat and a basic black sheath dress made.  I had found pictures of what I had in mind online so I emailed those to Marina, my assistant at Yaly.  Once all the tailoring is done I will post pictures of what I requested and what I got back for comparison. 

The next morning I went to a different tailor (Ti Na, was recommended to me by other travelers).  Her shop is very small and all clothing is tailored by Ti Na herself.  There is less fabric selection here but it is very personalized, friendly service, with a smile.  The girl who took my measurements seemed to be a little more methodical and careful then the one at Yaly and I was really impressed that the girl also sketched the outfit into a notebook, stapled fabric scraps beside the illustration, and jotted down measurements beside that.  I ordered a lace dress with a contrasting liner as well as a blouse here.  My plan was that whichever tailor delivered the best product (Yaly vs. TiNa) woud be the tailor I ordered my remaining items from.

I returned to Yaly at 3pm that day (a mere 18 hours from my first visit) for my first fitting and was disappointed because the dress and coat didn't fit particularly well at first.  However, Marina asked me what I wanted adjusted and used chalk to mark alterations.  She called the tailor in to see the clothing on me and they were able t so some of the alterations were within 10 minutes while I waited and then I tried on the items again, other alterations took longer so I returned later that evening (6pm) to try again.  By this time I was comfortable that the process would culminate in some nicely tailored items and that the tailors wouldn't give up until I said that the fit was perfectly right... so I looked at some other fabric and decided to order a shirt dress, 1 long-sleeved blouse, and one short sleeved blouse also.

The next morning I had a cooking class from 8am-2pm (more details later) so as soon as I got back I headed to Ti Na and tried on my blouse and my dress.  The dress was perfect right away and I love it!  Thanks Ti Na! The blouse I had made here is also really great but needed just a few minor alterations before it's photo-worthy.  Based on the closer fit on the first fitting and the fact that I liked the personal touch at her shop more, I chose Ti Na for a "little" more work (I went totally overboard and ordered: 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 short sleeve shirt, 2 blazers, a skirt, a pair of fitted pants, and a cocktail dress).  I went totally overboard!  If you want to know more about what this all cost me, fire me an email.  It's not cheap and likely not worthwhile if you can easily fit into clothing "off the rack" but I think it was worthwhile for me because I am tired of my shirts always being so short they don't stay tucked in, my sleeves not being long enough, my skirts and dresses being too short, and I'm tired of "busting out" by popping my top button because my shirts aren't big enough across the back/chest.  It was also tons of girly fun having input on fabric, thread, and button choices, and design input.

I gave the tailor this photo of Kate Middleton's dress I found online

I'm not Kate Middleton... but I still love the resulting dress I ordered from Ti Na!  I opted for a bright pink liner for fun (rather then beige like in the original dress)

Ok... back to cooking class!  I did the half day Thuan Tinh Island Cooking Tour this morning and it was excellent!  We started out at the market in Old Town Hoi An which is a real authentic market full of Vietnamese and very few tourists.  We were shown all the ingredients we would use for cooking and purchased them at the market amidst the chaos, sights, sounds, and smells that go along with any Asian market!  FUN!
Duck, Duck, Goose.... Chicken, Chicken, Chicken, Chicken, Chicken ;)  All the animals here are alive and are clucking, and quacking as they are hung by their feet from this lady's scooter.  This might be my favorite photo from this trip.

Who knew that fresh tumeric looks like ginger with a yellower inside?!?!?  I thought it was just that yellow powder you buy at the grocery store

Our guide Hahn showed us around the market

I just loved the rooster pose LOL.  Silkworms in the bowl in the back... for eating...not for silk

There are so many types of greens; watercress, different varieties of basil, cilantro/coriander, morning glory, fish leaves, sprouts...

we were given these hats for just the boat ride...

Stone wheel used to grind rice (after soaking overnight) into rice milk used for pancakes and rice paper

Instruction on how to make Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Salad Rolls)
look what I can do!

Sizzling Vietnamese Crepes (Banh Xeo)

Banh Xeo... I like to call this dish "Vietnamese Tacos"

Our cute teacher and chef with her creation; Southern Style Beef Vermicelli Salad (Bun Bo Nam Bo)

I MADE THIS!  and I ate it and IT WAS DELICIOUS!

I now know how to ake Pho Bo Ha Noi

After the cooking class and all my tailor appointments I had some delicious lemongrass calamari and then tried the local specialty Banh Bao Vac (white rose) which is a shrimp dumpling made from manioc-flour dough bunched to look like a rose... very yummy!

I wrapped up "Interim Treat Yo Self Day" with a glass of wine beside an art gallery while watching a performance of traditional music across the street.

No comments:

Post a Comment