(4) Vietnam – Hoi An

Day 1 – Wednesday 02/04/2014

Flight / Journey to Hoi An

After landing at the airport we’ve been told that there are no direct buses to Hoi An and that we need to take a taxi to the Hue town center so we can catch the bus to Hoi An from there. I’ve seen outside some busses in front of the airport and I thought they might take us to the bus station, but they were all gone before we left the airport, so we had only taxi’s left. We have made a mistake to start with, because we could have booked flights to the Da Nang city instead of Hue, which was a lot closer to Hoi An.

As always we struggled to explain to the driver that we want to go to the local bus station and instead of the bus station he took us to some travel agency. There must be some kind of collusion between them, you always end up with some travel agent and nobody knows where the bus station is. The travel agent told us that the earliest bus will be around 14:00 so we would have to wait for 4 hours and the cost is around 300 000 VND per person. Of course straight away the travel agent gave us another option to hire a private car with a driver from them for 1 400 000 VND for 131km. 3 hours drive and we took this option because Thomas wasn’t very well. During the journey the driver was showing us the best viewing spots despite he didn’t speak English at all. Maybe we would have stopped for longer in few more places, but it was really bad with Thomas and he spent all travel sleeping on the back seat so I decided that we want to be at Hoi An as soon as possible.

Finding hotel in Hoi An

After arriving to the city we were struggling to communicate with the driver again, we wanted him to drop us off in the town center however we’ve ended up by information center. Even here the communication didn’t go very easy, we’ve just been pointed at direction where we can hopefully find some hotel. On the street however there were many people offering hotels (quite cheap, around $10), so we followed one of them. He took us to very nice looking hotel, but as we’ve revealed in a few moments, nice only from the outside, and the rooms were awful, so we escaped very quickly. We’ve decided to look for something ourselves. The first attempt was quite nice, however there was unpleasant smell of fresh paint. The second attempt was successful, hotel called Hoi Pho (hoiphohotel@yahoo.com) it was very nice and we stayed there for 2 nights (approx. $18 per night). We’ve got quite nice, big room on the first floor with a street view, just the air con was a bit noisy. At the hotel reception we have ordered a day trip to My Son ruins for the following morning ($12 for the trip and 100 000 VND / 2 persons).

Shopping PART 1

Thomas started feeling a bit better so we went for evening shopping. One of the main reasons why we came to Hoi An was because the town is famous of tailors and shoemakers, there are hundreds of shops offering handmade and made to measure clothes and shoes made of very high quality materials, ready in a day and allegedly for a very attractive price. I say allegedly, because these times are long time gone. First we went to the shop recommended by our receptionist. Very nice service, we’ve been given a laptop each to go through catalogues and choose wchich designs we want. The choice for men was a lot smaller than for women, so we have fist picked something for Thomas, and that’s when we’ve revealed that “cheap” is no more. For one suit made of one of the best fabrics they were asking an equivalent of around £300, when we chose a bit lower quality fabric, it was something around £200. For that price you can easily buy a very high quality suit in England. When we tried to negotiate, the assistand started explaining that it’s all about quality aand finish, and that in their shop it is the best and we won’t get this anywhere else. We didn’t believe it because from what we’ve been shown, it’s in standard in any mid-priced suit in Europe, so we left the shop to look for some better occasions.

In the next shop the prices were a bit more acceptable, around $70 for a suit, but Thomas couldn’t find suitable fabric and there was almost no choice for dresses. When leaving the shop we were followed by the seller begging us to come back and promising the best prices, it was a bit awkward for us but we carried on to other shops. The next shop oferred similar prices as the previous one, but there was a lot more choice of fabrics for dresses and the designs. Thomas found 2 fabric types for the suits, so because we were a bit limited with time, we decide to buy here. I have actually brought some designs of my choice hoping that I will be able to use some of them. I needed a dress for a wedding (not the wedding dress), something to work and something for day-to-day use. In the end, out of the designs I brought, I decided for only one, the rest I chose of the display examples. Unfortuantely the didn’t have all of the fabrics used for the display dresses so I had to choose some substitutes, just the design was not changed, or with some small alterations. I had to negotiate for a very long time to ensure I will get exactly what I want. In total they had to take back one of the dresses 3 times for alterations to ensure the dress is done the way I wanted and to be honest the discussions and negotiations were quite exhaustive. In overall for 2 suits, 2 shirts and a tie we were going to pay $180 and for my 5 dresses $175 (the most expensive $60 and the cheapest one $20). It may not feel that much for so many clothes, but the prices are no longer as attractive as it says in the travel guides or on internet ( $10 for dress and $40-$50 for a suit ).

The next purchase were going to be shoes. When I’ve asked the tailor if they can recommend someone, she took us to the shoemaker, there I was given a shoes catalog and thankfully I found something interesting very shortly. The price 1 150 000 VND felt a bit expensive, but I was tired so didn’t even negotiate too much.

After leaving the shops (over 3 hours in total) we went to the nearest restaurant, I had a light meal and few drinks :-). Thomas still didn’t feel the best so only had a soup. Exhaused by shopping we went to sleep very quickly.

Day 2 – Thursday 03/04/2014

Morning trip to My Son

I decided to decribe this trip as separate story available here Vietnam – My Son

Hoi An

The morning trip to My Son has finished by the boat trip. We were left somewhere in Hoi An port, and we didn’t have any map of the city. We tried to find our hotel and we’ve got lost when walking in the narrow streets of the city, but it was worth it because on our way we’ve seen many beautiful buildings, some beautiful pagodas hidden between local houses and shops. These were really worth seeing, very rich in decorations, clean and quitet.

We had to take our shoes to enter some of them. In one of the temples we’ve been stopped by an old lady, she asked us for our birthday dates and then she gave us little medalions for good luck. I would all be good if at the end we wouldn’t be asked for money, and it wasn’t just a voluntary donation, we’ve been asked to put a specific amount…each.

On one of the main streets we bought traditional Vietnamese huts, they turned out to be quite uncomfortable so we didn’t even really used them. The salesman asked $10 each to start with, and we paid $1 each after negotiations 🙂

After some time of wandering, around 12-13pm we have finally reached our hotel, got changed to swimming suits and headed to the beach on taxi scooters (100 000 VND per person ther and back for around 20 minutes journey. We spent few hours there, had some beer and wine and a good lunch and around 14:30 came back to the hotel.

Shopping PART 2

After retrun to the city we went to the tailors to try our clothes. Some of my dresses were ready, but I stil had some problems with the yellow one, I had to argue again for the changes to be made my way because it was still in the original shape, the way they said is the best. Thomas’ suits and shirts were quite well tailored, just not yet finished, so we’ve agreed to come back at 7pm for the final visit.

In the meantime we went for a walk to explore the city, we’ve been caught by a short but brisk rain but we managed to hide in one of local shops where we bought and filled in our postcards. When the rain stopped it was still very warm, around 26 degrees, we headed to the river bank and walked along viewing local shops and restaurants. In general the city is very nice and tidy, and I was surprised that there was no rubbish on the streets. I walked in to one of the shops with jewellery, it was looking quite “European”, very nice from the outside with generous display, but the prices were quite high, so I left quickly. Few meters down the road in a gate some lady was selling own handmade jewellery. She had really good choice. I chose 2 sets of earrings and the saleswoman has made pendants for me using another pair of earrings. We were bargaining of course before paying, however even without the negotiations the price was very attractive, ultimately I paid 150 000 VND for all. I still regret I didn’t buy more, I couldn’t find so well made and cheap jewellery anywhere else.

Around 7PM I went to the tailors to see final results of their work, to try and pay if all is fine. When we walked in to the shop, there was some other salesman I didn’t recognize from the previous day, so we sat on the chairs and was waiting for our tailors. While we were waiting we’ve overheard one of client’s argument when he was asked to pay because the price appeared to be higher than quoted initially. The salesman checked something in notebook and after around 5 minutes of exchange of words he paid the agreed price and left. Straight away I sensed that there are going to be some problems, but I was called to try my dresses so forgot about all this. All the dressed were looking perfect on me, apart from the most important one, the yellow one, which was still not finished how I wanted and and there was while material sticking out, apart from that there was a stain, like a dirty finger print, on the front of the dress. And again 15 minutes of arguments that it’s not what I wanted and that the stain myst disappear. In few minutes time someone came on a scooter and said that the dress will be back and ready in 30 minutes.

In the mentime Thomas came back with the rest of money to pay and then it started. Suddenly the tailor said that she is very sorry but she made a mistake in calculations of the total price for the dresses, because she’s missed one and that it will be another $35. I suddenly remembered what I witnessed half an hour ago with the previous client. I have briefly explained to Thomas what has just happened, in polish, so they can’t understand, and then we have started arguing. Thomas said that he won’t pay anything above what was agreed, if not then we want the refund of the initial payment, if not we will go to the police. The girl grabbed the phone and after 5 minutes, the tailor that served us the other day, has arrived. She started the same story that she is very sorry, that she made mistake, shown us her notes showing that she forgot about the dress. When Thomas repeated the same that he won’t pay a penny more, she tried from different angle, shown very sad face, said that she only works here and if we won’t pay she will have to pay for the costs from her own pocket. Ultimately after long discussion we have ended up paying extra $25 because we had enough arguing and listening to this and we didn’t have time to go elsewhere, and I really liked my yellow dress :-).

Once we’ve paid we took all our clothes and came back to the hotel. We made a bit of mistake by not checking the suits, as when we unpacked them we found that they were not very well finished, and also realised that when it comes to the finishing, whatever is “standard” in Europe, it’s a “luxury” in Vietnam and is paid extra. Apart from that the quality of the fabric used for the suits is good and price wasn’t that high, but I don’t agree with all the travel books and internet sites saying about tailor art for little money. But maybe we’ve just been unlucky? I really don’t know. What I have also found is that, it appears that they don’t make the clothes in the shops, they take the measurements and take it somewhere else and after some time they come back with ready item, so it looks like there is a factory/workshop which make things for the shops. I really don’t know, just guessing from my observations.

If it comes to my dresses, I unpacked one, all where packed separately, to wear it for the dinner, I found that the edges were not finished, so we came back to the shop again demanding the finish. And again someone came on scooter, took the dress and came back after 20 minutes, finished this time. Although in summary we were satisfied from thr shopping, all the joy is spoiled by disappointment and let down that it’s neither as cheap as you can read about it, nor the quality is so good. And salesman trying to cheat when it comes to the money.

After exhausting day we went to the same restaurant as the previous night because they had very good food, the owner was very happy seing us again.

Day 3 – Friday 04/04/2014

Morning in Hoi An

At 7:30 in the morning we had a bus reserved to go to Hue, but unfortunately we had to postpone the journey till 13:30. In the middle of the night Tomek woke up suddenly and quickly ran from bed to the toilet and it all started again, but this time it was really bad. He took the diahoerra tablets as well as paracetamol for fever, but the tablets were not helping. In the morning he said that he still feels very bad and can’t get up the bed so I went to the reception for breakfast and asked to cancel the morning trip and changed it to the later one at 13:30 (cost around $10 per person but in better bus). I was prepared to pay for the cancellation, but there was no need. At 12:30 I ordered takeway pizza to the room so we don’t travel with empty stomach. Tomek managed to get up around 12, we packed and left the town at 13:30.

Continue reading about our trip to Vietnam here : Vietnam – Hue

Basic Travel Information and Our Travel Plan you will find here: Vietnam – Basic Travel Information and Our Travel Plan

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