Hoi An has a history of flogging goods to international visitors, and today’s residents haven’t lost their commercial edge.
Clothes & Accessories
Clothes are the biggest shopping lure. Hoi An has long been known for fabric production, and tourist demand has swiftly shoehorned many tailor shops into the tiny Old Town. Shoes, also copied from Western designs, and supposed 'leather' goods are also popular but quality is variable.
Art & Craft
Hoi An has over a dozen art galleries; check out the streets near the Japanese Covered Bridge, along Ð Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. Woodcarvings are a local speciality: Cam Nam village and Cam Kim Island are the places to head for.
Ð Phan Boi Chau east of Ð Hoang Dieu is developing as an arts precinct with galleries and a crafts museum. Look for the free map reinforcing the street as a 'Rue des Arts' and showcasing the neighbourhood's French colonial heritage.
Getting Clothes that Measure Up
Let’s face it: the tailor scene in Hoi An is out of control. The estimated number of tailors working here ranges anywhere from 300 to 500. Hotels and tour guides all have their preferred partners – ‘We give you good price’, they promise before shuttling you off to their aunt/cousin/in-law/neighbour (from whom they’ll earn a nice commission).
The first rule of thumb is that while you should always bargain and be comfortable with the price, you also get what you pay for. A tailor who quotes a price much lower than a competitor’s is probably cutting corners. Better tailors and better fabrics cost more, as do tighter deadlines.
Hoi An’s tailors are master copiers – show them a picture from a magazine, and they’ll whip up a near-identical outfit. The shop assistants also have catalogues of many styles.
It helps to know your fabrics and preferences, right down to details such as thread colour, linings and buttons. When buying silk, make sure it's the real thing. The only real test is with a cigarette or match (synthetic fibres melt, silk burns). Similarly, don’t accept on face value that a fabric is 100% cotton or wool without giving it a good feel for the quality. Prices currently hover around US$25 for a man’s shirt, or US$50 for a cotton dress. If a suit costs around US$100, make sure the fabric and handiwork is up to scratch.
Although many travellers try to squeeze in a clothing order within a 48-hour sojourn, that doesn’t leave much time for fittings and alterations. Remember to check the seams of the finished garment; well-tailored garments have a second set of stitches that binds the edge, oversewing the fabric so fraying is impossible.
Shops can pack and ship orders to your home country. Although there are occasional reports of packages going astray or the wrong order arriving, the local post office’s service is good.
A few of Hoi An's tailors have now also diversified into making shoes and bags. See the Friendly Shop for good work that is guaranteed.