After one week back in the city we wanted (needed!) some beach time. This coincided with our friend’s existing plan to visit An Bang Beach and Hoi An. Off we went together. An hour-long flight got us from Hanoi to Da Nang City. This sprawling city, 3rd largest in Vietnam, is situated on an expansive beach. This is looking north. See Lady Buddha in the distance? At 220 feet tall, she’s the tallest buddha statue in Vietnam.
Flying in to Da Nang was emotional. I couldn’t NOT think about the American War (called the Vietnam War by the US). This was the major air base for the US and the South Vietnamese air forces. On average, there were more than 2500 air traffic operations every day during that war. That’s something every 3 seconds. This area (called China Beach, but only by the US) is where US troops were sent to relax.
Looking south. Our destination, is 15 miles down the coast. And yes, all that water is warm and swimmable.
Before leaving Da Nang we met up with a friend at a fancy bar on top of a fancy hotel with a fancy infinity pool.
An Bang beach is a traditional fishing village that is on the brink of change. Guest house and restaurant/cafe construction is booming as tourists (from inside and outside Vietnam) opt for beach vacations. We stayed at a friend’s 4-room inn. Quiet, close to the beach, and relaxing.
First, Doug needed something to swim in.
The beach 2 blocks from our inn. Yes, the water was heavenly. Yes, that’s us out there . And a local fishing boat.
An Bang beach is 5 minutes away from a UNESCO world heritage site called Hoi An. This beautiful port city is loaded with old buildings, canals, temples, and has become known for paper lanterns that light the walkways at night. Tourists visit Hoi An in droves. And then they shop. 10 years ago, there were 20 tailors in town who could make you anything. Today, there are over 650. It’s hard to keep track, because as soon as someone gets reviewed on Trip Advisor, another new business opens up next door using the same name. Anyone who speaks a little English can open up a tailor front, so things change fast. Did we know this before we went there? No. But that’s ok. We gave ourselves a day of shopping and just dove in.
This is a typical tailor’s shop. They will copy any clothing item you want, or create for you whatever you desire.
She took all the measurements, then he created 2 pairs of linen pants, using my favorite pants as a pattern. $20 each.
That was fun. We sat down on a stair step to rest and observe things, like baby seats on motorbikes like this one.
Then, before we knew it, we were in the “tailor hustle”. A friendly young woman struck up a conversation. Soon, she locked arms with us, friendly chatter turned into telling us about her sister’s shop, then she was dragging us to “just look”. Sure, why not. After getting tugged through a maze of shops in a cavernous marketplace, we arrive at number 46. The iPads come out, latest fashions were flipped through, measuring tapes waiting, with fabrics stacked all around. You need? Come on! A new shirt? Pants? Dress? My eyes lingered on some photos of linen tops and boom, I was hooked and the 4 personable women standing around us knew it. Sure, why not. While I was being bombarded, Doug was, too. Of course he needs a new shirt and how about some shorts, too? We stopped for a moment to breath and talk about what was happening (we truly could just say thanks and leave) but we thought, why not? It’s their livelihood and we really did need some clothes.
We made our choices, and picked the fabrics (linen!). One person quickly drew the designs in a notebook while 2 others measured us and chanted out the numbers. We were told to come back in 5 hours for a fitting. Here’s my one (blurry) photo of the indoor tailor shops.
We returned, tried on the clothes, adjustments were made for fit, and we were sent away for a few more hours and the clothes were motorbiked back to the sewing center outside town. At the end of the day, we had new shirts, shorts and a simple dress. And an understanding that if we really want perfectly fitting clothes, we should spend a lot of time (3 fittings instead of 1), find someone of our own choosing, and avoid the “touts” and commission buying that we were tugged in to. All in all, it was a good day, we practiced our Vietnamese and we helped the economy in Hoi An just a little. And one of the shirts is my new favorite.
Hoi An is both peaceful and bustling. Authentic wooden architecture from the 15th century, a structural and cultural mashup with Chinese, Japanese, French and Vietnamese influences. Temples, pagodas, humble inns and now large, modern hotels are there, too. A little bit of everything.
Baskets of pasta drying in the afternoon sun.
Fishing boats line the canal.
Incense and alters are everywhere.
Doug and Douglas along the canal. Probably discussing politics.
Temple courtyard looking out at the street and the wires, which we don’t even notice anymore.
Back to An Bang Garden Inn, the hammock, fruit for breakfast, and best of all, wave-diving at the beach.
Hoi An Tailoring insight