My first impression of this town was cheesy. In one direction were tourists, in the other were the hawkers selling trinkets or sugary donuts. I heard the gentle, instrumental muzak version of “My Way” playing. Strangely, I kept hearing it as I continued walking. There are actually posted loudspeakers dedicated to playing contemporary easy listening hits as if to encourage the mall atmosphere this town as acquired. It’s not wholly without charm. There are fascinating old houses, a lovely Japanese bridge, swinging, glowing lanterns across the street and a friendly, but completely commercial vibe. There are 400 custom tailor shops and perhaps just as many restaurants. With so many tourists, that much competition is possible. But, it is totally overwhelming. There are signs posted outside many stores and restaurants proclaiming wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor. And they are probably all correct. The tailors are probably all talented, and the restaurants are probably all tasty; but how do you choose?
I went to BeBe tailors (11 Hoang Dieu) because they had lots of great reviews and I liked their storefront. After lots of cajoling by my helper, Hoa, I chose a 3 pc. suit, 6 shirts, tie, 2 jeans and a pair of trousers. It was all fully measured to fit and cost 690$. After shipping airmail and CC surcharge it came to a total of 823$. I checked Banana Republic and you can get a suit and only 5 shirts for the same price (but not tailored) so I felt it was a good deal. There were many fittings and re-fittings, so make sure you have at least three days in Hoi An to get exactly what you want. I was too concentrated on seams and crotch length to remember to take a picture, but I felt satisfied with the results.
I learned quickly that all the restaurants serve the same three special dishes as well as others offerings. But, they are:
1) Banh Bao (white roses) A delicate little dish of prawns wrapped in boiled rice flour. It’s a nice, simple appetizer.
2) Hoanh Thanh Chien (fried wontons) They are fried flat with a smidgen of meat inside, topped with shrimp, crab, and salsa.
3) Cao Lau (noodle with pork) This is a fragrant, delicious dish. Wide, slightly hard noodles are mixed with pork, croutons, fresh herbs and some salad. I ate this dish at several different establishments, and they were all similar and flavorful.
I stayed at the Sunflower Hotel (276 Cua Dai) which is a converted hotel into hostel. They have a pool with good sundeck, free billiard table, free water, free breakfast and clean facilities. It’s a bit of a walk from the hostel into the town, but you’re also closer to the beach here.