Pretty Things

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Hello again from Vietnam! My last post left off with us being sore, filthy and thoroughly satisfied, cave-wise. After some rest, heavy doses of antibiotics on my part and patience on Curtis’ part, we re-emerged into the chaos of Vietnam and took the bus to Hoi An. Hoi An has a history of tailoring clothes, and as more tourists arrive, this history is ongoing. In fact I’ve heard that for every other type of shop, there are at least two tailors. As an observation I would also say that for every Vietnamese person here, there are at least two foreigners. As such, this quaint little city is very “white person” friendly. Small streets lined with lanterns that are lit up every night, delicious regional food that is served fresh at one of the million food stalls, shops, markets, easy biking (without fear of death but motorcycles), beautiful UNESCO sites that fill much of the Ancient Town, it’s a real holiday type place. We met some very nice older travelers that come here once a year to get garments made and enjoy the surroundings. On the flip side though, more foreigners means more locals trying to make a living off tourism and tailoring, which means that competition is stiff and the locals can be quite relentless. This can make for an overwhelming, but mostly fun experience! Every guest house or hotel has a tailor recommendation to offer you, which is probably their sister’s or brother’s place. Every tailor tries to find out where you are staying and offers you a price accordingly as there are probably kick-backs going around. Everyone is in on it basically, not that I blame them really. We’re choosing to come and take part, they’re just trying to make a living.

Thus we did research quite a bit to try and find places that a) were hopefully not outsourcing to sweat shops, as the turn-around is so fast there is no way the tailors in the shops could do it all themselves and b) were hopefully not part of any quasi price scamming (again not that I blame them, I just don’t want to take part). I say “hopefully” in all earnestness as I don’t think you can ever really be sure. However, we did find a place we were super happy with and had a really great time! Kimmy Tailor is a venture that is half owned by Canadians and while they do have a factory where they send the garments, at least everyone is employed by the company and gets reasonable working conditions (I hope). Kimmy was also outside the main fabric market, which was fun to walk through but pretty congested with people yelling at you, following you around, and thrusting fabric into your hands. I know a few people who got stuff made here, and were happy enough, but it was just too much stimulus for me! I really enjoyed being about to sit with my water and laptop they provided and sift through all the styles and types of clothing they could make. Curtis had no need for computers mind you. He knew exactly what kinds of suits he wanted and was gleeful as can be as he drew out his designs. The tailors were very patient with both of us and offered really helpful suggestions (That cut is no good, you’ll be needing this type of waist-line to hide your cookie belly etc.). So obviously we blew our budget here, but it was so worth it. In the end I got a few dresses, blouses, a “winter” wool jacket and cigarette high-waisted pants a la Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Curtis got two suits, a smattering of work shirts and a really handsome wool trench coat. Like I said, budget completely blown. Getting fitted for clothes is seriously addictive stuff! And to make matters worse/more awesome, they keep your measurements on file so you can order more items as you like. We’re going to have to stay the same size forever now, it will be a good lifestyle motivation. We got some shoes made as well, by the nicest woman around. She worked in the shoe market, which was just as aggressive as the fabric market, but we went in with a recommendation which was very helpful. “We’re here to find stall no. 241, sorry!” I’m really glad we went with her, though we should have bargained more. We let it get personal! But oh well, she was really skilled and professional and the billion photos of her daughter I looked at were adorable. Which is she of course knows. Don’t be cynical Heather, it ruins the fun!

Yes Hoi An was enjoyable to navigate and I’m crossing my fingers that the shipment we sent home by freight arrives in Calgary roughly around the same time that we do. I’m looking forward to wearing clothes that aren’t stained and torn!

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