Feb 06 2013
UPDATE, July 2013: Hoi An cloth market has moved to the main market building further along Bach Dang Street towards Hoang Dieu for several months while the old cloth market building is renovated. The traders expect the renovation to be complete in three months, which translates to a year in Hoi An, so we’ll update you when they move back.
The temporary market location is far better, with higher ceilings and more space. The cloth market is on the ground floor, skirted by the hardware section which is handy for torches, padlocks, suitcase wheels… Upstairs they sell Vietnamese clothes, towels and jewellery — have a look around as you can pick up the occasional bargain.
Tucked away at the far end of Hoi An’s riverside Bach Dang Street is a labyrinthine network of small alleys that take you into the ‘real’ markets, with only a sprinkling of ye olde tourist tat. This is where serious local customers come to buy everything from a screwdriver to a manicure; it’s a slice of Hoi An that most tourists bypass but most certainly worthy of checking out. In among all this chaos sits the cloth market, a vast lock-up packed to the rafters with bolts of fabric and the most hardcore tailors in town. Walking through here you will have to grit your teeth and smile a sweet no thanks repetitively if you want to have a good look around. You can do it!
If you are in town to buy fabric this is certainly your best bet for the most choice under one roof. Most fabrics are available for $3 a metre but you’ll have to haggle hard to get a fair price. A good guide is to get them to start the ball rolling, and then offer them a third. If you want to get something made here, the tailors all work to the same tune, with each working with the same seamstresses, but quality can be a bit hit and miss. With incredibly low overheads in comparison to shops in town, prices should be the cheapest around, but you will be hard pushed to find one that reflects this. The one exception I have found is a quietly spoken woman on stall number 17 who charges honest prices and doesn’t push hard for your custom.
As a general rule you will get a bargain here if you look hard enough. Results can be occasionally disappointing and quite often delivered late, so hang on to your cash and agree to a small deposit — enough to cover the fabric but not so much as to feel hard done by should the results not be quite what you expected. You are more likely to get good service if there is a large percentage of the whole cost relying on the outcome.
The main attraction of the cloth market is it gives you a glimpse into how most tailors started; rows of machinists, cutters and saleswomen all start up from the shop floor. It’s a bit raw and a bit dirty, but it’s real. Most of all though it will help you appreciate what a tough industry tailoring is and why the shops fight so hard for your business.
And once your business there is done, you are only a two-minute walk from another brilliant local market experience, the Central Food Hall, where you can reward yourself with trays of Hoi An specialities and a bia Larue.
Hoi An Cloth Market
1 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.