♫ January 17th, 2013 3:18 am
When traveling in Vietnam, it’s good to have an idea of what you can eat and buy as you go from town to town. Vietnamese cuisine is extremely well-known, so ask your guide to introduce some popular dishes. In terms of souvenirs, you could purchase many inexpensive traditional wares and toys.
Vietnamese food is mostly based on rice and noodles, like most other Asian countries, but the flavors here come from herbs and spices such as lemongrass, mint and even curry powder. The most popular and famous of Vietnamese dishes is Pho, a hot rice noodle soup made with a beef broth boiled from large bones. It is served with slices of filet mignon together with ginger, although you can also order your pho with chicken or vegetables. Cha Ca is another classic Vietnamese street food, made by mixing minced fish with spices like coriander and dill.
Since being introduced by the French, coffee has become an essential part of Vietnamese culture, and Vietnamese iced coffee is particularly unique for its brewing style and taste. It is brewed using fresh Vietnamese roast coffee and a French drip filter, then sweetened with canned condensed milk and poured over ice.
Forget about fast, throwaway fashion, because it’s custom-made tailoring you want to get in Vietnam. Vietnam is well known for its superb bespoke tailoring of suits and dresses, and the best part is that you can get complete outfits for a fraction of the price anywhere else, even in Asia. If you work in business, you can get all your suits made here to last you a lifetime, and if you are a lady, you can make yourself a beautiful ‘ao dai’ or a western-style dress.
♫ August 1st, 2012 3:21 am
Hoi An is a silk mecca. The quality and selection are the best in the country, and you’ll have more peace and quiet while fitting than in Hanoi. Silk suits are made to order within 24 hours for about $35; cashmere wool is $45. There are countless shops, and the tailoring is all about the same quality and fast. A good way to choose a shop is by what you see out front — if you see a style you like, it’ll help with ordering. Make sure you take the time to specify your style, down to the stitch (it can come back looking pretty cheap without specifics). Try any of the shops along Le Loi; to recommend one in particular would be like recommending one snowflake over another. The tailoring is very fast, but not always great, so plan to have two or three fittings. Be choosy about your cloth, or go to the market and buy it yourself (Hoi An Cloth Market is at 01 Tran Phu St.), and haggle. It’s not a bad idea to bring an actual suit or piece of clothing that you’d like a copy of. Get measurements from friends and relatives for good gifts.
Yaly Couture at 47 Nguyen Thai Hoc St. (tel. 0510/910-474) is a good answer to selecting your own tailor from the many budget places. Yes, the prices are higher, but quality comes with more of a guarantee and similar efficient service.
There are also skilled cobblers who make custom shoes at affordable rates. Find them near the market on Tran Phu Street.
Tran Phu Street is lined with art galleries and the good pottery and carved-wood vendors. Along the river, lots of places sell blue and white ceramics. However cumbersome your finds are, like those lovely Chinese lanterns, shopkeepers are masters at packing for travel and to fit in your luggage, and will do so before you’ve even agreed on a price or decided to buy. Haggle hard.