Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Clothes Hanoi, Vietnam, Wednesday, 21 March 2007 8:00pm

Jessica: "Shopping is hard, let's do math!"

A full day in Hanoi, much of it spent shopping. One of my goals for this trip was to get some custom-made suits, and Jessica wanted some interview-wear, so we headed out to find some tailors. I'd done a bunch of research ahead of time, and made a note of particular shops and streets that I wanted to check out. Old Hanoi had other ideas. It turns out that streets here change names about once a block, and that some of the names get used several times. There are also a bunch of streets with really similar names, so when someone on a travel forum says "I think it was on Hang Gaiy", they might really mean "Hàng Gai" or "Hàng Ga" instead.

After a bunch of walking around, we found a cluster of silk shops (on Hàng Bông, which is sometimes Hàng Gai) and a smattering of isolated tailor shops elsewhere. I was looking at two things: the quality of the work on display, and the ease of communication. In general, the tailors had better suits on display and better fabric selections, but the silk stores were more likely to have someone in the shop who could speak English (our phrasebooks are mostly useless for specific tailoring terms).

Some silk robes enticed Jessica down a corridor (alleylet?) between storefronts. It turned out that there was a shop at the end of it with a shop owner who spoke good English (and had visited San Francisco and Las Vegas). Jessica ordered a raw silk robe. The suit jacket they showed me was good, but not great. On the other hand, they had linen, which the more suit-focused shops I visited did not. I think the linen suit will be more forgiving than the pinstripe one, so I ordered it there. If the work looks good at the fitting tomorrow, I may ask them to tell me where the cloth market is, and attempt to find some seersucker for them to make me a second suit.

I ended up going back to the second shop we'd visited for the pinstripe suit. I liked it because the work looked clean and showed attention to detail, and because the tailor was there in the shop, cutting a suit while I looked around. None of the "all of the shops order from the same late night sewing sweatshops" feeling that I got in Hoi An. I'm happy with the dialogue that we had about the suit, despite the fact that we barely had any common words in our vocabularies. We mostly communicated with signs and by pointing to features of various suits. That fabric. Two buttons. Peak lapels. Flat front trousers. No cuffs. At the end, he sketched the suit, and the details were all correct. So I'm guardedly optimistic. The tailor wanted a week to make the suit (which seems more reasonable than the places that promise two-day rush jobs), so my fitting for that won't be until after we get back from Sapa (assuming that the tour provider that we ordered train tickets from actually comes through).

Our hotel has free wireless. Unfortunately, they don't currently have an Internet connection. It went down sometime last night and their provider hasn't fixed it yet. So instead of uploading more pictures, we went to dinner.

We went to Legends, a local microbrewery. Their lager was pretty good, and their dunkel was better. Sadly, they didn't have their weizen. Their food was pretty lackluster, though, apart from their sausages.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a boba tea place. We got drinks flavored with durian and "Love on the rock". The durian mix was pretty true to my recollection of the fruit, though it lacked the aftertaste that lingers for hours. The strong leading flavor of gasoline was there, though. "Love on the rock" seemed to be tropical fruits, rather than some Alcatraz-themed flavor.

Hanoi beer: very light. Not much flavor at all.

Halida beer: about the same.


Gina (Anonymously) Thursday, 22 March 2007 7:08am

Ooh, a dunkel in Viet Nam? Yay! In Thailand, we rarely saw anything except the light lagers unless you were at a foreign-themed restaurant. Even then, I only saw one German dunkel at a German cafe/pub.