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Set near the coast in central Vietnam, Hoi An draws visitors with its ancient architecture, nearby beach and sun-kissed charm. But it’s the shopping, reports Hazel Gray, that really measures up.

“I got a whole new wardrobe for about US$100,” enthuses Christina, a Canadian doctor who visited Hoi An some four years ago. “They fit perfectly on the first try. It was amazing.”

Today, Christina would find even more selection, as the number of tailor shops in Hoi An continues to grow. “Six years ago there were about 10 shops,” says Thong Phi, the owner of a tailor shop on Le Loi Street, “Now there are 152 tailors.”

This word-of mouth advertising is perhaps the most amazing aspect of Hoi An’s newfound fame. Stroll down Kho Sahn Road, the main drag for backpackers in Bangkok, and you’ll see countless young people wearing garments made of Vietnamese silk – all obtained in Hoi An. Some visitors, in fact, come expressly to buy new clothes. It was worth the plane ticket,” says Ingrid, a Danish student trying on a new winter coat in a shop on Tran Phu street. “My friends won’t believe it,” she says, then proceeds to try on a pair of silk pajamas, a satin kimono, two pairs of trousers, three skirts, three shirts, and a brocade cheongsam dress

After dark, the streets of Hoi An’s Old Quarter are at their most charming. Down Tran Phu street, silk lanterns cast warm puddles of colored light. A few tourists emerge from an old Chinese shop-house, their silk shirts ironed and pants freshly creased. All is quiet, but for the faint clackery-clack of dozens of sewing machines.
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