I was really excited to arrive in Hoi An - all through Thailand and Laos I kept meeting people who had loved it there, who raved about the food, the shopping and were often wearing fabulous clothes they had made there. I was looking forward to exploring the history of the city and to having that perfect combination of historical city, pretty riverside, lively markets and having the beach just a few kilometres down the road. It seemed like Hoi An would offer everything I wanted in one place - what more could a girl want? My friend Matthieu and I arrived after a long bus ride from Hue and set about finding somewhere to stay - we ended up at the Hoi Binh Hotel which charged hostel prices and was very good value considering it had a swimming pool and breakfast included. Plus it was right in the centre of everything which really helped when exploring and walking around the city. I spent the first afternoon exploring and eating some of the fantastic local delicacies including the White Rose wontons, spring rolls and other delicious snacks. Hoi An is well known for having fantastic food and I know a lot of people who did food tours there which they said were amazing but sadly I didn't have time - I just made sure to eat as much and as often as possible while I had the chance.Knowing I was there for just a few days and on a tight schedule - one of my priorities was getting some clothes designed and made for me. Now while many were getting outfits or suits made for work - I was lucky knowing I won't be back in a desk job anytime soon so I used my money to buy cute outfits I knew I could wear on a daily basis out here in Asia and Australia. I went to see a tailor who comes very highly recommended on Tripadvisor and through other blogs I follow - Miss Forget Me Not - hoping her work would love up to the hype. I was convinced straight away after seeing how busy she was - her and her workers invited me in to look at designs and materials. I explained what I was after and showed pictures I had previously found online of designs I loved - two playsuits and a top - then chose out some lightweight, floaty, summery materials. It took ages to choose - so don't go there on a tight schedule because it's a bloody hard decision!Finally we worked out the details and designs to suit my body shape and I was measured up for each, it definitely helped that I had taken my own designs but they do also have a collection of their own you can use depending on what you are after. There is also an option for you to provide a material you like if you don't want one of theirs which definitely helped a few people who were struggling to match a material with their chosen design. My clothes took one full day to make and I was due to return for a fitting the following night and to pick them up the following day - talk about impressive! Everything fit like a glove and only one seam needed altering slightly - they were all so professional and such lovely women. My clothes cost around the equivalent of £40 for two playsuits and a top, all custom-mad to my design and choice of material in less than 48 hours. Pretty bloody amazing if you ask me, especially considering I could, have paid up to £50 for one of these playsuits in the UK. I wish I had more space in my bag to get more made and am already looking forward to returning to Vietnam with more designs!The rest of my time in Hoi An was spent walking the streets, exploring historic houses and markets, talking to locals by the riverside and playing dominoes with them. One highlight was visiting the Tran Duong family home - nestled down one of the quaintest and most beautiful little streets I have ever seen - it has seen four generations of the family and holds a wealth of history about the city. Mr Duong was more than happy to welcome us in and spoke perfect English to tell us all about his family, the history of the house and the wider history of both the city and Vietnam as a whole - it was so interesting to hear about it from someone who was educated enough to speak impartially about the political history of the country. I learned more in an hour and a half spent at the house than I did from any guidebook or website, so I highly recommend you visit as well. Elsewhere you have to pay for a ticket to visit a number of historical sites around the city although many of them you can see without actually entering the sites. I personally preferred to walk around the streets and to see the locals living their day-to-day lives, chatting to them down by the river was lovely. One of my favourite things to do was to spend a few hours catching up on blogging by the river over a delicious Vietnamese ice coffee - heaven!And I mustn't forget the beach! Hoi An has a gorgeous beach just three kilometres down the road - a perfect distance for a nice cycle ride with friends, especially when it's so cheap and easy to hire bikes everywhere. Me and two friends cycled there for a few hours on our last day - one the guys went swimming while me and Paul decided to be completely insane and do a workout on the beach. It was hilarious and really fun - plus it was such a beautiful and empty beach. I really wished I had time to visit the beach again for a day of sunbathing, but sadly not on this trip as there was just so little time and so much to see and do. I would really recommend - if you have enough time on your trip - spending up to a week in the city, perhaps with a few days staying down at the beach and a few within the city to get the history side. When you arrive, make it a priority to get your clothes order in so you can ensure they will be ready in time and the relax, enjoy and explore the city at your own pace. There are lots of walking tours, cycle tours and food tours available, or you can do it all by yourself and have fun getting lost and discovering many of the hidden treasures the city has to offer. One for me was finding a selection of restaurants around that work for the community with all money raised supporting orphanages or helping to educate children or get the, away fro domestic violence or drugs. I love that by doing something as simple as eating out I could be supporting the community and giving something back - plus when the food is that good why not?!
Have you been to Hoi An - what did you think? Any advice you can offer for the historical tours, or for having clothes made? What was your favourite part of Vietnam?