Hoi An Central Market is the granddaddy of the town’s markets, in terms of scale and the sheer quantity of local and foreign visitors it receives.
The Hoi An cloth market is not for the faint hearted. I both love and hate it. Here you can get some really good bargains on materials and dress making for a fraction of what you’d pay in the tailor shops. And that’s all good. However, I often wonder if it is worth the assault on your senses that goes hand in hand with venturing inside.
Where and when?
The cloth market in Hoi An is located near the corner of Tran Phu street and Hoang Dieu street. It is opened from 7 am to 6.30 pm. (Ask to check that!)
What to avoid
Be prepared for the moment you walk in. Like carrion, you will be swooped on by hungry, buzzard-eyed market sellers looking for a feed. ‘What do you want? What are you looking for? You! You! What are you looking for? Come inside please. Come with me!’.
Avoid answering something like: ‘Thank you’, ‘I’m not interested’, ‘I’m just looking’. As soon as you engage in any way with the market seller, everything she hears is: ‘Hassle me, follow me, I can be persuaded to pay a very high price. I’m a Westerner with too much money.’
Do not feel pressured
Now off the Richter scale with exhilaration because you spoke to them, someone will bar your way, grab your shirt or manually tackle you into their shop. They will thrust material in your face, scurry up piles of material and bring the top one down simply because you looked at it. Do not feel obliged to buy. Shop sellers are used to people walking away.
Keep a sense of humour
You may find yourself on a drip and a stretcher otherwise – plus, the Vietnamese love a sense of humour.
Be firm but go with the flow
As you are looking through fabric the shop assistant will flank your every move whilst simultaneously thrusting cloth in your face and repeatedly asking what you want. Do not let this phase you. Smile. Block her out and never, ever look at her (unless you are serious about buying). It is all worth it because there is wonderful material of all types and quality in this place and if you keep your wits about you and your eye on the ball you may just come away with some of it.
Barter, it’s a game
Of course the market sellers will try it on, some outrageously. But keep your cool. Bartering is part of Vietnamese culture. Back when I lived in Hue, a Vietnamese friend told me how her mother had been going to the same seller at the local fruit market every day for 20 years. Even though she and the seller were now good friends and knew the price, they would still go through the ritual of bartering.
Don’t ask daft questions
‘Is this material cool’? Seriously? You think the seller’s going to say ‘no’?
Ask for help when you need it
If you simply cannot find what you are looking for, ask for help. The girls at the market will scour every nook and cranny to find what you need and they will always come back with it.
Finally, always remember
Whilst the Vietnamese are business people, most are also incredibly nice human beings who will go out of their way to help you with a kindness that puts our culture to shame.
Little tip: write this Vietnamese phrase down and show it to the market sellers. This should stop them hassling you.
‘Tôi muốn xem một minh’ (doy moo-uhn sem mawt min) = I want to look on my own.
If you are highly strung, a sufferer of road rage, or in a depressed state, you may wish to avoid the Hoi An Cloth Market. If so, there’s a couple of fabric shops in Hung Vuong Street that could be a good alternative. Here you will find a great range of fabrics at far cheaper prices.
Also, you can browse for as long as you like without hassle or interruption because conversely these guys will totally ignore you. Some even look annoyed you have entered the shop. Do not let this deter you.
Kim Thảo , 68 Hung Vuong Street
Kim Thủy , 10 Hung Vuong Street
Minh Khang , 95 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street
Be aware: they do not speak English. This is okay because there’s nothing that a bit of pointing and charades can’t solve. Of course, all this is dependent on whether you can get their attention.
Minh Khang, 95 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (close to the Hung Vung material shops, they have a fabulous range of silk and are open from 8am – 7pm, 7 days per week)
Price : 100,000 – 350,000 vnd / per 1 meter
Write this down and show it to them: ‘Một mét, bao nhiêu tiền?’ (Mawt met bow new tien) = one metre (of fabric) how much?
Price guide in Vietnamese dong for 1 meter (depending on the quality) of the following fabrics |
Cotton: 120,000 – 150,000vnd
Linen: 100,000 – 300,000vnd
Silk: 150,000 – 300,000vnd
Hours | Mon- Sun: 8.30am – 6pm
Address | Cnrs Hoang Dieu & Nguyen Duy Hieu