Our hotel was right at the end of Phan Boi Chau Street and the road was full of shops with a few restaurants interspersed. As we walked slowly towards town I stopped to look at a shop selling a variety of clothes and was greeted by the broad smile of what we presumed was the proprietor. If she wasn’t the owner she spoke as if she was, so I’ll refer to her as such for the rest of this review.
Unlike other places she was accepting that we were just looking and we chatted about her products and exchanged names before we headed off to the market. We’d got the price she was charging for t-shirts and she was clear that she gave a good price and didn’t, therefore, negotiate. Mindful of that I checked out other stalls and it seemed that her prices would stand up well against the market traders.
When we returned, after running the gauntlet of the market stalls and a few "serious negotiations" she waved to us and asked if we would visit her shop another day. We signalled that we would and the next morning, as walked close to the shop we heard "hello Michael". I responded with a smile and, as we intended went to examine her wares more closely.
I wanted to buy some Polo shirts and my wife was interested in a table runner. We looked and I tried on a shirt and then another and then another. The sizing must be wrong over here, I thought to myself, as I tried on a shirt that should have been huge on me. It was just right and the proprietor, Sung, grinned broadly at me. Now I just needed to choose colour and design.
That done we turned our attention to the table runners and very quickly my wife had found exactly what she was looking for. Another broad smile and the item was placed with my shirts. "I don’t suppose that you have table cloths?" I asked tentatively. "Of course" came back the reply. We explained the size we needed and she said that she would need to collect it from another shop and would have it for us "at noon". The price was agreed based on what we’d seen and we left the shop with a cheery "bye" from Sung.
When we returned I got chatting to an Australian guide who told me that she always visits "Ty Bo" when she’s in Hoi An and that her holiday makers are always happy with their purchases. It seems that the shops being trading for many years and Sung has 7 family members who are trained tailors. You can get clothes made to measure her and, as we’d found, also buy them off the peg.
Just as we were going to check out the table cloth my wife spotted a pashmina that she liked so, price agreed, it was added to the pile. We liked the table cloth and in total bought 6 items from Sung at less than £5 an item. We were happy and so it seemed was she.
We liked our shopping experience at "Ty Bo" because there was no hassle. Sung seemed to understand the way us "Brits" like to view before we commit to shop. She clearly wanted the sale but we didn’t feel any pressure to buy until we were ready.
Now that’s a unique experience in Vietnam.