If you are one to keep mementos to remind you of the places you’ve visited, you’re in for a treat in Vietnam! From ancient handicrafts to modern lacquerwares, Vietnam does not disappoint. Hanoi, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh, and Hue are some of the best places for your shopping therapy. Below are some popular items to buy from Vietnam.
Vietnam is one of the largest producers of pottery and ceramics consumer goods in the world. Vietnamese pottery has a long and profound history. Pottery began in Vietnam approximately 6000 to 7000 years ago. There are many traditional pottery villages that still exist across the country today. Bat Trang village is one of the most well-known and well-preserved ceramics centers in Vietnam. Only 16 km from central Hanoi, the village is a nice stop for both sightseeing and ceramics product shopping.
Lacquerware are items coated with lacquer, a resin that traditionally comes from the lacquer tree (the cây sơn variant in Vietnam). Upon hardening, the lacquer forms a smooth layer over the underlying base material, protecting it from degradation while maintaining its colours and beauty. Authentic Vietnamese lacquerware will be made from repeated layers of lacquer and will withhold its original quality, depth of colour and robustness, whereas synthetic lacquerware will eventually fade over time but will be easier to maintain
Coconut candy (Kẹo dừa) is popularly produced in Bến Tre province, Vietnam. The Ben Tre Province is nicknamed by the Vietnamese as the "Land of Coconut" (Xu Dua). A typical Vietnam coconut candy often has a cube shape, slightly flattened, colored brown or white-green depending on the ingredients. The candy is wrapped around with a layer of edible rice paper, making it less sweet. Coconut candy is a sweet souvenir to take home from your holiday to Vietnam, and there are many stores selling this sweet across the country.
When you’re strolling through the streets of Vietnam, you’ll come across locals wearing a conical leaf hat, known as Non La. Women don a broad-rimmed version while the men’s cone is usually higher with a smaller rim. Non La is made of easily-available materials such as palm leaves, back of Moc tree and bamboo. You can buy those charming conical hats from many of the traditional villages. Chuong Village, 30km southwest of Hanoi is best-known for its handmade palm leaf conical hats for centuries.
It’s best to do lantern shopping at night when you can see them in all their glory. Hoi An is the best place for lantern shopping as you’ll be spoilt for choice. Usually made of bamboo frame and Vietnamese silk, the lanterns come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Most importantly, the lanterns are easily collapsible, so you do not need to worry about not having enough space in your luggage. Each colour has its own traditional Vietnamese meaning: Yellow – prosperity, wealth, happiness, change, royalty. Red – luck, happiness, celebration, love. Purple – tenderness, nostalgia, fragility, sadness. Blue – hope, calmness, growth. Green – lust, jealousy. Black – evil. White – purity, the end, death.
The central region of Vietnam – Old Town of Hoi An and Da Nang – is well known for its textiles and crafts. There are almost 500 different tailor shops all over the ancient town that can make different clothing styles. Tailor-made clothes in Vietnam are popular due to their cheap pricing and the products are of good quality. There is a wide range of affordable tailor shops to high-end tailor shops. The tailoring time depends on the complexity of the clothing. A simple tailoring can be finished within a few hours, whereas a suit or evening dress can take up to four or five days.
Vietnam has a vibrant art scene. Paintings by Vietnamese artists would undeniably
rouse the interest of art lovers! One of the most popular forms of art, the Vietnamese silk painting typically depicted the countryside, pagodas, landscapes, scenes of everyday life and historical events. Different from those seen in Chinese, Japanese or Korean culture, these artworks were transformed under the French influence and were more liberal and modern, especially in the aspect of colour. There are plenty of art galleries in Hoi An for art lovers to explore. If you’re looking at buying works of some of Vietnam’s most established and renowned artists, head to one of the upscale galleries lining the streets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi.
Traditional products made from natural materials like bamboo, rattan and straw have become bestsellers in Ho Chi Minh City, replacing items made with plastic or metal. Vietnam straw bags are made of 100% natural palm leaf, seagrass, and straw materials. A modern touch added to traditional designs on fashion items like bags is increasingly popular among young adults. Straw bags are practical and beautiful accessories to remind you of your wonderful trip in Vietnam.
Vietnam is famous for its handmade pop-up greeting cards, with a long history dating back to Japan. Originating from the word “kirigami”, which means Paper and Cutting, pop up cards can transform a real life object into a piece of paper. You’re bound to find some unique pop-up cards for any occasion. The pop up cards are fun and memorable, as messages and visuals spring to life with every opening. Don’t forget to grab a few of the masterpieces when you see them. Some shops also allow you to customise your own pop up card and can be collected within 24 hours.
Vietnam is a paradise of tropical fruit. Drying is one of the oldest methods of food preservation to preserve the taste and flavours of the delicious fruits. It is still used widely to preserve foods for home consumption and for sale. Dried fruits are one of the most popular products in Vietnam, loved by both locals and tourists alike. A speciality of the capital Hanoi, ô mai is made by mixing dried fruits such as plums, apricots, and peaches with sugar, salt, lime, chili, or ginger. The dried fruits can be sweet or savoury, and deliver many health benefits. Ô mai used to be a rich man's snack in Vietnam hundreds of years ago, but it can now be found in every Hanoian home, especially during Lunar New Year.
The flattering ao dai (pronounced ‘ow yai’) of Vietnam is one of the most beautiful national costumes in the world. There isn’t a better souvenir to take home than a well-tailored ao dai to impress your friends and family. It is a long-sleeved, body-hugging tunic with ankle-length panels at the front and back, worn over trousers. Most of the ao dai are tailor-made to suit your body. Simply head to the markets or stores to pick your favourite fabric for tailoring.