Shopping in Vietnam
Vietnam has some fantastic shopping opportunities, so it’s well worth setting aside half a day or so to properly peruse. Hotspots include Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City, each of which has a temping selection of everything from avant-garde art to sumptuous silk suits.
Some of the best buys are as following:
Vietnamese Art & Antiques
There are several shops to hunt for art and antiques. Both traditional and modern paintings are a popular item. More sophisticated works are displayed in art galleries, while cheaper mass-produced stuff is touted in souvenir shops and by street vendors. A Vietnamese speciality is the “instant antique”, such as a teapot or ceramic dinner plate, with a price tag of around US$2.
As Vietnam has strict regulations on the export of real antiques, be sure the items are allowed out of the country. Most reputable shops can provide the necessary paperwork.
Vietnam is emerging as a regional design center and there are some extravagant creations in the boutiques of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Ao dai, the national dress for Vietnamese women, is a popular item to take home. Ready-made ao dai costs from US$ 10 to US$20, but custom numbers can cost a lot more. There are ao dai tailors nationwide, but those in the tourists centers are more familiar with foreigners.
Hill-tribe gear is winding its way to shops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It’s brightly patterned stuff, but you may need to set the dyes yourself so those colours don’t bleed all over the rest of your clothes.
T-shirts are ever popular items with travellers, cost from US$1 to US$4.
Non (conical hats) are favorite items for women in both rainy and sunny times. The best quality ones can be found in the Hue’s area.
Hot items on the tourist market include lacquerware, boxes and wooden screens with mother-of-pearl inlay, ceramics, colourful embroidery, silk greeting cards, wood-block prints, oil paintings, watercolours, blinds made of hanging bamboo beads, reed mats, carpets, jewellery and leatherwork.
It’s easy to by what looks like equipment left over from the American War, but almost all of these items are reproductions and your chances of finding anything original are slim. The fake Zippo lighters engraved with platoon philosophy are still one of the hottest-selling items.
Bargaining should be good-natured, smile and don’t get angry or argue. Once the money is accepted, the deal is done. Remember that in Asia, “saving face” is very important. In some cases you will be able to get a 50% discount or more, at other times this may only be 10%.