Travellers to exotic countries inevitably bring back great memories, an album of photographs and usually some local craft souvenirs/ If you take a Laos travel package, you will come across many things that you can imagine in your home; it will be a matter of how much space you have in your luggage. While you can shop in modern shops there are far more exciting places to buy. The silks produced by some of the hill tribes are stunning and have the added advantage of weighing very little. Textiles in general are good and amongst the most popular purchases for tourists enjoying a Laos holiday.
The Laos economy is not strong though the increasing tourist numbers are certainly helping. If you buy local crafts you are certainly lending your support to fairly poor regions, especially in the mountainous north. While you may not have room for some of the elaborate carvings that are available there is little excuse not to consider textiles very seriously.
Where and when you shop may depend on your Laos travel itinerary, perhaps shopping towards the end of your holiday rather than the beginning so that you are not carrying extra baggage for too long?
The local phaa sin is a wrap-around skirt that Lao women wear and it is worn with a silver belt; simple yet different from western fashion. There will be a huge choice in local markets whether in the capital, Vientiane or in smaller places. There will be shawls as well and accessories such as bags and jewellery all of which make great souvenirs or gifts.
Talat Sao is the morning market in Vientiane has a huge number of vendors selling handmade silk, wall hangings and scarves with prices depending on the intricacy involved. There are 5,000 shops over a couple of floors and it is certainly a place to be to avoid the heat of the day. It will be crowded of course but no matter.
There are cheap ‘’Chinese’’ imports, usually synthetic but your travel guide will advise you where you are in doubt. Likewise beware claims of silk being ‘’antique.’’ This is now fairly rare and you should be very careful.
Weaving has been a local skill for centuries, as early as the 14th, and many of the skills displayed by Laos weavers have found their way to a wider audience across the world. If you take a Laos tour package you are likely to be able to watch weavers at work. Within Vientiane the district of Ban Nong Bouathong in the north east is the best area for weaving. It is worth noting that dyes will run if items are machine washed so ‘’handle with care.’’
Luang Prabang is the other large city with plenty of shopping options. Regular shopping hours are 0800 to 1700 closed on Sundays but smaller shops and local markets will open longer with some on Sundays. While many things are fixed price there are some opportunities to bargain in some places.