Sprawling traditional markets, sidewalk hawkers, and even the odd shopping mall in vietnam offer a wide range of attractive and unique items. almost any thing wearable is usually a good bargain, be it clothing, foot wear, or jewelry, while handi crafts such as ceramics, basketry, lacquer ware, and even paintings by local artists make splendid souvenirs. the most distinctive items on sale are the exqui site hand- embroi dered goods and silver jewelry of the hill peoples. In direct contrast, but just as tempting, are the surfeit of counterfeit products found just about everywhere.
Clothes, Shoes, and Accessories
The traditional ao dai is surely the best pick for women. The two-piece is available in cotton, silk, and synthetics in a variety of colors. Viet nam also offers affordable clothing ranging from cotton T-shirts to silk dresses and designer wear – often good value com pared to the West. Vietnamese-style silk shirts and trousers are also tailored cheaply and quickly. Stoles and scarves embroidered or woven by hill peoples are well worth every dong.
The Viets learned to harvest lacquer from sumac trees about 2,000 years ago, and even today, the country offers the most beauti ful lacquer souvenirs. Even the simp lest boxes, vases, and jewelry are trans formed into exquisite objets d’art once they have been covered in lacquer – a pro cess that takes months to complete. The lacquer is generally applied on a wooden base, and is usually painted or embellished with intricate inlay work.
From giant pots to tiny teacups, Vietnamese potters create beautiful and useful ceramic artifacts, which are sold throughout the country. Most renowned are the items created by the artisans in Bat Trang near Hanoi. The area is known for the qual ity of its white clay, and the unique glazing styles, such as “ancient pearl glaze” and “indigo-blue flower glaze,” which evolved here over the centuries.
Vietnam is fast becoming a draw for art collectors. Watercolors and oils are found almost every where, but most exquisite are the unique lacquer and silk paintings. The finest art is found in the cul tural hubs of Hanoi, Hoi An, and Hue.
Silver Jewelry of the Hill Peoples
Silver is a traditional symbol of wealth among many hill peoples. Antique earrings, chunky pendants, and bangles are com monly available in shops in major towns and villages. Ornate silver belts worn by women are especially attractive.
Bamboo, Rush, Leaves, and Grass
Woven with great skill into interesting shapes and sizes, grass and rush mats are used as mattresses, seating, and curtains in Vietnam. Wicker trays and bowls are popular, as are embroidered bamboo window blinds and kitchenware. The traditional non la or conical hats are found everywhere, often made from thick dried palm leaves. In Hue, the hats often reveal subtly painted designs when held up to the light.