Shopping Vietnam

10 Great Gifts You Shouldn’t Leave Hanoi Without

Haute Culture’s Shopping Guide to Hanoi

Selling everything from tribal textiles to exotic foods, shopping for souvenirs in Vietnam’s capital of culture a perfect combination of historical heritage Vs modern merchandise.  Crammed with tall colonial buildings and riddled with motorbike jammed roads, Hanoi’s Old Quarter conceals a charming/chaotic concoction of manic markets, specialist streets and designer boutiques. Whether Hanoi is your first or last destination in Vietnam, this authentic Asian experience is best remembered in these 10 quintessential gifts.

  1. Tribal textiles are prized possessions for tourists in Vietnam as the opportunity to see and buy such individual, diverse and beautiful hand stitched craftsmanship is a rare luxury to those visiting from the west.  Vietnam has a rich variety of hill tribe ethnicities (especially in the north) that relatively still living the same way today as they have done for hundreds of years, buying authentic textiles from recognised dealers helps to keep their way of life and artistic skills alive, from $15.


    Traditional Vietnamese Tribal Textiles

  2. The Ao Dai is a national symbol of traditional Vietnamese beauty, femininity and sophistication in Hanoi. The elegant tunic consists of long sleeves, stand collar and side seam slits up to the waist and is usually worn with palazzo style pants. Vietnamese women can be seen wearing Ao Dai on a daily basis in Hanoi but it is most popular at weddings and around Tet holiday (Vietnamese New Year) from $25.


    Modern hand embroidered Ao Dai

  3. Propaganda posters & paintings are everywhere in Hanoi. Waiting to fill your walls with bold graphic memories of Vietnam’s political ideology and patriotic nationalist past, pick up a piece of colorful history for as little as $7.


    Propaganda Posters and Paintings

  4. Chopsticks are probably the cheapest yet most iconic reminder of all those delicious steaming hot bowls of Pho and Bun Cha you ate when you’re back at home from $1.


    Chop Sticks

  5. Pretty Lanterns are never ever a bad idea. Flat packable and ready to go, these traditional lanterns will add a touch of sensual vietnamese style to any garden or bedroom and are available in a spectrum of spectacular colors and materials from $4.


    Lovely Lanterns

  6. Do paper is a handmade paper produced from the bark of the Rhamnoneuron Balansae tree. It is traditionally used to print the ancient tales of Vietnamese Dong Ho folk stories on. This charming artistic process truly encapsulates Vietnam’s history, imagination and craftsmanship. Various prices depending on the print.


    Dong Ho printing wood block

  7. Conical hats are the most recognisable and classic symbol of the Vietnamese silhouette. The hand woven palm leaf hat is rich is history, cultural identity and designed to protect people from the rain and sun. Worn by people of both sexes, all ages and  any ethnicities that are prone to working outside in markets, rice paddy fields and on the water.


    Street seller with Vietnam’s iconic conical hats

  8. Puppets & masks are used in traditional Vietnamese theater productions and festivals throughout the year. Made from bamboo, palm leaves and lacquer the masks are a popular sight in the north, as their brightly painted faces represent the emotions of characters from folktales and legends.


    Hand painted folk masks

  9. Silk products are available in most old quarter stores around the Old Quarter in Hanoi. Everything from sleeping bag liners to dressing gowns to Ao Dai can be bought for very reasonable prices, but the best place to buy authentic Vietnamese silk is on Hang Gai street (silk street) where you will find tailor shops stacked sky high with a rainbow selection of silks ready to be sewn into a design of your choice from $10 per meter.


    Silk Tailors

  10. Lacquer wear in Vietnam originated from the Hanoi College of Fine Arts under the French occupation in the 1930s. The time consuming skill is a technique that seals painting, inlay, engravings and gold leaf designs under layer after layer of tree sap for various prices.


    Lacquer dolls wearing the traditional Ao Dai and Conical Hats

Top Tip: Haggling is advisable at independent outlets and it’s all part of the fun, just remember that a smile and cheery disposition will get you greater discounts than the hard line approach.

Note: The old quarter is easily walkable but not particularly pedestrian friendly due to the lack of sidewalks so take care when stepping out of the stores onto the street.

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Have you visited Hanoi or are you planning a visit? Please share your experiences, ideas and suggestions in the comments box below.

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  • Jsmien
    March 14, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Hi Donna,

    Like your blog a lot!
    I see you recommend buying Batik material etc in Hanoi. Could you point to where to buy this?
    I’ve been to quite a few shops and they ask over 10x the price as you would in Sapa (ie 25usd/meter or 425 usd for a bigger blanket) which is just incredible.

    Looking forward in hearing your thoughts 🙂

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