Memorialize your journey through Vietnam by supporting local artisans and traditional techniques. Check out our roundup of Vietnam’s best souvenirs – and see why it’s truly a shoppers paradise!
Vietnam is bursting with culture and remains one of southeast Asia’s most treasured destinations for the adventurous and bold. Yet, the country’s bustling streets are brimming with more than just motorbikes and food stalls — they’re also home to some of the best shopping that Southeast Asia has to offer. Nearly every other shop window in major cities in Vietnam boasts beautiful handicrafts and handmade souvenirs touted by friendly shopkeepers who beckon you in with smiles and waves. Among Vietnam’s souvenirs, lie some truly unique gems that hold deeper meaning for Vietnam and the culture of the Vietnamese people.
There is certainly no shortage of propaganda-style art in Vietnam — testaments to the style can be found on anything from t-shirts, canvas totes and calendars. But much of this work carries an important historical background in Vietnam, as many of the most famous images were created between during the country’s most turbulent and war-torn years. Used as a means to promote solidarity and strength among the Vietnamese people, the creations most often feature not only brightly coloured images of people and places, but also stirring phrases calling for national unity, improved infrastructure or hoa binh, meaning peace.
Now, visitors can easily find prints on rice paper or in calendars and postcards. Plus, most have accompanying translations of the slogans, which offer an even better glimpse into the history of these pieces of true Vietnamese artwork. If you’re up north in Hanoi, head to Hang Bac street in the Old Quarter, where two large shops face eachother. Thanh Long Galley and Hanoi Gallery both feature a wide selection of prints as well as some paintings, with larger print posters ranging around $7 USD and larger paintings for $35 USD.
Although Vietnam is widely known for its silk, few are aware of Vietnam’s unique brand of silk painting. Although silk painting in Vietnam reached its height of popularity from 1925 to 1945, it continues as one of the most iconic art forms for Vietnamese artisans. Silk paintings are known for their mystical appearance and simple, poetic themes showcasing peaceful countrysides and pagodas. Unlike traditional painting, silk painting uses the silk’s natural colour and texture as the backdrop for the scene that is often created in vivid colours. Silk painting is now found not only on wall hangings, but also on beautifully decorated scarves and, occasionally, on the traditional ao dai.
Of Vietnam’s souvenirs, silk paintings are tricky to find, but be sure to take a look around the corners of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, but for something a little more in depth, head to Van Phuc Silk Village in Ha Dong ward of the city. Approximately 10-kilometers from the city centre, this village has a wide range of silk products, paintings and textiles.
Few realize the ethnic diversity in Vietnam, home to over 50 different ethnic groups, and up in the mountains of the North many groups are renown for their fine work in textiles–whether weaving, embroidery or dying. Hmong people — known as the “black Hmong” due to their black clothing — have fabrics with unique techniques and bold patterns. These hemp based textiles have geometric shapes in bright colours that are traditionally used in clothing, but now can be found on anything from purses to shoes. A similar style also come from the Cham people who’s work has a similar style of strong colours and rich patterns.
Journey to the mountainous Sapa, the gateway to Northern ethnic minorities and their arts and culture. This city was a French colonial outpost, who’s breathtaking scenery enraptured many. Now, it’s a great outlet for Hmong textiles and other distinctive and stunning Vietnam souvenirs . Be sure to check the zipper and straps of your purchase though, since often the assemblage may be of lower quality, despite the gorgeous material!
Lacquer painting is practiced all over Asia, but Vietnam’s lacquerware is completely unique, using resin from the son tree from which the artform derives its name, son mai. The style in Vietnam was cultivated in the early to mid-1900s with French influence from the colonial era, but has been passed down through artisan families for centuries beforehand. An extremely difficult and delicate artform, most high quality products undergo 20 stages before finished. Laquerware comes in bowls, vases, dishes and place settings in a variety of vivid colours with designs ranging from simple to intricate.
There are a handful of lacquerware galleries that produce the finest quality pieces created in the same way it has been throughout generations. If you’re looking for something simple and classic, head to Ben Thanh market, or for something more modern, check out the art galleries along Dong Khoi in Ho Chi Minh City.
The charming cobble stone streets of Hoi An are dotted with tailors, restaurants and trinkets. One of the most iconic though, is the paper lantern. In every known colour, shape and size, these magical lanterns create a unique ambiance epitomized in the lantern festivals, the largest held during lunar new year, or tet. While visiting Hoi An, be sure to check out a local lantern making workshop to learn the history and technique of this humble art.
An easy enough souvenir to find, start off in Hoi An’s lantern night market, where hundreds of beautiful lanterns float above your heads. This market has a wide selection for any hesitant shopper as well as some of the cheapest prices in town! For more intricate lanterns and accompanying artwork, head to the artisan quarter.
Vietnam has a longstanding reputation for quality ceramics, although it may not be the first thing the country’s known for. In the past, Vietnam was a major producer of pottery trading internationally with Japanese, Chinese and Western ships. These beautiful household items are handcrafted by villagers and local families, who’ve spent much of their lives perfecting this art which has been passed down for centuries.
Be sure to make a trip from Hanoi to Bat Trung Ceramic Village, where you can see the wide array of products which continue on this important artform. Choose from a wide selection ranging from traditional pieces to more modern artistic interpretations.
With Buffalo Tour’s Vietnam highlights tour, our guides can show you the best spots for souvenir shopping on your adventure in Vietnam!