When it comes to Vietnam shopping, this country is such a great destination to buy souvenirs and gifts. The country is diverse and unique and so are the gifts! Below are some suggestions for what to buy in Vietnam that your friends or family are sure to love. Don’t forget to keep a few pieces for yourself too!
1. Silk Lanterns
The silk lanterns that dot the nights of Vietnam are a feast for the eyes. The intricate embroidery, rich colors and varying shapes of these lanterns fill postcards and books about Vietnam, so why not take one (or two or three!) home for your family and friends. These silk lanterns are actually rather sturdy and will be a unique decoration piece inside or outside of any home or apartment.
While you can see these lanterns everywhere, nowhere does it quite like the Ancient City of Hoi An. Photos will not always be able to capture the experience of walking along the river on the old stone streets of Hoi An. A myriad of colored silk lanterns light the alleyways, the balconies and patios of restaurants and even the boats floating slowly and quietly down the river. It really is a breathtaking experience.
So what better way to try to give your friends and family a taste of this serene scene than to gift them their own stunning silk lantern? As you walk over the bridge exciting the Ancient City you would be hard pressed to pass a stall not entirely lit up in a kaleidoscope of colors, selling silk lanterns.
These silk lanterns can range between three to ten dollars US. But outside of Vietnam, they cost quite a sum. This makes them even more special to people back home. A silk lantern really is an amazing gift to buy when visiting Vietnam!
2. Silk Products and Hand Woven Gifts
From seeing the quality of the silk lanterns, we already know that Vietnam is a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs made from silk. Other popular gifts made of silk include scarves, throws and table runners. You will find these products in almost any market. Silk products will usually run you anywhere under ten dollars US and you can usually haggle with the vendors.
When you start to venture into the countryside of Vietnam, you will probably notice that many of the people there are selling hand woven or handmade gifts. These gifts can range from hand woven and embroidered bags or wallets to lacquered wooden boxes and wine stands.
Surprisingly, these handmade items usually cost very little. If you are shopping in a more rural area of Vietnam, there is the extra gift of knowing that you are supporting a local Vietnamese community which are two reasons to buy handmade gifts when visiting Vietnam.
3. Handmade Cards
When you walk up and down the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi you will inevitably pass stalls of pop up cards depicting famous Vietnamese culture.
These cards are usually sold for around 2 or 3 dollars US. Apart from how unique this gift is, it is also really easy to pack and takes up hardly any space! Buy a few and keep them to give as birthday cards!
4. Snake Wine
We recommend this gift for your friends or family members that are a little bit on the more adventurous side! Snake wine is made by infusing actual snakes with grain alcohol or rice wine. You will see bottles of this alcohol that contain entire snakes! It’s definitely a gift on the wilder side but could make an interesting addition to a friend or family member’s bar!
It is possible to purchase this, let’s call it fascinating, souvenir or gift all over the country and they are usually not very expensive unless you are looking for premium snake wine which can cost up to two hundred dollars! Snake wine originated in China but became very popular in Vietnam and is believed to have many health benefits.
Look out for the snake wine that has been infused with a scorpion too. Now there is a real talking piece!
When you travel through Vietnam you will be able to go to a few war museums which chronicle the events of the Vietnam war. During this period Vietnam was filled with American soldiers that brought American products into the country. One of the most famous of these products is the American soldier’s Zippo lighter.
You will pass many stores, mostly in Ho Chi Minh City, that claim to sell historical pieces of the Vietnam war, a popular item being Zippo lighters with various engravings on them. Now a lot of these lighters are not real but it does make for a cool gift for a friend or family member that is interested in the history of Vietnam and the Vietnam war.
The prices of these Zippo lighters are all determined by the seller but there is usually room for haggling. If you have a friend or family member who is interested in the history of Vietnam, the large cities are also a great place to buy books dealing with the subject.
6. “Non La” or Conical Hat
If you close your eyes and think of Vietnam, chances are that you are picturing people wearing Non La or the famous conical hats of Vietnam.
You will find these iconic conical hats virtually in every market you pass and you will be looking at paying around two or three dollars US for them. These hats are hand woven out of palm leaves. and you can get them covered in plastic or un-covered. From previous experience, every Non La that I have every purchase or laid my hands on have been made with care of great quality. These hats also traditionally come in varying sizes.
Conical hats are a special part of Vietnamese culture and they are for everyone. Women, men, workers or someone just looking for reprieve from the harsh heat all wear conical hats. They truly are culturally special to Vietnam and therefore make a great gift.
7. Coffee and Coffee Strainer
This is my favorite gift to bring for family and friends from Vietnam! It’s an undeniable fact that Vietnam produces some of the most unique and delicious coffee in the world. The whole act of making a caphe den or caphe sua da is also intriguing and deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture. Drinking this thick liquid gold, whether hot or iced, is part of a daily tradition for Vietnamese people.
You will be able to purchase coffee at numerous places like markets (cheaper) or Vietnamese coffee houses (more expensive) or even at grocery stores (moderate). Certain grocery stores will even sell bags of Vietnamese coffee attached to a can of condensed milk so you have everything you need to make a delicious caphe sua da right then and there!
Apart from having just the coffee as a great treat, you can also buy the strainers not only made from metal but an intricately painted ceramic strainer and cup set that could serve not just an aid to make coffee but as a decoration piece.
You will find the metal strainers in almost all stores and markets and you will find the ceramic pieces in speciality stores dotted all over the major or bigger cities and towns. Every friend and family member I have ever gifted a coffee set to has been charmed and excited by the process of making Vietnamese coffee and always satisfied with the rich taste so be sure to grab some coffee and coffee making sets before you leave Vietnam!
Vietnam is famous for it’s tea as well as it’s coffee. The climate in parts of Vietnam is perfect for growing tea. You will notice hints of lotus, jasmine and earthy tones in Vietnamese tea. Vietnam also grows it’s own green tea.
Vietnam also corners the market on iced teas. Sit down at any cafe and the first thing you will be served is a free glass of tra da, or iced tea. The nutty flavor is as unique as the beautiful country itself and you will soon find yourself craving it on those hot Vietnamese days!
You can find tea at almost any market or grocery store for a low price. The most unique tea gift you can give however will be found in the specialty souvenir stores and some grocery stores. The tea is called “Farmers Tea”. You should only have to pay around 5 dollars US for this gift.
9. Ceramic Gifts
We previously mentioned ceramic coffee cups and coffee strainers, and that is only the tip of the ceramic ware ice berg you will find in Vietnam!
Making ceramic pottery has a long and rich history in Vietnam. Jugs, bowls, tea cups and plates are a few examples of the ceramic products available.
If you walk into cafe in a big city you will likely see the floor, or walls, lined with the most stunning decorative tiles. The patterns range from simple to intricate and cover the color spectrum. Google or ask around about tiles and you will be sure to be pointed towards a street selling nothing but these tiles (in true Vietnamese fashion!).
10. Bamboo Gifts
The most noteworthy thing that you will notice is that many things in this country, from baskets to toys, are made from bamboo. A gift or souvenir made of bamboo will be sure to delight in this plastic filled world!
A Vietnamese puzzle box or shape making game will provide hours of thought and fun. They are very intricate and the number of solutions or shapes to be made are seemingly endless! You can find them at markets and souvenir stores. The price ranges differently according to how big or complex they are although you won’t spend over 10 dollars US.
Trays, stools, miniature models of boats and cyclos, traditional masks and beautifully painted balancing dragonflies are a few examples of the bamboo wonders you will find for sale in Vietnam. Many of the small villages rely on the making and selling of their bamboo crafts. So, be sure to pick a lovingly hand made gift here for someone special!
Wrapping up on Vietnam shopping experience
Apart from the things mentioned above, you can practically buy anything here as a souvenir to your friends and family. Vietnam is basically packed with culture in everything that you see being sold on the streets, in the traditional markets, and in the more modern supermarkets and shopping centers, ranging from low to high price. Some of the other “what to buy” are:
- Vietnamese T-shirts: They are super cheap! So maybe buy a tons to bring home, not as a gift, but for yourself.
- Watercolor painting: You would almost certainly to catch a street in big cities that only sells paintings. These places are the residence of Vietnamese artist, selling both mockeries of famous work and their original pieces, too. If you like a sceneries picture of Vietnam, maybe try out these paintings as alternative to the digitized ones.
- War souvenirs: This is the right gift for those history-lovers. You can find them in most museums. However, they can be a bit pricey as they are mainly targeted at tourists, and not the locals.
- Hand Embroidery: These work of art is something you should consider as gift. Vietnamese take it to another level. They not only just use embroidery on clothing, but creating beautiful sceneries of Vietnam on a cloth canvas, too.
Wooden clogs: These were once were by both men and women in the old days as part of the traditional costumes. You can find these in Vietnamese markets.
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