The markets in Vientiane and Luang Prabang are worth visiting. Silk, cotton fabrics, wood carvings, pottery, silver jewellery and handmade shirts are good buys. Laos sarongs (pha sin) and hill tribe bags are a popular souvenir.
Shopping in Vientiane
In Vientiane, it’s worth heading out to the weaving district of Ban Nong Bouathong, northeast of the city. Try the Phaeng Mai Gallery which sells beautiful textiles. For something really smart, head to the American designer Carol Cassidy’s shop, Lao Textiles, which is well-known internationally. Here, you’ll find items that will fit in well at parties back home as well as on your travels. Laos weavers design the items and work in an attractive old French-Lao house. If buying clothes in Laos note that most fabrics are not machine washable as the dye runs. Nearby, opposite Talat Sao market, is the clumsily named Handicraft Products of Ethnic Groups- here you’ll find handicrafts from all across the family.
In Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang is best known for its handicrafts, art, textiles and jewelry. In an old French mansion, Pathana Boupha Antique House is certainly worth a visit. There’s some beautiful silverwork and old photos for sale, mostly from the Laos owners’ private collection. It’s brilliant for browsing and for choosing an inspired, unusual gift. There are also plenty of small bookshops. L’Etranger Books & Tea is a lovely place to cool off or curl up with a book in. It sells both new and second-hand books mainly about Laos and Southeast Asi but head upstairs to the tea lounge and you can see local art displayed too.
Another great spot to combine retail with tea is the Baan Khily Gallery, which sells Laos crafts and mulberry bark paper. The friendly owner is often on-site and there’s an upstairs terrace which lends itself to chill-out time.