Laos is an excellent destination for anyone interested in picking up elaborate handicrafts. One of the pleasures of shopping in a non-industrial country like Laos is the availability of hand-crafted goods.
Handicrafts are the pride of Lao people. Buying locally made Laos products is a good way to contribute to the local economy and helps preserve traditional crafts, many of which are products of the different hill tribes in Laos. These include a range of hand woven and dyed textiles with designs that are unique to a region or tribe. Other traditional trades and crafts include wood and bone carving, basket weaving, saa papermaking (from mulberry bark). All are readily available within the city.
Various sizes of baskets for sale.
Visitors will find plenty of beautiful items to purchase. Because items made by hand can only be produced in limited quantities, they are usually sold or exchanged in the village in which they were made. Handmade baskets, bolts of cloth and household utensils are best acquired at villages, as everything is cheaper at the source. Prices at provincial markets are usually a bit more than what you would pay were you to buy directly from village artisans.
Woman weaving silk scarves, Ban Xang Hai Village, Luang Prabang, Laos.
Textiles, basketry, silver, woodcarvings and hand-made paper are some of the most popular handicrafts in Laos. The art of weaving is still very much a home industry in Laos, where some of the finest silk and cotton weavers in the world can be found in the smallest of communities. Traditional designs and patterns vary from province to province. Most notably is complex mutmee (ikot) patterns based on folklore and natural themes. Some of the best weavers come from the Tai ethnic groups in Houaphan Province. If you are planning a visit to Luang Prabang and are interested in weaving, don't miss Ban Phanom or the night market in the center of town.
There are many antique stores littered around the bigger cities of Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet, where clothes, Asian pottery, musical instruments, jewelleries, carvings and coins can be found. However, tourists need to note that there is an official ban on the export of Buddha images from Laos. Fake antiques are common in Laos. Be careful when purchase items like gemstones and high value carpets. Always remember to bargain when buying things in local markets to make sure you get the best prices.
Luang Prabang Night Market.
Paintings for sale
H'Mong silver collar
Last but not least, most shops will be closed on Sunday so you are not suggested to make your shopping plans on Sunday.