Vietnam conical hats

9 Fascinating Things To Buy In Vietnam

May 12, 2016

When you head to Vietnam – leave extra room in your suitcase. You are going to need the space so that you can bring back all of the great things you buy on your trip.

Vietnam is a shopping paradise and there are so many intriguing things that you can find in the shops, boutiques, malls, street stalls and night markets. Leave plenty of time during your trip just for wandering around and seeing what catches your eye. Here are some of the interesting things you might take home with you.

1. Conical Hats

Photo by <a>Global Goose</a>

Photo by Global Goose
You have probably seen many locals wearing these simple conical hats all over Vietnam, as well as in other parts of Southeast Asia. Pick up one for yourself, as they are great for keeping the blistering hot sun in Vietnam away from your face. Also, when the hats are made of straw they can be dipped in water and turned into an evaporative-cooling device.

2. Artichoke Tea

You are probably more used to artichoke as a salad ingredient or a pizza topping, but have you ever considered drinking a cup of artichoke tea? Artichoke tea is a popular hangover remedy in Vietnam because of the beneficial effects it has on liver function. Also, it offers a number of other health benefits such as promoting clear skin, regulating blood sugar levels, treating bad digestion, easing heartburn, reducing cholesterol levels and eliminating toxins in the body.

Brinda Shah from XOTours.vn says in this blog post about shopping in Vietnamthat the best place to buy artichoke tea is a chain store called L’angfarm. It also offers root chips, jam, dried fruit and other local specialties and you can have your items packaged if you are buying them as a gift.

3. A Custom Tailored Suit

Photo by <a>Global Goose </a>

Photo by Global Goose 
Vietnam, and especially the city of Hoi An, is known for its skilled tailors. You can get a unique suit custom crafted for you at a fraction of what you would pay for a bespoke garment back home. Your measurements will be taken, you can choose the fabrics used and you will return for multiple fittings until the suit fits you like a dream. As well as suits, you can have pretty much anything custom made including dresses, trousers and shirts. You can even show the tailors a photo in a magazine and they will recreate the outfit for you.

When Lee Carter of Global-Goose.com bought a suit in Hoi An, he was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism of the tailors and the quality of the finished product. He writes, “It was everything I had hoped for and I looked a million times better than I did in my old suit that came straight off the rack at a similar price.”

4. Weasel Poo Coffee

Photo by <a>Global Goose</a>

Photo by Global Goose
Did you know that one of the most expensive and highly prized coffees in the world is made by feeding coffee beans to weasels and then brewing them once they are excreted out of the other end?

Yup, it sounds disgusting but apparently the weasels (also known as civets) choose the ripest and sweetest coffee beans to eat and the digestive acids in their system add a smooth and rich flavour to the coffee. The beans are collected, carefully washed and then roasted,bagged and sold.

When it comes to knowing where to buy the weasel poo coffee (aka Kopi Luwak), Bob from MyPhilippineLife.com offers some advice. “There are several coffee merchants on Hang Buom in the old quarter of Hanoi,” he writes. He purchased some beans from Tam Loc Cafe and Kim Lai, however he remarks that he “can’t imagine that local coffee shops buy their coffee at these places at these prices”

“Next time we are in Hanoi we’ll spend more time at the markets (such as Dong Xuan) and see if we can find cheaper beans.” he says. If you want to give weasel coffee a try, head to the local markets and see if you can get a good deal.

5. Do Paper Postcards or Notebooks

According to Ria from LifeInBigTent.com, “Do” paper is made from the bark of the Do Tree, which is a wild plant found along the riverside in Vietnam. It was popular for many years before modern paper was created and it is used to make watercolors, notebooks and greeting cards.

Ria recommends looking in bookstores and says, “Do paper cards with embroidered squares and hemp covered notebooks cost more or less $2.00, bamboo bound notebooks are from $1.50.”

6. Snake Wine

Photo by <a>Wikipedia</a>

Photo by Wikipedia
“Believed to increase virility by the Ancient Chinese, having a bottle of this on your bedside table is probably more likely to kill the mood rather than reinvigorate it.” says Audrey of ThatBackpacker.com.

Snake wine comes in bottles with an entire snake stuffed inside, infused in rice wine or grain alcohol. It is believed that the “essence” of the snake as well as the venom is dissolved into the liquor, but don’t worry because the ethanol denatures the poison and renders it inactive. Do you dare to take a sip?

7. Vietnam War Souvenirs

If you are a military history buff, you might find it interesting to check out the many Vietnam war souvenirs that are sold in markets here. From satchels to rusty knives to helmets to radios to engraved zippo lighters – these market stalls are like a museum filled with various artifacts used by American and Vietnamese soldiers.

According to this blog by Vietnamitas En Madrid, the best place to find these war souvenirs is Dan Sinh Market in Ho Chi Minh City. Also, there are a lot of military items being sold near the Hanoi Railway station. Keep in mind that some might be authentic historic items from the war, yet others might be replicas.

8. Propaganda Art

Photo by <a>Wikimedia</a>

Photo by Wikimedia
Bold images, strong blocks of colour, simplified figures, powerful messages – Vietnamese propaganda posters were designed to put forth an agenda and evoke emotion. These visually arresting images make for fascinating pieces of art and putting one above your living room sofa could be a fascinating conversation starter.

Sarah Turner, a writer for the Southeast Asia guide TravelFish, says, “If you’re interested in buying a propaganda poster, you’ll find two large shops on Hang Bac Street, in the centre of Old Quarter: Hanoi Gallery, at number 5, and Thanh Long Gallery opposite at number 16. Both have a wide range of posters in a variety of styles.” Read her post about propaganda art for more tips.

9. Battery Operated Rat

When buying something to remember your travels in Vietnam, have a sense of humour and don’t be afraid to buy something goofy just because you like it.

Huffington Post writer Peter Mandel is a fan of strange, silly and quirky souvenirs and on his Vietnam travels he managed to find a bright orange battery operated rat that plays music and walks around. His bizarre “Happy Rat” made him laugh and reminds him of the playful and cheery spirit of Vietnam – so why not?

Do you have any suggestions for interesting things to buy in Vietnam? Let us know in the comments below!

Kelly Dunning is a Canadian freelance travel writer. She lives a nomadic lifestyle with no fixed address – working from the road for the last 5 years with her partner Lee, a web-designer from England. They have traveled to over 40 countries and they offer travel tips, stories and inspiration on Global-Goose.com.

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