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Shopportunities from the Press Club
Shopping in Hanoi and its environs can be a cultural adventure and a rewarding enterprise. Silks, ceramics, woodcraft and laquerware are high on the list of most shoppers’ priorities. Rather than name specific shops, let us point you in a few choice directions.
The story of shopping in Hanoi starts here. Once upon a time, the renowned 36 streets of the Old Quarter were each dedicated to a single product, whether silk or ceramic or hemp and so on. Many sellers - many competitors - vied for business, each selling variations on the same design. Though the names of the streets remain the same, and many of the original products are still sold on these eponymous streets, the uniformity of the old days is over. Still, this warren of commercial activity buzzes with industry and a must-stop on any visit to Hanoi.
About ten miles from downtown Hanoi, Bat Trang is Vietnam’s most famous pottery village. For hundreds of years, they’ve been turning out some of Asia’s finest ceramics. Indeed, some of Bat Trang’s pieces are in the Louvre today. Visiting Bat Trang today is as much about accessing a profound part of Vietnam’s culture as it is a great buy on some of the world’s finest ceramics.
Ever since Jim Thompson introduced Thailand’s silks to the world in the 1950s, Bangkok has cultivated a reputation as one of Southeast Asia’s finest silk producers. But don’t miss Van Phuc. They’ve been harvesting silk cocoons in this village for 1,000 years. And today, the looms are as busy as every, turning out roll after roll of Vietnam’s finest silk.
Much further afield than the local villages, Sa Pa is a one-time French colonial hill station that’s come into the 2010s as the epicenter of Vietnam’s hilltribe scene. The scenery and the culture of Vietnam’s hilltribes are the main draw here, but the products produced by the tribes - the heavily brocaded blankets, embroideries, waist coasts, blankets and jewelry - are proof-positive that you’re an adventurous traveler.