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We visited the morning market after watching the alms giving ceremony. It starts early. I don't know how long it lasts.It was wonderfully colourful and great for photos. Most stalls sell fruit and vegetables, but there was also meat and fish. There were also some marigold sellers.
Updated Mar 16, 2013
We came across what is probably the sole Fair-trade organization based in Luang-Prabang and it is just GREAT ! While fair-trade stores pop up in most of the developed world's capital cities doing a fantastic job in building awareness of how conscious customers can dramatically improve the economic life of people on the other side of the planet, i am always surprised not to find "local" fair-trade stores in the touristic cities of the developing world.
Ban Lao Natural Products, or Ban Lao Center, was created by a French young lady who fell in love with Laos and its people. It promotes the local handicraft and textiles that it develops with producers around Luang Prabang, but also from remote provinces of Laos.
They train weavers of the villages along Mekong to provide them with means of social and economic development. Part of the revenues goes to a newly created foundation which finances development projects in the area.
They have 2 spaces: one for traditional handicraft and the other for more fashonable accesories. They continuously exhibits local or foreign artists' work in the gallery upstairs, where some of the nicest ikat and other traditionnal textiles are on display. This space is filled with books on Luang Prabang, Fair Trade, Weaving, and Asia in general.
What to buy: You'll find a selection of traditional handicraft from Sa Paper made from Mulberry tree, to baskets and textiles in the Ban Lao Handicraft Center. Everything there is natural: wood, silk, cotton, and even the colors made from leaves, fruits, etc.
Next door, but actually the same old house overlooking the Mekong river, they have developed a more aesthetic collection, where tradition meets fashion. Bags, jewelry, women clothes, cosmetics, etc.
We really liked their silk scarves, which they export to Europe.
Upstairs are some really nice but upscale traditionnal weavings from Xam Neua and other provinces of Laos. This is probably the best souvenir to bring back home (if your not travelling on budget...).
The friendly staff serves natural drinks: herbal teas and fruit juices/shakes.
What to pay: For naturally died silk scarves, expect to pay from 10 USD (a quarter of retailers' prices!)
They have really cute bags, from 1USD (yes! but these are really small), and lovely
The must remains the Xam Neua textiles, which starts from 100USD (for over a month work...)
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Address: along the mekong river, ban vat nong
The colourful night market starts at 1700-1800 and ends at 2200-2300 or earlier if it begins to rain, which it did for the 4 nights we were there.
They sell local and ethnic handicrafts made mostly by the Hmong. They are not hard to haggle with and it is done good naturally and with smiles on their faces.
We bought T-shirts for US$2.50 - $3.50, depending on size, scarfs x 2 for $5, different styles of bags x 2 for $7, wooden masks x 2 for $10, so most things are reasonably cheap. You can pay in $ or Kip but I think you can get it slightly cheaper paying in the local currency.
There are shops on the main street open all day and evenings that have beautiful wooden carvings and silks etc but they are very expensive
Updated Oct 1, 2010
The night market, in the centre of town, "opens its doors" every evening at around about 5pm. This market was only supposed to last for a few weeks when it opened in December 2002, on the Occidental Christmas Eve. Products range from chess games in ornamental stone to silk scarves, passing by embroidery, sculpture, more or less real opium pipes, portrayals of Buddha in all imaginable forms, local paintings, done around the symbolic Buddhist representations, etc. It is a place where you must go and where bargaining is often very colourful.
Written Apr 22, 2010
Im a tea lover - so wherever I go I try to taste the regional specialties. They offer smoked and semi smoked green tea, mostly from the northern hills of Phongsaly and the Bolaven plateau of the region of Paksong in the south.
It is more a smoky earthern taste, way strongre than the light Chinese LongJing for example.
They have a unique ancestreal method of smoking their tea and preserving the taste by packing it in bamboo to keep the special fragrance.
Laos is also well known for growing great tea, though I personally cant judge it (as a none coffe drinker) but the feedback of people I gave lao coffee too was not bad at all.
Updated Jul 11, 2008
These Beer Lao T-Shirts are found on every market in every corner. Since I always travel very light Im always in need for Ts - and who knows Beer Lao? Compared to the Thai Ts these here are nearly unknown ;-)
Updated Jul 11, 2008
You can't miss the Hmong Market - a whole square of stalls selling colourful but almost identical items.
There are some snack and drink stalls on the fringes but wander inside you'll find a labyrinth of stalls selling local arts and crafts, some costume jewelries, bags, blankets, T-shirts and while exciting at first sight, will grow a little haggard after a couple rounds of exploring.
Still, if you are hunting for the weaved bag you must absolutely own....well, this is ground zero.
(Note: Thankfully, there aren't a lot of cheap fake branded goods around)
Aside from the Hmong Market, folks can also make your way along Sisavang Vong Road to the 2 streets near the Luang Prabang Museum for more night markets. They close the streets in the evening and stalls simply occupied the space. Nothing extraordinary here as they sell the same items as in the Hmong Market. For folks who loves bright lights and weaving through flea markets though, you'll be pleased to know that the further second street has an offshoot, with stalls stretching all the way to where Coleur Cafe is. I must warn you though: After a few minutes, you'll realised that you're essentially looking at the same things with every step you take.
However, the flea markets make for wonderful walks at night and the colourful cheery goods and wares made for great photography.
NOTE: Most of the stalls will start to pack up at 10pm and by 12 midnight, the vendors will be on their merry way home.
What to buy: Hmong weaves (shirts, bags, sling pouches for water bottles, coasters, handphone punches, coin pouches, blankets and bedsheets), mulberry paper lamps, waxed paper umbrellas, paintings, sculptures, and the standard "you've been to Laos" Beer Lao T-shirts etc.
What to pay: Bargain. It's easier to bargain when you hit the stall just when they are closing.
Updated Dec 15, 2007
Every SE Asian country has at least 1 beer. In Laos, it's Beer Lao. Reviews about this beer seems to be rather positive.
Lao Brewery was established in 1971 and began its production in 1973. Following political change in Laos in 1975, the Lao government bought back all the overseas shares it become a state enterprise under the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts called Lao Brewery Co. Ltd. (LBC). After 2002, Carlsberg Asia, and TCC, a Thai company who is Carlsberg's partner in Thailand, each agreed to acquire a 25% stake in LBC. The remaining shares are still held by the government of Laos.
A can of Beer Lao costs 7000 Kips from a grocery shop (circa Nov 07).
Made from glutinous rice, Lao-Lao is a rice whisky brewed in Laos. Along with Beer Lao, Lao-Lao is a staple beverage for both tourists and natives of Laos. Contrary to popular belief, the name Lao-Lao is not the same word repeated twice, but actually two different words pronounced with different tones, the first meaning "alcohol" and the second meaning "Lao" (as in the Lao people).
Aside from rice whisky, one can usually also get rice wine....either in the clear form or in the clear red form (made from dark glutinous rice).
You can get them easily by visiting the infamous "Whisky Village" near Pak Ou Caves.
A small bottle of the rice wine is about US$2 (circa Nov 07).
Written Nov 18, 2007
After my first visit to Luang Prabang, I promised myself that I would return to the market and buy one of the Hmong bedcovers if I ever returned. They are all very similar, but each has something individual about it. I can only imagine how many hours these ladies toil to make these large pieces. The covers and smaller wallhangings or throws all tell traditional Hmong stories about their customs and lifestyle.
I ended up buying 3 pieces - 1 large bedcover and 2 smaller throws or wallhangings. No wonder she looks so happy!
What to buy: If the larger ones seem too expensive, or you don't think you'd put one on a bed or a large enough wall, buy a smaller one - or two!
What to pay: Starting price for the larger covers was US$120 - and smaller ones started at $30. I got the 3 pieces for $150. We were both happy, which is the ideal outcome.
Updated Jun 5, 2007
Address: Sisavangvong Road
Every evening the local people are installing the stalls in the mainstreet of Luang Prabang, called; Sisavangvong Road for the Tribal market.
Most of the articles exposed are home-made products, like lamps, wall covers, silverware,
textile and woodcarving.
Take your time to negociate the prices downwards, don't be in a hurry, the local people are very friendly and many times a bit shy and they have all the time to show you every item. Keep smiling and you'll get what you want.
What to pay: Everywhere you can pay with US dollars , so take care to have small one dollar notes with you.
Euros are not accepted, but in the Sisavangvong road, there are some exchange offices.
Updated Apr 1, 2007
Address: SISAVANGVONG ROAD
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