Most tourist shops, craft villages, & night market: Handmade Saa Paper Crafts
What to buy: A prominent local craft in Luang Prabang is production of handmade saa paper. Saa paper is made from bark that is stripped from the young branches of the mulberry tree. The bark is first sun dried, to remove natural sap, then soaked in water overnight or longer until the bark is soft and pliable. The next step is to boil the softened bark for several hours to breakdown the fibres. After boiling, a rectanglular screen (sieve) is used to extract the fine saa fibres. The screen is taken outside to sun dry, afterwhich the paper on top is removed and ready for use.
You can find items crafted with saa paper all over Luang Prabang, including albums, cards, lanterns, and even umbrellas. Some of the nicest examples have either whole dried leaves or flowers embedded in the paper itself.
What to pay: Nothing made from saa paper will cost you more than a few dollars.
- Arts and Culture
Buy traditional textiles at the Night Market
A night market is held every evening in Luang Prabang along the main street outside the royal palace. It starts a little before sunset and ends around 10. The sellers are almost exclusively women, and the market caters primarily to tourists. It is very pleasant to stroll up and down the market, and the sales pitches are very low pressure.
What to buy: While you can find cheap t-shirts, jewelry, and other local crafts, the market is predominantly for Lao and hilltribe textiles. Lao weaving is some of the most beautiful in the world, and the night market has an incredibly vast array of textiles in all color and sizes at very reasonable prices.
What to pay: A small silk scarf can be had for as little as US$3-4 and larger pieces for US$6-12. Always haggle for a better price, but do it with a smile.
- Arts and Culture
Night Market: Hit the Market!
A shoppers dream come true. Everything is peddled along the main street everynight in Luang Prabang. Lit up by bright lights you really cannot miss it. It's on about 4pm until about 10pm.
What to buy: Wears include souvenir t-shirts, duvet covers, Lao Lao and dozens of other trinkets!
What to pay: Once you bargain down (you can get them down pretty far if you feel like it) you can expect to get t-shirts for $1-2 US and duvet covers as cheap as $14. The durability maybe be lacking but at these bargain basement prices you really can't go wrong even if it only lasts a year. If you're cheap t-shirts there are thousands to choose from but the printing can be dodgy at times so you may have to sift through many a t-shirt!
Lao Antique Textiles Collection: Antique textiles - the best?
Mr Keomontree Duangbupha is a rather special man, with a rather special textile shop on Sisavangvong Road (Ban Xieng Moune).
Now having a textile shop or stall doesn't not automatically confer 'special status' in Luang Phabang or anywhere else in Laos. Every second shop and market stall is piled high with silks, cottons, hemps and tourists are hoovering up the stuff loike there is no tomorrow.
No. Mr Duangbupha is special because he doesn't sell the textiles. He lets you have one in exchange for payment, but it is obvious that he grieves every time one of his silks or cottons leaves his shop. He genuinely loves the textile art of his country, and he has contributed to books and exhibitions in Laos and abroad.
You do not ask him "How much?" and bargain. You ask "How was this made?" and "Who made it?" and he will tell you. He will tell you where the scarf or blanket or skirt came from, and when, and probably why.
Many of the articles in his museum-cum-gallery are not antique at all. They are recreations of originals (most of which change hands for many thousands of dollars). These recreations are carefully woven in different parts of Laos, usually in the same place as the original.
Thank you, Mr Duangbupha, for demonstrating that there are still young people in this world you care more for art and passion than simple monetary return. He could surely earn far more churning out the most popular designs in local villages and piling them high. Or even by opening a boutique shop such as Satri Silk or like the ones in the big hotels.
For me, the quietly spoken Mr Duanbupha is the icon of a new Laos.
What to buy: The indigo dyed fabric 3m rolls (US$10 each), scarves (from $60 upwards), original pieces (US$200 upwards).
You can buy good hand-made stuff on every market, in every stall, in every shop for a few dollars. But wouldn't you like to have one 'pride of place', one artefact or memory that comes with a true Lao pedigree?
What to pay: Varies
Market: Mae Kong seaweed
Try this seaweed in restaurant before buy it.
They put some garlic then make it dry. Cooking : put into hot pan and eat with sauce.
They have 2 kind of special sauces ., one is spicy with fish ,smell funny!!. . The another one is also spicy ,cooking with buffalo 's skin....
What to buy: In Fresh market near Mong Market.
What to pay: Dry seaweed, 3 pastic wraps with 100 Baht ( around 25,000 Gips)
All around LP you can find souvenir shops, selling mostly:
- Scarves and fabrics
- Antiques (or copies mainly)
- Hand made paper notebooks
- Silver jewelery
- Wooden carvings and wooden boxes
- Paper lamps.
They are all really cheap considering western standars, so if you like this kind of things go for them, and if you have no room, buy a bag, they are cheap too!! :-)
- Budget Travel
There is an interesting night market every day (at least in august) in Sakkarine Rd, the main street, about in front of the Phousit Hill. The road is cut to traffic in those hours.
Here you can find local crafts, paper lamps, fabrics, wooden pieces... don´t forget to bargain!
The stuff is very cheap, I bought 2 scarves for about 2 USD each and a paper lamp for 1 USD. You can get almost any piece here for less than 6 USD. Don't look for real antiques here, just beautiful souvenirs...
- Budget Travel
on the riverside: honey???
first thing you notice in shops and pharmacies is repackaging... how many times you aske d yourself "why do I have to buy 1 kg of pasta if I only need 100g?", "why do I have to buy a box of candies if I'd like one only?"... Laos is the country of repackaging! you can have how much as you like... do you need to wash something? just buy two spoon of TIDE or other soap.
What to buy: if you want to have fun just try to go in a shop, and try to buy some honey (vhonnn or fhonn or bhonn or the three togheter) for your friends sore throat... It took me one hour, but I was offered a tea while trying to understand each other and had a really great time... BTW, the honey was just under my eyes, but so different from what I was used that I wasn't able to recognize it.
By the river: Paintings.
We noticed some stalls selling local paintings along the Mekong near the entrance to Wat Xienthong. Such pictures were also on sale in the night market.
Indoor market hall: Dara Market
This indoor market hall is located on Kitsalat Road. It had some lovely sarongs and silver jewellery.
Outdoor Markets: Browse the markets
LP houses a huge outdoor market with all types of art and craft for sale. Go walking along the narrow gaps between carpets and waste an hour or so.
Dala Market: Clothing market
This covered, modern looking market is located on to the south of Mount Phou Si on the corner of a road junction. It mostly a clothing market for both men and women plus there's a couple of cafes.
Open from dusk until about 11.00pm, this elegant market is a pleasant experience in itself. A good place for shopping Laosian handicrafts, Don´t forget to bargain, it´s expected.
Convenience stores-just about everywhere: Gourmet Potato Chips
Who knew that Lays came in such exotic flavors as Grilled Lobster; Kimchee seaweed; Lemon Zest; and Basil??? I thought America was the land of variety, not Laos.
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