You can find Vietnamese lacquerware in any markets around Vietnam. These lacquerware can take three months to produce. Inlaid within these lacquerware are usually eggshells (Not chicken egg as the shell is too hard), bones, mother-of-pearl, etc.
Jac and I stopped by a Handicapped Handicraft Centre where the workers there were victims of the Vietnam War. Some have lost the use of their legs or hands. But they are still working hard in these centres.
You might want to visit these centres to understand the process of making these lacquerware.
What to buy: Different lacquerware from wall decorations, to bowls and coasters. The cost of buying lacquerware at these Handicapped Handicraft is a lot steeper than let's say Ben Thanh Market.
But if you're into supporting a good cause, please feel free to buy from them.
What to pay: You can get a four panel lacquerware at about USD 200.
There're just so many shops and roadside stalls that you can check out along Le Loi St. From Paintings to food and even pirated copies of various book titles.
What to buy: Jac and I were looking for little gifts for both sets of our colleagues. We came upon this roadside stall that sells nice magnet figurine. Well, Jac and I went hard into bargain mode which in the end, the lady relented as we purchased more than 30 smal figurines from her. Ask for new stock as some of these figurines may have een displayed for awhile and do not fall for her "only one" ploy as she would rather sell you the current stock than to run across the road to pick up more stock.
We also bought animal-shaped magnets like spider, whale, etc for my little girl that we didn't bring along for this trip.
What to pay: 7,000VND for a man and woman figurine
Being a dedicated Mac user for as long as computers could do anything useful, this shop is essential for my sanity. Hardware prices can't compare to Thailand or Singapore, but they are good at diagnostics, repair and maintanence, or if your like me and must have the latest mac whatever the price.
Tax is a major department store located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh city on the corner almost opposite the Rex hotel. It has many "stalls" of jewellery items including rings, bracelets,necklaces and errings. It also sells other items that you would find in any other department store. Prices seems reasonable.
Locally hand-made guitars from as little as US$28, although have been told that the ones at $60 sound a little better. Also sells string etc for any traveling musso that twanged to hard. Also sell mandolins for about 3 million dong.
This is not really a shop and probably be put in warnings section. Simple piece of advice: there are no geniune war period Zippos on sale in Vietnam any more, anything that you might be (and probably will be) offered by street vendors and shops will be fake, it might look like the real thing, as some clever boys have taken to buying real Zippos, engraving and burying them in the ground for a month or so.
Just got this from the chief rep of Zippo Vietnam.
There are tons of Art reproduction shops around Pham Ngu Lao (backpacker area). I bought a Diego Rivera painting for about $40 from this store (see attached busines card photo). I have also bought paintings from Minh (owner) since i came home and find her to be very reliable and very talented.
What to buy: Bring a good quality A4 copy of a painting from home including details of it's size and medium.
What to pay: Very resonable. I bought a approx 1M sq oil on canvas for €85 including shipping to Ireland but i guess the cost depends on the complexity of the painting.
What to buy:
(last date visited - Dec. 25, 2004)
1. Vietnamese Traditional Dress - 50,000 dong
2. Embroidered pictures -
a) 2 @ 6 US $ = 12 US $
b) 3 @ 3 US $ = 9 US $
- bargain with them
3. Shirts - 2 @ 20,000 dong = 40,000 dong
4. Gohyah Tea - 10,000 dong
5. Tra Caphe - 5 pcs - 40,000 dong
6. Key chains - 2 @ 5,000 dong - 10,000 dong
7. tray cay say - 5 pcs @ 14,000 dong = 70,000 dong
Dirt cheap for funny flip flops.
Funny color. Unique. You can also get Shirts, shorts...
But be careful for Over Pricing
What to pay: Got this for 20,000 Vmd ie US1.25 (at 16,000Vmd@US$1)
Ok I'm not absolutely sure of the name of the shop, but its a small photo processing place and laundry joint on the corner down the street from the Liberty 3 Hotel and between Saicombank. Its run by a nice young Vietnamese man named Quan. Here you can get your photos processed the same day for a fraction of the price that you would pay in the US. Also they place the photos after processing in nice paper photo albums. Furthermore they also provide CD services for photos as well. Film is also available here for cheap about 36000 dong (which is about $2.25 US) for a 36 roll of Fuji 400 Film.
In terms of laundry, Quan washes them per kilo. I can't remember the exact price per kilo anymore but for a large superload of laundry that you would do in the States cost maybe $2 US and this is folded and washed and dried. Also Quan was able to get all kinds of stains out of my clothes, including the red dust that you get on your clothes from the Cu Chi Tunnels. I do advise though that if you have clothes that are delicate or will bleed, not to take them to Quan. He basically places whatever pile of clothes you give him all together in the same load. No separation of colors, you have to do that yourself.
And to top it off Quan also has motorbike rental either by yourself or on the back of an experienced driver. Quan is so sweet he makes sure that you won't get ripped off in the rental prices. The typical fare for a motorbike was about 10000 dong to go from the Liberty 3 Hotel to the Sheraton which was maybe 3 miles. I know my father had paid 100,000 dong for the same ride because he didn't know better.
What to buy: -laundry per kilo
You don't know well about HCMC if you don't come to Ben Thanh market, the symbol of this city, at least 1 time. It is the most famost shopping area in city center where you can find any local items you like, from clothing, shoes, bags, wood carvings, lacquerware, food... which are sold at more than 3,000 stalls of various sizes. Price may be a bit higher than other places but you can be confident that you buy the best.
Vendors in this market can speak English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and many other languagues, of course it is pidgin, but they can communicate with you anyway. If you stop by a stall where vendors can speak Vietnamese only, don't worry. You can use your poor Vietnamese language or body language with them, it's fun :)
What to pay: Never buy right after they offer you a price if you dont want to buy at unfair price. Bargain! Price can sometimes be dropped down to half or even 1/3 only.
Well, we didn't buy any paintings during our trip to HCMC, but we did pass by quite a number of shops where they sell paintings. They do replicas of famous art pieces, eg. those Andy Warhol stuff, Da Vinci, etc...and some local themes (women in those conical hats). I think you can also show them your fave photos and get them to do a painting for you. However, as I had no intention of buying, I didn't ask about the price. You can find these shops in the Dong Khoi area.
What to buy:
This pretty embroidered tissue-box cover is a steal at just about 25,000 VND! You can find them being sold everywhere.
We also bought some cute little embroidered pouches for our friends. They can be used for potpourri, etc. Very sweet. Each one cost around 6,000 VND, which converts to around 60 cents (Singapore dollar).
What to buy: We bought foodstuffs and coffee to distribute to our families and friends. This package consists of coffee powder and a strainer (for drinking the drip-coffee). It doesn't cost much, just 1-2 Singapore dollars. You can find this everywhere, from Ben Thanh Market to marts. They come in different flavours - vanilla, hazelnut, weasel (!!!) etc.
What to buy: Vietnam is a good place to buy lacquerware, pottery and cermics. We bought this cute little teapot and cups set (in a shopping centre) for just 100,000 VND, which is about 10 SGD. The seller did not have boxes, but she wrapped each piece individually in layers of bubble wrap and newspapers.
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