Being a tourist destination, there are lots of cheap souvenirs and local handicrafts from the local ethnic minority people to choose from. Once you step out of your hotel, the women will start approaching you to buy them (and they can be very persistent especially the Hmong women). Some of them are very savvy and can speak good English. There are also lots of stores at the Sapa market as well as some of the villages during your trekking e.g. Cat Cat Village. The important thing is to bargain, and they are likely to reduce the price abour 20-50% depending on your bargaining skills.
The Montagnards have not learned to set the dye in their material…so if your buying their brightly colored clothing or scarves don’t get caught in the rain wearing it and make sure you laundry it by itself!
What to buy: The hill tribe people are known for their intricate embroidery, so if you don’t want to buy their material you can give them something you already own to embroidery.
The pictures below are of our guides trying to wash the blue stain from their legs after their leg wraps go wet (the girls wore skirts and dress type outfits and then wrapped their legs in the cloth)
Many of the local women sell their traditional clothes, bracelets, jewelry and souvenir in the main market daily and more during weekends when larger number of foreign and local tourists arrive.
What to buy: Different tribes have different design. Hemp are used and indigo for natural coloring. Be careful of color running during wash.
What to pay: Some bargaining is expected. To more you buy, the more discount you can get. If not sure, shop around before deciding what is the best price. Do check as quality and intricacy of design can vary.