Date Links: Sun 29/05 │ Mon 30/05 & Thur 02/06 │ Fri 03/06
Hanoi is a fine place to shop for silk, silver, lacquerware, embroidered goods, and ethnic-minority crafts. Silk is good quality and an easy buy. (If you're unsure of the quality, pluck a few strands and burn the fibers; if it smells like burnt hair, it's silk.) Shops will tailor a suit in as little 24 hours, but allow extra time for alterations. Many of the shops are clustered along Hang Gai Street, whose name translates as Hemp Rope Street. It once housed ship-rigging shops but is now unofficially called Silk Street. A silk suit here will run from about $35 to $75 (£19-£42), depending on the silk, and a blouse or shirt will cost $15 to $20 (£8.35-£11). Virtually every shop takes credit cards (MasterCard and Visa). Bargain hard for all but the silk; offer 50% of the asking price and end up paying 70% or so.
A few others to try: Thanh Ha Silk, 114 Hang Gai St. (tel. 04/928-5348), and Mavena Hanoi, 28 Nha Chung (tel. 04/828-5542). F Silk at 82 Hang Gai St. (tel. 94/928-6786), has a fine line of silk ready-to-wear.
For decorative items and souvenirs, look to the streets surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake. A good place to start is Nha Tho Street, also called "Church Street," as it terminates in the town's largest cathedral. Here you'll find silk and houseware designers in and among quiet cafes. Delta Deco (12 Nha Tho St.; tel. 04-828-9616), a large dealer of lacquerware and fine furnishings, is a popular choice. Its Chinese-influenced modern designs are especially attractive. Also on Nha Tho, look for Indochine House (13 Nha Tho St.; tel. 04-824-8071), which carries a good selection of handicrafts and souvenirs. The area all around the lake is lined with budget souvenir shops offering the likes of lacquer painting of the French cartoon character Tin Tin and carvings and trinkets. Other outlets are listed.
For silver, antique oddities, and traditional crafts, try Hong Hoa, on 18 Ngo Quyen St. (tel. 04/826-8341). Giai Dieu, 82 Hang Gai St. (tel. 04/826-0222; also at 93 Ba Trieu St.), has interesting lacquer paintings and decorative items.
For fine ceramics, look to Quang's Ceramics, at 95 Ba Trieu St. (tel. 04/945-4235), in the Old Quarter. Wood, stone, and brass lacquer reproduction sculptures of religious icons are at KAF Traditional Sculptures and Art Accessories, 31B Ba Trieu St. (tel. 04/822-0022).
Dong Xuan Market is the city's largest traditional market and a highlight of a visit to the Old Quarter. A massive indoor pavilion is surrounded by streets teeming with sellers day and night (early morning is best to visit). Find lots of Chinese knockoff goods, produce, and stuff for everyday use in homes -- but there are plenty of neat trinket shops tucked down the narrow lanes of this maze of commerce, and just the experience of walking around (or photographing the chaos) is a reason to visit.
Cho 19-12 (the 19-12 Market) is one of Hanoi's most interesting markets. Just west and in the shadow of the Melia hotel, you'll find this labyrinth of local goods, produce, and oddities. On the south end of the market near the main entrance is the "whole roasted dog" aisle with crispy Fidos stacked one atop the other. A bit of a shock really. In the heart of the market are all kinds of che (Vietnamese custard) shops and local food stalls, as well as meat and produce stands. You won't be able to get over all the dogs here.Ho
Cocoon - The contemporary designs in this smart and charming little shop are quite striking. Silk garments for women are the mainstay, and these typically update traditional Vietnamese motifs. Many of the pant-and-shirt ensembles feature jazzed-up patterns and florid colours and convey the fluid beauty of the ao dai (Vietnamese national dress) without the formality. Original jewellery is also sold here for very little money.
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