Popular souvenirs from Laos include handicrafts and textiles. One of the largest and best markets in Vientiane is Talaat Sao where you can get everything from electrical goods, fabrics, silverware, gems and gold. Local markets and minority villages are a good place to shop at bargain prices, while cities and towns also have larger tourist markets and shops that offer a wide range of local handicrafts from around the country.
The art of weaving is still very much a home industry in Laos, where some of the finest silk and cotton weavers in the world ply their trade in the smallest of communities. Antique woven pieces are still available but are becoming increasingly rare, often fetching very high prices.
Hand woven textiles are made from locally produced silk and cotton, and traditional designs and patterns vary from province to province. Saa paper is made from the mulberry tree and its bark. Like many things in Laos, it is made by hand and is very labour intensive. However the results are intricately layered sheets of paper produced to make photo albums, notebooks, paper and envelope sets.
The crafting of gold and silver jewellery is another skill of which the Lao people excel. Many of the best examples of silver jewellery come from the hill tribes, including chunky bangles, pendants, belts and earrings. In more remote areas the language barrier can restrict negotiations!
How to bargain in Laos
The general rule for bargaining in Laos is that if it has a price tag, it is probably not up for negotiation. Restaurants, hotels and supermarkets are usually off-limits whereas street vendors and markets are absolutely fine. Once you and the vendor have come to an agreement on a price you should then go through with the transaction. It is very poor form to spend all that time haggling and then decide that actually you don’t want it anymore. Also make sure that you stay polite and friendly throughout the entire interaction.