So, you’ve had an amazing break in Hanoi, and want to take something back to remember. But where can you go to avoid the tourist traps dealing in overpriced tat and cliched holiday mementos? We’ve done the leg work and found where to source original, sustainable and more memorable reminders of your trip to Vietnam’s capital.
Not only does Zó Project sells beautiful stationery, it doubles as a social enterprise. Here you can find notebooks, calendars and prints made from traditional Dó paper made by artisans from Northern Vietnam. They shred, beat and dry the pulp from Dó trees to make the creamy sheets of paper that can take up to three months to craft. In imperial Vietnam, calligraphy was written on Dó sheets but the handmade paper has since fallen out of popularity with the rise of industrial paper. Zó Project supports the livelihood of artisans who continue to make this traditional Vietnamese craft with their modern designs and creative art.
This little boutique carries an eclectic selection of contemporary Vietnamese art and artisanal goods carefully selected by the owners. A little pricier than souvenirs you can pick up at a street shop, Collective Memory is for shoppers looking for elevated Vietnamese mementoes. A 100-year-old spicy sauce from Hue, Ethnic K’ho coffee bean from Da Lat, and natural beauty products from Ho Chi Minh City, are just some of the exciting goods on display. It’s also a great place to pick up original prints made by upcoming Vietnamese artists. Look for poster art featuring Tiger Balm, delicious Vietnamese dishes and maps of Hanoi’s best-known neighbourhoods.
On a street parallel to St Joseph’s Cathedral are two unassuming stalls sitting next to each other selling a wide selection of lanterns at a bargain price. There you can find traditional typical Hoi An silk lanterns, as well as paper lanterns, bamboo rattan or textile lampshades. Look out for lighting paraphernalia covered in floral green and red material, a pattern widely distributed by the Vietnamese government during the subsidy period in the 80s, and recently made popular by Hanoi’s Cong Ca Phe chain whose interior furniture is covered in this cloth.
The bold block colours and sharp simple lines make Vietnamese propaganda posters a striking art piece. Although you may not agree with the message, the aesthetic value of the posters is undeniable. Old Propaganda is one of the many shops that sell this type of communist memorabilia in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The wide selection of prints organised by category makes it a local favourite. Quickly scan through posters featuring women soldiers, revolutionary leaders or agricultural activities, and select your favourite replicas of real-life posters dating from the Vietnam War.
By shopping at Craft Link, you’re part of a chain that promotes sustainable craft products in Vietnam. The social enterprise works directly with ethnic minority groups, disadvantaged communities or craft villages to ensure a fair wage to all their artisans. Enjoy a selection of traditional handmade crafts coming from remote areas of Vietnam, like a framed H’Mong embroidery, a lacquer Ha Tay vase, or a piece of Bac Ninh bamboo furniture.
This social enterprise started by dentist Thanh Truong has a simple mandate: support women that make beautiful quilts. Some 200 women from rural communities, mostly from the Mekong region, are paid a fair trade wage to make original patchwork for this shop. A fresh take on Vietnamese folk art and batik patterns ornate the intricate bed covers and household items sold at Mekong Quilts.
This essential oils and fragrance boutique has a minimalist chic interior and serves delicious coffee on one of the Old Quarter’s most hip streets. The scents come from plants and spices grown in Vietnam and chosen for their unique medicinal properties. Aromatic spays, diffusers and candles have all been curated to create specific moods in the comfort of your own home. While you burn your Snug candle or diffuse your Breezy essential oils to relax, maybe it will also serve as a reminder of Vietnam.
Bat Trang ceramic craft village, just on the outskirts of Hanoi, enjoys an international reputation for its premium quality handmade products shipped to Japan, Europe and North America. Cerender Ceramics offers world-class pottery from Bat Trang with a playful twist. The collection of quirky homewares goods comes in all shapes and sizes with cool paint coatings featuring futuristic animals and absurdist art. The pottery in this shop manages to be minimalist with their trademark grainy white glaze, and spunky, all at once. Come here to find mugs, bowls and plates you never knew you needed.
This French-owned boutique completely dedicated to all thing cacao takes chocolate very seriously. The beans come from Southern Vietnam, making this place one of the few specialised chocolate boutiques in the country – Marou chocolate bars are sold everywhere, from airports to little shops. There is something special though, about selecting your Marou chocolate directly from the source. On location, you can see how the fine chocolate is made and taste a Marou chocolate drink. On special occasion like the Tết holiday (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) Marou put a spin on speciality drinks with a Pho hot cocoa.
This unassuming shop in the French Quarter carries colourful leather goods made by the Vietnamese designer Nguyen Mai Phuong. Inspired by the clean lines and boyish cuts of Japanese aesthetics, walking through this store is like being transported into a little world of her creation. Each item is made only once, except for the garments that are made in three different sizes, meaning that you’ll come across entirely unique souvenirs in this store. Hipsters and alternative crowds love the elegant functionality Mai brings to every piece.
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