Vietnam is a culturally rich country and a great place to collect mementos. What is Vietnam famous for? We have lots of wonderful Vietnamese souvenirs, some from historical places, some handmade by us in craft workshops, some bought in markets or in souvenirs shops. In this post, we share with you the best souvenirs to buy in Vietnam and where to buy them.
What to buy in Vietnam
Paintings are the best Vietnam Souvenirs
Paintings are one of the most popular things to buy in Vietnam. Galleries have a vast range, in both traditional and imaginative styles and depicting everything from local scenes and activities through re-interpretations of popular images, to completely innovative works. They come in all sizes and we found that a large canvas was instantly disassembled rolled and packed for easy travel. (It was also easy to reassemble without damage at home) We got a small modern interpretation of traditional boats at a gallery in Saigon and a large canvas of a dancer in Hanoi from D&C Art Gallery. These are two of our favourite pictures even now. They were both surprisingly cheap. The larger one cost considerably less than we paid to have it reframed after we arrived home. For us, it was the best souvenir from Vietnam.
Sometimes the sun in Vietnam can be unforgiving, and that is why you may need a conical hat. Conical hats are also called leaf hats or Non La by the locals and it is a widely known symbol of Vietnam, which can even be seen on images 3,000 years old. The conical hat is a palm leaf hat that is handwoven. These souvenirs also serve as umbrellas during the rain. Conical hats in Vietnam are associated with the lives of farmers on rice paddies and men and women who ride boats in the rivers. Today, the hat is worn as an accessory when attending festivals and pagodas in the country. When we visited the Mekong Delta, the sun was scorching, so we got ours there.
Personalised Stamps and Stamped Art
You will find hundreds of local people in the streets of Hanoi carving traditional Vietnamese and modern wooden stamps. Our Twins Tania got one depicting a pirate skull with her name on it while Zoe had a tiger and I received one with a perfect representation of the logo I used as a photographer.
You can also get postcards with stamped art. They are made from the bark of a Do tree found on the riverbanks in Vietnam. Do Paper was a precursor of modern paper and today, it is used for Hanoi’s ethnic personalized stamped postcards, folk paintings, and watercolours. Zoe has a bamboo-bound notebook.
Coffee and coffee drip apparatus
Vietnamese coffee is known all around the world especially due to its drip preparation, and you will find it prepared with added egg and condensed milk. Vietnamese Coffee is predominantly Robusta, which contains a higher concentration of caffeine than Arabica and tastes quite bitter. The best thing yet is that after enjoying the famous coffee, you can purchase it as a souvenir to bring back home. You can buy the Vietnamese coffee drip and recipe to enjoy this famous coffee lifestyle at home.
There are many souvenir shops in Hanoi where you can buy both Vietnamese coffee and filter equipment, including Le Van Huu Street, In the Old quarter area, and at Oriberry Coffee 25 Xuan Dieu.
Vietnamese tea is a favorite beverage for many locals. In the old days, drinking tea was usually accompanied by cultural activities with friends and family, appreciating nature, painting calligraphy or composing a poem. The common varieties in Vietnam are plain black tea, green tea, and scented tea. And you can also buy them for your friends and family back home from your travel.
Packs of round spring-roll Rice papers must be the easiest souvenir to pack for the trip home! They come in two categories; soft rice paper which can be easily rolled; and rigid, which must be moistened before being used. I am sorry to say ours remain in the kitchen drawer despite my best intentions of recreating spring rolls at home!
Peppercorns from Phu Quoc Island
The Peppercorn comes from a flowering vine after drying the fruit. There are four different types of peppercorn in Phu Quoc; the black pepper, red pepper, green pepper, and white pepper. We visited peppercorn farm while on family holiday in Phu Quoc. Phu Quoc Island is one of the major sources of black pepper in the world market, so quite possibly, the peppercorns you buy in the supermarket at home will be the brothers and sisters of those in your Vietnamese gift pack.
How will people know you visited Vietnam? Chopsticks are one of the best local souvenirs from this southeastern Asian country. They are small, light, and come in a wide variety of designs and some in decorative cases of various materials.
This is not a euphemism; Snake Wine is exactly what it sounds. When you visit On Trieu Viet Vuong or Pho Hue Street, or Mai Hac De, snake wine is served in bottles of medicinal rice with dead cobras, sea horse, scorpion, or lizard. According to the Vietnamese culture, this traditional wine “makes a man strong.” Our man resisted the temptation but perhaps yours is braver?
Silk sleeping bag
Touring Vietnam involves numerous road trips which can be tiresome. But the perfect remedy – silk sleeping bag. We got these bags during our time in Vietnam and we still love using them. Silk sleeping bags are perfect for when it is hot, for example on a night bus trip in Vietnam. The ones we bought were cheap imitation silk and very comfortable.
Lanterns are a must-have souvenir in Vietnam. They are colourful, beautiful and useful. We got ours while visiting Hoi An with kids. Girls handmade their lanterns at a workshop. The traditional lantern is made from silk stretched over a frame of bamboo laths. Lanterns are an integral part of Hoi An tradition, introduced to the port town by Chinese immigrants in the 16th century.
A paper and bamboo fan is a familiar item used by the Vietnamese in their daily lives. It is considered one of the eight essential cultural items that all Vietnamese should possess. Traditional hand fans are made from strong bamboo and silk or paper, and they are used for ornamental as well as fanning purposes or in the traditional fan dance – where the fans may be as big as 60x30cm
What makes traditional Vietnamese fans such a great souvenir is that not only are they decorative and artistic but also great fun to play with and use. The Vietnamese village of Thach near Hanoi is famous from making special paper fans as well as bamboo dragonflies.
Guoc Moc – Wooden clogs
Guoc Moc is traditional footwear for men and women in Vietnam. It is basically a wooden clog – flip flop which were traditionally worn with Ao Dai. Wooden clogs are consider to as a part of National dress, but as far as we remember, wooden soled open sandals were all the rage in the UK in the seventies. Now not as popular, as no-one in the west is wearing wooden clogs today, but who knows? Put a pair on your shopping list and maybe restart the craze!
Bamboo Dragonflys are made specifically in Thach Xa Bamboo Dragonfly Village near Hanoi. Kids can play with them by balancing them their fingertips or nose. Bamboo Dragonflies are perhaps the only souvenir you can find in Vietnam and nowhere else. We have several of them precariously balanced on the edges of our bookshelves at home.
Pop-up paper cards
Pop-up cards are one of the most popular souvenirs to buy in Vietnam. We saw several collections of them on the Streets of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Some of them are fantastically intricate – it’s difficult to work out how they erect themselves and then fold away again. These are souvenirs which it’s better to buy from street vendors rather from souvenir shops
Personalised Rice Grain Necklace
Yes, you can get a necklace with your name written in rice grains! Another gift which promises to be perfectly portable. while you are on the market you can choose a neckles or key chain out of the …..
Sand painting is a modern art form in Vietnam with a history of just a few years, but it has fast-gained vast popularity among both locals and visitors. It is the art of pouring colored sands mixed with natural or synthetic pigments into bottles or other transparent containers.
Dehydrated Jack fruit
This is the perfect instant snack in the streets of Vietnam and one of the most common fruits loved by tourists as well as locals. While they have spiky crusts and abnormal shape, jackfruits have a sweet smell and delicious flesh perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Vietnam is a great place to buy hand embroidery souvenirs in terms of quality, price, and selection. Embroidered products you can find in Vietnam include placemats, napkins, pillowcases, bed throws, cosmetic bags, quilts, bedsheets, table runners, nightdresses, lingerie, and many more.
Currently, Village Nha Trang is a center of Vietnam embroidery.
Lacquerware products have been made in Vietnam for a long time. There are many types of lacquerware products you can buy here including decorative ornaments for your house or place of worship. These are typically handcrafted items with decorative paintwork often on a black background. This is overlaid with shiny lacquers. You can find these products cheaply in villages like Nam Dinh Province and Ha Thia Traditional Lacquer in Hanoi.
Knock off products
Cites around Vietnam have numerous shopping malls where you can buy the finest products at knockoff prices. You can even get your hands on fake luxury brand products such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci without spending a fortune. We got ourselves waterproof jackets and backpacks which we use now.
Vietnam has a huge collection of both cheesy and fun T-shirts to buy for yourself as well as to take home for family and friends. You can find tee-shirts with national icons, funny graphics, knock-off logos or witty text in the night markets in Saigon and Hanoi not to mention any number of little shops everywhere.
Tailored Clothing and Shoes
You can get customized clothes and shoes made for you in Vietnam to commemorate your trip. There are many places you can get this done for you including Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City. You can anything from a silk suit to a pencil skirt made to measure in a day or two.
The best place to buy good quality silk in Vietnam is Van Phuc Village located in the suburbs of Hanoi. In Van Phuc Village you can choose silk, buy it and later use it to order an outfit for yourself.
The price for silk oscillates around $3 per square meter.
Traditional Ao Dai
Believed to have been inspired by the imperial Chinese of the Qing Dynasty. Ao Dai is widely recognized as a national garment for both genders but is worn by ladies mostly these days. The Ao Dai traditional dress is a tight-fitting long dress usually worn over leggings. The garment has evolved over the years but is still the most popular cultural item in Vietnam.
I wanted to buy Ao Dai but I had too broad shoulder to fit in one – oops.
Posters depicting Communist Propaganda or classic Movie titles can be found in every corner of Hanoi. You can use them to decorate your walls back home. We bought quite a lot of movie posters – in fact, we can’t find space to hang them all!
Coconut candy from Ben Tre
Coconut candy comprises a variety of sweets made with coconut or flavoured with it. The most famous, keo dura coconut candy is produced in Ben Tre province. It is usually made with coconut milk and coconut cream. Ben Tre is known in Vietnam as the Land of Coconut or Xu Dua.
Pearls are found predominantly in Ha Long Bay and visitors to this beautiful spot can see first-hand the process of raising oysters to obtain pearls. They are popular gifts and one of the most authentic souvenirs of Vietnam. It’s not surprising as the country is among the largest pearl producers in the world. We also saw how beautiful pearl neckless are made during our trip from Hue to Hoi An
This is arguably one of the best things to buy in Vietnam – handcrafted musical instruments. The instruments range from bamboo flutes, miniature bamboo xylophone, to mini T’rung. The famous location where you can get authentic traditional musical instruments is Guitar Street, Hanoi.
Hand made soft toys
In souvenirs stores in Hanoi, you can find beautiful hand made soft toys. Our girls couldn’t stop touching them and of course, want to buy them all. Each of them different and unique.
Vietnam Souvenirs – Conclusion
What are good Souvenirs from Vietnam? Well – pretty well anywhere you go, you will find traditional and modern souvenirs, both cheap and of good quality. You can buy them everywhere: in shops, in souvenirs stores, on the markets and from street vendors. We brought with us lots of souvenirs and we have no regrets. Vietnamese souvenirs are good value, easy to travel with, and retain the joy of our travel in Vietnam, long after our return home.