A must-visit destination for travellers interested in intricate handicrafts is Laos. Couture quality textiles, jewellery, home-furnishings, crafts, arts, and silks are certain to be dominating the markets. While a lot of the merchandise is imported from neighbouring Thailand, there are still plenty of items that are unique to the country, such as the goods hand-made by the local hill tribe people. By buying the local goods, such as the carvings and silks, the travellers on the Laos private tour are able to help the fragile and still-growing economy.
Luang Prabang is likely to be the best place to shop in Laos because it has the greatest selection of locally produced items. A visit to the capital city, Vientiane gives plenty of choice when it comes to shopping, but the range of local goods is a lot more limited.
Laos is similar to most other South East Asian countries and produces a high-quality selection of hand-made textiles and silk. Natural materials (wild silk) are used during the production process and the locals completely rely on traditional methods with no need to use machines, which means the finished produce is naturally beautiful and quite unrefined. Most of the regions that produce silk have their own techniques to give the most unique and distinct look.
Beyond visiting a traditional silk village, there are plenty of great places to buy the hand-made textiles including in Luang Prabang with a variety of shops that support local artisans. The cost of the local silk is quite affordable. Plus, it is possible to see first-hand the process of weaving the silk with the traditional techniques pass down over generations. A great place to experience this on the Laos holiday is authentic stops in Ban Xang Khong Village, which is a short distance from Luang Prabang.
Locally produced and hand-made items include shawls, headscarves, shoulder bags and sarongs.
One of the most appealing things to look for while exploring the shops and markets in Laos is silver. The local silver workers continue to use traditional tools and methods for crafting the different pieces.
The majority of the silver pieces are designed with Buddhist art, legends and Lao mythology in mind. A great place to buy the silver jewelery is at the Luang Prabang night market, which has plenty of hand-made and skilfully produced earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
Plus, the purity of the silver sold in Laos is at a high 95%, which compares favourably to neighbouring Thailand at 92.5%, and in Laos it is a lot cheaper. Buying the Laotian silver is certain to appeal to the discerning shoppers and makes a great investment. The best place to visit for the real deal is the Hmong Market in Vientiane. Even though most markets will offer pieces of silver jewelery, rarely will the general markets have the real thing.
Wood carving is seeing a great revival in Laos with Luang Prabang one of the best places to visit for the finest offerings. Most of the sculptural art is influenced by Buddhism and the skilled locals create a varied range of Buddha images.
Most of the carved wooded pieces are just as masterly crafted as the old and traditional pieces that are a lot more expensive and regarded as antiques. In addition to Luang Prabang, other useful places to visit on the Laos travel for the finest carved Buddha’s are Vientiane and Pakse. Also look for the Buddha with a serene facial expression, which is believed to bring the most luck.
Lao has a fine tradition for making ceramic pottery with a great number of villages that solely invest their time on creating these clay-based objects. Most of the pottery in Laos is produced by the women with the local techniques and methods passed from generation to generation.
The pottery created in most villages can consist of tiles, daily wares such as pots, religious art forms and urns. Every item is produced to a high standard and takes several days to complete with its time-consuming process of mixing, moulding and drying.
A great place to shop for the local traditional pottery on the Laos tour packages is in the small villages. Visitors to a place like Luang Prabang will have easy access to several nearby villages that create the high-quality pieces that help to support their community. By buying the items in the villages it is possible to not only invest in a great gift or souvenir, but also support the trade in the Laotian countryside.
An essential ware to the mountain villagers’ life is the items created in naturally grown bamboo. This material is perfect for a number of household items, such as baskets and mats, and it is very strong, light and relatively cheap. Plus, the supple nature of bamboo makes it very flexible to use in a wide range of situations.
The most common bamboo item seen is by far the basket which can make a great low-cost souvenir for family or friends at home. A great place to visit to see a traditional basket-weaving workshop is close to Luang Prabang, while the markets in town have a fine range of authentic bamboo items to buy.
Laos is a perfect destination for a delicious brew of coffee with this part of South East Asia regarded as the unofficial coffee epicentre. One of the major cultural exports in the country is coffee with a vast majority (nearly 95%) of the coffee beans harvested in the Bolaven Plateau. Most of the exported coffee beans are Robusta, but a sweeter taste is preferred within the country, and coffee shops and similar serve the sweeter Arabica brew.
A simple and convenient gift idea is the local Laotian coffee beans and any visitor to the southern part of the country on the Laos family tour can explore the Bolaven Plateau which makes a stunning place to spend a day or so. Whether you favour the heartier Robusta or sweeter Arabica beans, this is a perfect place to stock up on a few bags of coffee beans.