What to take home....?

Gifts and souvenirs from Vietnam
Most visitors like to take souvenirs and gifts with them when they go home. The following suggestions are ‘very Vietnamese’, but not too heavy or bulky. We can provide advice, and assist you to get what you want at a fair price. Your guide will also be a good source of information.

Good quality Vietnamese tea:
This can be bought in specialist shops in the large cities. A kilogramme of top-quality tea costs around $8.00 US if lightly flavoured with flower or herb ‘essence’, or about $5.00 US without flavouring.

Good quality 'Trung Nguyen' Vietnamese coffee
A kilogramme of top-notch Robusta coffee beans from Trung Nguyen (the Central Highlands) costs around $4.00 US. Arabica will be more expensive. An unusual present would be some ‘Weasel Coffee', but it is advisable to tell the recipient how it is produced after he or she has experienced its mellow taste (check the 'Eating and Drinking' page if you haven't already done so!)

Ethnic scarves, garments, etc.
Items made by members of Vietnam’s many ethnic groups make excellent and inexpensive souvenirs and presents. They are available from shops in the tourist areas of cities, and from towns near communities of ethnic people. However, ethnic products have usually been bought at low prices by intermediaries, denying the producers a fair price for their work. We recommend buying direct from the producers wherever possible.

As a rough guide, a reasonable amount to pay for a woven scarf should be from $2.00 US upwards, depending on the complexity of pattern and design. A garment, such as a woven, embroidered or appliquéd jacket, should cost from $15.00 US upwards. Natural dyes are often used, so colours should be fixed before washing.

Vietnamese lacquerware
Lacquerware is a long-standing Vietnamese tradition. Usually applied to a pâpier maché object, it is both light and durable. It is also an artwork technique. Prices for lacquerware articles begin at $1.00 US for a small dish, $3.00 US for a large dish, $10 for a set of table mats, and so on. However, the quality of lacquerware depends upon the number or processes used – good quality products are expensive. A wide range of lacquerware, and lacquer artwork and objects, are available in souvenir shops and galleries in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Larger items such as ornaments and furniture are good value – we can arrange for them to be shipped to customers’ home addresses.

Ceramics and pottery
Products vary from high-quality porcelain to simple fired clay objects, and the range is enormous. As an indication of prices, a good quality plate from Bat Trang Village costs about $2.00 US and a café cup about $1.00 US. Small tea sets make good presents.

Hand-embroidered items are good value and excellent souvenirs. Prices vary according to detail and the quality of the base material. A good pair of pillow cases or a set of bed linen, both on a white cotton base, should cost around $6.00 US and $25.00 US respectively.

Vietnamese silk
Genuine Vietnamese silk is mainly muted in colour – bright colours are often indicative of Chinese imports or synthetic fibres. Quality varies widely. Prices for reasonable quality silk begin at about $3.00 per metre for 90cm wide material.

You'll find a huge range of paintings in oils, water colours, lacquerware and just about any other conceivable media. Styles are equally eclectic, not only ‘western’ derivatives, but also an emerging Vietnamese genre. You'll also come across studies where several artists make copies of famous paintings ranging from Leonardo da Vinci to Salvador Dali and everything between. Prices are what you're prepared to pay – negotiating a price is de rigour.

There are plenty of jewellery shops in the large cities offering a bewildering array of gemstones, both genuine and fake. Pearls, both fresh and saltwater, are common – the latter are mostly farmed. Amethyst, aquamarine, corundum, jade, peridot, ruby, spinel, sapphires, and topaz are also on sale.

Unless you're an expert, detecting the genuine article is very difficult – a fancy western-style showroom doesn't mean you're less likely to be sold a pup. If it’s a good price, and you like it, go for it – it’s doubtful anyone else will know the difference, anyway.

However, if you want to know more, try this web site (http://www.business-in-asia.com/jewelry.html)

The same caveats as those for gemstones apply to antiques – it’s almost impossible for a layperson to distinguish the real McCoy. However, realising that Vietnam’s historical treasures were haemorrhaging out of the country at an alarming rate, the government has slapped a blanket ban on exporting anything more than a hundred years old. Customs officers are present at airports, but they are not experts. Consequently, anything that looks old, be it fake or genuine, is highly likely to be confiscated.

It’s probably wise to avoid ‘antiques’. However, there are several workshops making high-quality traditional furniture. It’s not cheap, but it’s a fraction of what you'd pay if it were on sale in your own country. The wood used is very heavy, but shipping charges are based upon volume, so exporting is reasonably straightforward. We can assist if you're interested.

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