Make Your Souvenir Shopping Count
Most travelers want their holiday to last forever. Unfortunately, at some point it is time to return back home. Many of your travelers can relate to the idea of bringing home a nice present or souvenir, be it for a loved one or themselves, as a great way to remember their time spent in Southeast Asia.
Certainly your travelers consider many aspects before purchasing any souvenir such as the size, the price or the weight. But what many visitors neglect while looking for suitable souvenirs is a consideration for where a particular handicraft or sale item was produced. Many souvenir items on sale in the shops and markets of Laos may contain endangered wildlife products or are produced under unethical labor conditions.
Khiri Travel Laos believes that bringing wildlife products or culturally sensitive souvenirs out of the country is irresponsible. Rather, we promote responsible shopping for authentic goods that foster sustainable jobs in the local economy.
We would like to share the following responsible shopping tips with your clients:
1. What to Buy
Handicrafts are especially handy and available in various sizes, price and quality. Good quality silk weavings are definitely one of the best value souvenirs of Laos. The best way to pick a unique piece such as a scarf, wrap or sinh (Lao skirt) is to purchase directly from a Hill Tribe weaving village. Each different ethnic minority has an individual style and pattern of weaving, which is sure to generate an interesting story to share when travelers return home. A reasonable price to pay for a sinh is around 30 USD.
Another item perfected by Lao craftspeople is jewelry forged with extremely pure gold and silver. This tradition owes to the history of the ethnic minorities using jewelry as currency and signs of wealth. Lao craftsmen can also customize the design of jewelry and ornaments using various gemstones.
2. Where to Buy It
In bigger towns there are sprawling night markets where locally produced handicrafts are offered in abundance. As the sun starts to set, vendors in Luang Prabang fill its main street with tented stalls every night. The main street, closed to vehicles from 17:00 to 23:00, is transformed into a giant showcase of products made by local ethnic groups such as clothing, ceramics, lamps, bedding, bamboo and beautiful silk and cotton items.
The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) in Luang Prabang exhibits ethnic costumes, household objects, religious artifacts and handicrafts. It has a huge range of fair trade products and souvenirs. The center is dedicated to the conservation and promotion of Lao’s cultural diversity supporting over 300 artisan families across twelve provinces.
In Vientiane, the night market, open from 18:00 to 24:00, is often referred to as the night bazaar. It is by far the most popular tourist spot in the city. Located on the promenade overlooking the Mekong River, the night bazaar is a great place to purchase Lao art. There are also more shops to buy silk and handicrafts in the city center.
3. When Leaving the Country
It is prohibited by law to leave Laos with antiques or Buddhist artifacts. Also, Khiri recommends not purchasing or trying to carry out carved ivory (can be either fake or authentic) items, as they very likely will be confiscated upon arrival to your traveler’s home country. Keep in mind that large amounts of silver, gold and copper items may be subject to export taxes upon departure from Laos.
For more information about tours to Luang Prabang and Vientiane and their wonderful night markets with opportunities to do some souvenir shopping that promotes sustainable jobs for local people, please contact to [email protected]