Probably what makes a trip become a memorable experience even until you have come back home are not only those photos that you have taken on the way, but also the special gifts or the taste of the new lands that you have brought along. It is another season in Vietnam and also the season for you to have a proper trip to the Northern mountainous areas of the country such as Sapa. At the mention of Sapa, many tourists when taking a Sapa tour all have the same question at the end of their journey: “What should I buy?” or “Where can I buy some souvenirs?” Especially on Sapa tour for family, this question is even more frequently asked because everyone always want to have something special as a gift of memory in another country. If you are going to Sapa this season and also have the same question, just take a look at this article to get a review of useful shopping recommendations for your trip.
1. Sapa shopping advice
Maybe shopping has always been one of the most favorite things to do in Sapa because you have such various choices of all kinds from groceries to accessories, and especially, brocades – the very own “specialty” of the Northern mountainous areas in Vietnam. However, even for a Vietnamese who travel to Sapa, it is difficult to avoid shopping scam. For example, it is hard for you to know which product is good and which is not, especially if it is hand-made.
In addition, it is also a tough case when you are foreign but want to buy a Vietnamese brocade product because it is inevitable that you can buy a faulty or defective one. Not to mention, one of the greatest shopping scams that a tourist may come across is being overcharged. And because you do not know the products well so obviously you cannot give a proper assessment or do not know how to haggle it appropriately.
Do not buy strange herbs
Although it may be hard to avoid these frauds completely, there are a few things that we can help you with by giving you some advice that you may find useful for your Sapa homestay tours. The first thing is, you need to know that Northern mountainous areas in Vietnam are like a factory producing many strange kinds of medicinal herbs. Most of them, of course, is quite neutral and will not cause much harm. However, if you are not totally comprehensive on what you are going to buy, do not lose yourself money and health.
Different kinds of herbs you can find
If you are fond of herbs such as lingzhi or ginseng, you can still find a few reliable products in Sapa. Nevertheless, if you find those on the way to Hàm Rồng Mountain, do not buy them because most of them are originated in China so they are somewhat fake, poisonous, and are sold with a price as high as the sky. Also in this area, if you intend to buy silverware or silver accessories from a vendor, just put that idea out of your mind because those are not real silver but just imitation jewelry that is sold with a high price and is not as good as what is advertised.
Be careful when buying souvenirs
Secondly, if you visit the Stone Church on your Sapa homestay tours and want to buy some souvenirs from the shops nearby, just be careful because there is a high chance that you will be deceived into buying with a much more higher price. If the price is posted on the product, there is nothing to worry too much though we all know that souvenirs are also much more expensive, especially when they are sold to foreign tourists.
A souvenir store in Sapa
However, if the price is not posted on the product, you should ask the seller before you buy it or you can have a little “field trip” to other shops to check out if the product is sold with a higher price. If you are confident with your haggle skill, do not hesitate to try because in the end, you will surprisingly find how much these products have been “overpriced”.
Check the brocades carefully before you buy them
The third note is about brocades. We all know that buying brocades is irresistible in Sapa because not all tourists can miss such a “specialty” of this promising land. However, the more popular it is the more easily you get to be deceived with overpaid. Usually, when we buy something, we are easily attracted by colorful products, which have a nice cover, appearance, or patterns that we usually skip the materials and the meticulosity exposed through them.
Old ladies selling brocades in Sapa
Brocades and traditional dress in Sapa are typical examples of “appearance over features”. Therefore, if you want to buy brocades, pay attention to the materials, the meticulosity, and how the product differs from mostly what you have seen. The more colorful it is, the more likely that it is originated from China. Brocades are an integral part that makes that significant “breath” of Sapa. Therefore, if you have come to Sapa, this is definitely something that you must buy home.
Everything is twice as expensive
On arrival at Sapa, you will find that most of everything here is twice as expensive compared to what sold in other areas near the cities, especially water, beer, and cigarettes. Therefore, if you do not want to spend too much money on this, refrain from buying them because they are not so different from that of other regions.
Ask before taking a picture
In case you are a photographer or simply want to take good pictures of the Sapa markets, remember to ask the people before you do it. Of course, they do not ban taking pictures at the market but according to what has been recorded, lots of locals in the markets do not like being photographed. Therefore, remember to ask them before you take a picture of them.
Street sellers in Sapa
There is actually a very interesting story of a Vietnamese who came to Sapa for the first time and when she took pictures of a flower, the owner of that house forced her to pay 10.000vnd for as a picturing fee. The girl did not understand so she did not give the money. And so the owner put out a knife and that scared her to death! So do not forget what we have just told you. Obviously, it is just an example but it costs nothing for being careful! Remember, you have been warned!
2. Things you should buy at Sapa
The second question, which is commonly asked is: “What should I buy at Sapa?” Well, this is quite easy to answer as in the first part we have mentioned some of them such as herbs and brocades. However, if you are still not unsure of your decision, take a look at this list below to get prepared for the perfect Sapa homestay tours.
Hand-made, silver-made, and wood art
The most worth-buying thing when arriving at Sapa is probably brocades and hand-made traditional outfit. As we have mentioned in the first part, it is inevitable that you will come across faulty products or products of China’s origin. So to lower this rate of misfortune, we advise that you should find Mông or Dao girls who sell clothes because they offer fine-quality brocades and hand-made products of meticulous features.
Hand-made brocades in Sapa
Everything from hats, bags, shirts to dress are 100 percent hand-made. Usually, it takes about days to months to weave just one dress or a hand-made shirt so these products will cost you quite much from a hundred thousand to a million Vietnam dong. However, it is worth the effort of true artists who have created them so if you have found a good product, do not hesitate to give it a worthy price.
In order to avoid imported Chinese products, you should not buy these at the markets but should find them in the local villages or the people’s private house who offer hand-made products made by their family. In case you cannot find any store near your accommodation, there are a few reliable stores that you can find to such as Ms. Lăng Vân’s shop, Hue Silk, Phố núi Sapa Brocades, Forest Orchid (Lan rừng), and so on.
Beautiful silver bracelets in Sapa
The second most bought product by visitors on their Sapa homestay tours is silver-made. Silver jewelry in Sapa is of great aestheticism with meticulous hand-drawn patterns from the most skillful artists and artisans. If you are going with your girlfriend, mother, or friend, this will be a brilliant idea! There is a variety of products from which you can choose such as bracelet, necklace, earrings, ring, and even shirt button! Besides hand-made and silver jewelry, if you are a collector of extraordinary art pieces, wood art and burnt paintings in Sapa will be the best choice for you. However, compared to silver and hand-made products, wood art has a much higher price because it takes months, even years to create such an art piece of delicacy.
Sapa is indeed a heaven of fruits all kinds of delicious special treats that you can have. When traveling to Sapa, many people also choose for themselves fruits as the gift home instead of brocades because these are all temperate-zone fruits with the especially mouth-watering flavors. You can buy some cat apple (táo mèo), green pearl, and Bắc Hà Plum.
Delicious Bac Ha Plum
Among these kinds, Bắc Hà Plum is the most worth-buying for its special sweet flavor that you can only find in Sapa. In addition, when you travel on the roads of Sapa, you will sometimes see a local riding on a motorbike with two big baskets on the side full of peaches. This is often widely known under the name “đào rọ” (basket peach). However, if you intend to buy fruits in Sapa, you should preserve them properly because they are easily rotten on the way because of the high heat.
If you have made a small research on the Internet about Sapa, you will find that one of the most popular activities in favor of the tourists on Sapa homestay tours is herb bathing. And it has earned such a reputation because most of Sapa’s genuine herb products are of fine quality and have many uses from physical to mental cure. Therefore, if you want to buy some herbs home for cooking, bathing or for any other use, Sapa is a great choice. If you do not know much about herbs, you can always ask for advice from the locals.
A Dao girl is preparing for herb bathing
Some of the most useful herbs you can buy are licorice (cam thảo), lotus seed (hạt sen), lotus embryo (tâm sen), ginseng, lingzhi, and so on. You can easily find these things in the local villages and oriental medicine shop around the place. If you are really fascinated by these herbs, there is a little tip that if you get the chance to visit Dao Village, ask the people where you can buy a herb package. This package is very useful for whitening bath and is very good for women after birth.
Herbs used for bathing at Dao Spa
Salted shredded salmon
In case none of those things interests you, check out this delicious specialty of Sapa, which is widely known as “ruốc cá hồi” – salted shredded salmon. If this is not the first time you came to Sapa, you will realize that one of the most favorable specialties of Sapa is salmon. Especially in winter, many people from the neighboring areas such as Lào Cai make their way to Sapa just to have a taste of this delicate dish. For that reason, salted shredded salmon is very in favor of tourists on Sapa homestay tours when they first come here. Even if they do not know about this, the locals will tell them if they ask what they can buy to bring home.
Ruoc ca hoi – Sapa’s specialty
The advantage of this product is that you can keep it for a long time without worrying about it being moldy because it has been dried and you can eat it fresh from the box without processing. So in another way, it is like canned food but the expiration date is way longer!