Handicrafts are the pride of Lao people and visitors will find plenty of beautiful items to purchase. Traditional weaving still flourishes and visitors should take the opportunity to visit one of the many weaving villages or cooperatives. Wood carving is also popular and plenty of beautiful gifts can be found at the markets. Silversmiths used to be abundant in Laos, but have now dwindled in numbers. Unfortunately, much of the silver jewelry today is imported from Thailand, but it is still possible to find the odd silversmith in Luang Prabang.
The best shopping in Vientiane is at the so-called Morning Market or Talat Sao, which has an abundance of food, souvenirs, clothing, shoes, appliances, jewelry, and much more to barter for. One part of the market sells only silk and it’s possible to get a Lao-style skirt or outfit made to order for very reasonable price. Most of the nice shops are located around Rue Samsenthai, Rue Setthathilath, Nam Phu, and Fa Ngum. Make sure to check out fair-trade Camacrafts, Lao Cotton for value cotton items, Mixay for silk and Carol Cassidy for expensive decorative silks.
One of the main attractions in Luang Prabang is the night market, which is set-up every afternoon in front of the Royal Palace north, closing off Thanon Sisavangvong to cars. Make sure to check out the colorful handmade Hmong embroidered cloth and blankets, which have negotiable prices.
Many visitors many not know that Laos has really excellent coffee. Most of it is not exported, primarily because the amounts produced every year is relatively small compared to behemoths such as neighboring Vietnam. Look for local brands such as Lao Mountain Coffee, Sinouk Coffee and Dao Heung Coffee. For artisan blends, head to the The Little House (Rue Manthatourat, Vientiane), which roasts its own beans.