There are no shortage of small shops and markets catering to the tourist trade in Luang Prabang. As a royal capital, the city was once home to many artisans, and there are numerous initiatives under way to keep as many old crafts alive as possible.
What to Buy
- Woven shawls now meant to hang as tapestries and quilt-like constructions are everywhere you look in Luang Prabang. Despite the volume, variety can be a bit lacking. In any given shop, you'll most likely see all the designs that are generally available. The only variations are usually color. Still, the works can be quite beautiful, and its the rare visitor that leaves without at least one piece of cloth.
- You'll find small cases of silver jewelry and trinkets in many of the shops, but there is nothing like the variety you will find in northern Thailand.
- Mulberry Paper
- You'll find lanterns and books bound in this nubby rough paper all over town. You can even still see places where the paper is made around Wat Saen.
- Many of the shops targeting tourists will carry a large amount of 'stuff' that looks old. Little, if any, of it is actually antique. Be wary of any shop that asks more than a few dollars for any small figurine. A lot of the merchandise in these shops is really from Thailand, Cambodia or even Vietnam.
Where to Buy
- Sisavang Vong Road
- The commercial center of the old town is centered on a few blocks of Sisavang Vong Road just past the Royal Palace Museum. The shops are roughly equally divided between restaurants and souvenir shops, with the odd travel agent and currency exchange here and there.
- Hmong market
- At the end of old town where Sisavong Vang Road crosses Setthathilat Road is the hill tribe 'Hmong' day market. Here, almost every stall sells the quilted bags, pillow cases and bed spreads.
- Night Market
- Around dusk every day, Sisavong Vang Road is closed from the Royal Palace Museum down to Setthathilat Road. In front of the hill tribe market (usually closed at night) are several food stalls selling local delicacies. Further on towards the museum are many vendors of souvenir items, mostly textiles with a few other items thrown in.
- Dala Market
- On the corner of Setthathilat Road and Latsavong Road is the city's original catch-all market. Stalls here sell everything from gold to plumbing supplies -- in other words, everything including the kitchen sink.