The morning market (talat sao) in Vientiane, before it was remodeled
Vientiane has some good shopping opportunities, especially for local handicrafts and arts. The place to start is Talat Sao - the morning market. Despite its name, most of the market doesn't open until at least 9:00 a.m. and stays open until late afternoon. This large covered market takes up an entire city block. Under its temple-like roof you can find just about everything. It is sort of organized into sections, so in one part you'll find loads of Lao silks and finely woven cotton, while walking a bit further will bring you to an electronics section. In some areas, the market is two stories high. Upstairs is cheap clothing and jewelry, along with a few "antiques". Vientiane's first "shopping mall" is next to the market, but it's really just an indoor version of the rest of the market. At the end of 2007, part of the market was being torn down, and it's not clear what the future holds for the rest.
Away from the morning market, there are a number of shops and boutiques in the tourist area between Samsenthai Road and the river. See the list below for some ideas on what to buy. As to where to buy, special note should be made of T'Shop Lai Gallery, a project of Les Artisans Lao, a non-governmental organization that seeks to keep traditional crafts alive and alleviate poverty. The shop is located behind Wat Inpeng.
- Lao silk and cotton is woven into to beautiful and colorful patterns that can be either geometric or religious. Fabrics are usually sold as either small bolts designed to be enough for a ladies suit, or in long tapestry-like hangings. The morning market has a rich selection of all types of fabrics. Outside of the market, there are many small shops specializing in one type of textile or other. Two shops worth noting are Kanchana on Samsenthai Road and Carol Cassidy Lao Textiles on Nokeo Koummane Road.
- Stone Carving
- Among the many knickknacks for sale in the souvenir shops are small boxes carved from stone. These are very reminiscent of the type of thing found in Vietnam, and some of it may even be imported from there. In any case, the designs and prices are quite appealing.
- There are a number of wine markets along Samsenthai Road, selling mostly imported wines as well as other spirits. As one might expect, French wines dominate, but there are also Australian and Italian wines as well.