What To Buy In Laos

what to buy in laos
| 4 min read

Laos is, without doubt, one of the most exotic travel destinations in Southeast Asia. With its numerous natural, cultural, historical and UNESCO world heritage sites, Laos is a fascinating country that is worth remembering. Luckily for travelers, the shopping scene in Laos is not short of unique with authentic products to buy as souvenirs. As a landlocked country, it’s best to visit Laos between October and April. During this season, the weather is often dry and warm. However, if you want to travel by river then make your way between November and January. In view of this, keep reading to discover a curated list of what to buy in Laos.

1. Laos gold and silver jewellery

Viking gold jewellery - Hiddensee treasure - VIKING exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark - Photo The National Museum of Denmark (9066249208)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nationalmuseet - ... used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Laos has a rich heritage in jewelry crafting with archaeological evidence tracing the practice back to the 9th century. Although a majority of shops deal in gold and silver jewelry, travelers can also expect to find jewelry made of copper, bronze, horns, beads, and gemstones among other materials. One of the best things about shopping for jewelry in Laos is that it is often cheaper than in neighboring countries such as Thailand. To top it off, the gold sold in Laos is 99.99% pure. Travelers can find jewelry in the central markets as well as private shops around Laos.

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2. Lacquered alms bowls

Lacquerware bowl, Western Han Dynasty
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user PericlesofAthens used under CC BY-SA 4.0

In Laos, people often give food offerings to monks as an act of charity and virtue. These offerings are normally carried in bowls known as kuns. Many of these bowls are made of silver, gold, stainless steel or aluminum. Many also come in lacquered finishes. Some bowls may also feature elaborate relief patterns of mythological creatures such as sea serpents and the half-human/half-bird. Travelers can purchase these bowls for cultural and religious events in Laos or even as decorative bowls in their homes.

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3. Organic laos coffee

Coffee Harvest Laos
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Thomas Schoch used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world and Laos is one of the largest coffee producers in Southeast Asia. In Laos, coffee is primarily grown in the Bolaven Plateau in Champasak province thanks to its volcanic red soils, high elevation levels, and heavy rainfall. Unsurprisingly, coffee beans are widely available for sale along streets and in shops, cafes and restaurants all around Laos. While travelers will most likely come across Robusta and Arabica coffee beans they can also expect to find the much rarer Liberica beans.

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4. Snake whiskey

Snake Whisky
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Portmoresby used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Imagine a drink in which snakes are an active ingredient. Well, in Laos, travelers can bring their imaginations into reality by trying out cobra whiskey. Brewers trap a cobra in a bottle and drown it in sake or rice wine. The snake is then allowed to ferment in the bottle for a few months effectively resulting in a uniquely flavored drink. Brewers may sometimes infuse the drink with ginseng roots and seed pods. While this bizarre drink instills fear in some, locals believe that it is an effective pain reliever as well as an aphrodisiac. In the end, however, there is only one way to find out, try out.

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5. Lao sinh (skirt)

Phuan Girls
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user PTD Phonsavan used under CC BY 3.0

The Lao Sinh is the garment traditionally worn by Lao women. According to historians, this tube-like skirt has been part of Lao culture for over three millennia and is a key symbol of beauty and feminity. Shoppers can expect to find different types of sinh from plain cotton ones to beige, gold and even silk sinh. Ultimately, the fabric and the general design of the sinh will determine the price of the garment. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that local hand-woven sinh is pricier and of better quality than many imported sinh.

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6. Saa paper

Habsburger Wappenbuch Fisch saa-V4-1985 032r
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Hans Ulrich Fisch used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Quite simply, this is paper made from the bark of mulberry trees which the locals refer to as Saa. Every year after the rainy season, the mulberry trees shed their barks. It is this bark-shedding that locals pull off from the trees and use to hand-make saa paper. Best of all, the process is harmless to the tree. Different types of Saa paper products are available in Laos including saa paper gift wraps, lanterns, photo albums, handkerchiefs and bags among others. Although saa paper products are available all across Laos, travelers can find some of the finest products in the provinces of Xieng Khouang and Luang Prabang

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7. Pha khan mon (love gifts)

Posted by Indigo Fabric on Thursday, 30 November 2017

In Laos, prospective partners often symbolize their love for each other by giving each other small handkerchief-like hand-woven silk pieces as love gifts. Young girls also give them to young boys as an exhibit of their interest. Other than that, locals also believe that these handwoven fabrics are a token of good luck. Travelers may also buy these “love gifts” as decorative pieces for their homes.

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8. Vintage laos posters

The big scenic production Coon Hollow by C.E. Callahan LCCN2014636090
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Strobridge & ... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Laos has a long and rich history which is bound to fascinate any traveler. What better way to connect with this rich history than by buying some vintage Lao posters. These posters are not only good for taking a trip back in time but also for decorating any room. Most importantly, however, these posters will serve as a timeless reminder of the Laos experience.

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9. Khaen musical instrument

Do any of my students or friends in Isarn know where I can find a Khaen instrument? If so, please let me know.

Posted by Chris Bonner on Sunday, 18 March 2018

A trip to Laos is never complete without listening to the sweet and harmonic khaen music of the Lao people. Notably, UNESCO recognizes the khaen music of the Lao people as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Khaen music is associated with social cohesion and integration. As such, there is often a high possibility for visitors to actively join in the khaen songs and dances. Lao people play khaen music using a bamboo panpipe-like mouth organ. Beyond that, these instruments also make for good souvenirs. Besides, learning how to play the khaen would make for a good pastime.

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10. Greener laos reusable straws

Posted by Bamboo Straw on Wednesday, 1 November 2017

While Laos is a remarkable tourist destination, there is more pressure than ever to protect and conserve its natural environment. In recognition of this, the Greener Laos movement came up with reusable bamboo straws. These straws are more eco-friendly than single-use plastic straws. They are also available in different lengths and are packed together with a cleaning brush. Travelers can contribute to the efforts to make Laos a greener place by buying these reusable straws both for immediate use and as keepsakes.

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Souvenirs to buy in Laos

Laos is a fascinating country that is worth remembering. Luckily for travelers, the shopping scene in Laos is not short of unique and authentic products to buy as souvenirs. The above list contains memorable things that travelers can buy during their visit to Laos.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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An award-winning travel writer with a rich extensive mix of passion and expertise. Studied and lived in three continents.

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