Hanoi shopping opportunities abound in the many small streets that make up the Old Quarter. Wander around and you’ll find clusters of shops all selling the same thing. There’s a street selling just toys which becomes a street with Chinese lanterns then you’ll come across several silk shops, art galleries and handicrafts. It’s amazing how they all lie next to one another selling exactly the same things with nothing to differentiate them. In the evening Pho Hang Dao becomes closed to traffic so it’s a pleasant place to stroll again with the clusters of wallet and belt shops followed by what seemed to be the England football shirt department (even here you cannot escape David Beckham!).
Well worth a visit during the daytime is the three storey Dong Xuan Market which is the focal point of life in the Old Quarter. It is mainly a market for the locals who pack the place out buying fruit and vegetables on the bottom floor and their clothes on the other levels. You’ll also come across fake brand name sunglasses and some good luggage stalls but don’t expect to find quality branded clothing here. Bootleg western CDs and DVDs were not on sale either.
Bargaining is commonplace but it isn’t as ridiculous in its extremes as in other Asian countries, most notably Indonesia where the final price might be a 10th of the initial asking price. Here there is a margin for bartering but don’t insult the seller with a ridiculous drop in their asking price.
We found souvenir shopping quite difficult in the capital. There are plenty T-shirts for sale but there is no variety in designs not only in Hanoi but all over Vietnam and the quality is extremely poor. Art shops offer some of the best options for things to take home (try Pho Hang Gai and Pho Trang Tien) and you’ll come across nice handmade tablecloths and embroidery in some shops.
Hanoi tailors will make you a dress or a suit in a couple of days but if you’re travelling around you’d be better off ordering this in Hoi An which is a dress shopper’s paradise.