and textiles are cheaper in Luang Phabang (where they are made)
than in Vientiane as Vientiane is not a bargain hunters' place.
However, the Morning Market (Talat Sao) offers great deals on homespun cotton clothing ($2-5), lengths of silk
and handicrafts. Good
purchases include shoulder bags or nyam (inexpensive and functional),
hand-woven pha biang (a long, scarf-like textile) and chequered
pha khao ma (the knee-length men's sarong). The Lao Women's Union has a store called The Art of Silk,
situated on Manthatoulat Road close to Wat Xieng Nyeun, offering great
deals on cotton cloth and plain silk from all over Laos.
For old or rare baskets made by the tribal people of Laos are easily found in the antique shops of the Morning Market and the downtown
region. These can cost as much as $50. Mats and sticky rice baskets
which cost $1-3 can be seen on Chao Anou Road beyond the Thong
Khan Kham Market. The T'Shop Lai Gallery on Inpeng Road close to
Le Vendôme Restaurant is great for unique mosaics
and other handicrafts made from coconut shell; prices are
fixed and a bit steep.
Besides the Morning Market, most souvenir, textile and antique stores
are available on Samsenthai and Setthathilat roads and
alongside the lanes running between them. Antique brass weights, sometimes
called " opium weights " are normally available
in antique shops but may also be seen in upscale textile stores.
They cost 2 - 5 times more than in Louang Phabang and
Opium pipes are sold in the
antique shops on Samsenthai Road; real antique pipes can
cost up to $100 or more, but new-made Vietnamese pipes may cost as little
as $10. Remember that the customs officers in your home country
may find a reason or two to take such a purchase away. Most antique
and curio shops sell a small stash of banknotes, coins and stamps
from present and previous regimes. A no-name philatelic
shop near the corner of Samsenthai and Pangkham roads offers a great collection.
Raintrees on Nokeo Koummane Road, near La Terrasse Restaurant,
has the best choice of English-language books in the city.
Smaller branches are situated on Pangkham Road, adjacent to the Thai
Airways office, and in the lobby of the Novotel and Lao
Hotel Plaza. The government-run State Bookstore, located on the corner
of Manthatoulat and Setthathilat roads, provides a good collection of
English-language books and even a few dusty titles from the Soviet