Sapa, the small tourist town of Vietnam’s northwest region, reminds us of a wildly beautiful area where travellers can gain great trekking experience while discovering the rich culture of ethnic minorities groups. The wet markets and souvenir shops here are also the perfect places for ones who are longing to buy local unique gifts.
A scene from Sapa market (Photo from Trekearth.com)
Visiting Sapa market, you can easily get lost in the maze of colorful brocades. It is amazing when knowing that only a one-span piece of brocade can take up to two weeks of sewing. Local girls may spend months just completing one dress, as the clothes represent their skills and extreme patience. Nowadays, in an effort to satisfy the complicated requirements of customers, there are two kinds of brocades available in the market: mass-produced and handmade ones. Mass-produced brocade is brighter with more designs, while the handmade one is darker with more harmonious pattern, containing the high traditional value. Brocade can be made into clothes, dresses, bags, backpacks, purses, scarfs, and even bed coverings.
Another place to get your brocade is to get one when you trek to ethnic villages such as Cat Cat and Ta Phin. Many women offer in-house shopping and you will know for sure you are supporting the less advantaged.
With the much cooler climate than most of other areas in northern Vietnam, Sapa brings tourists a chance to try the special local fruits that can only be found in temperate zone such as peach and pear. Fruits are grown organically in gardens scattering along mountain sides. Sapa’s peach and pear are not larger than a tea cup, covered by a thin layer of white powder, with a sour, sweet and a little bit acrid taste. Fruit are not kept in plastic bag but in bamboo baskets that help avoiding bruised. In addition, tourists can buy local vegetables like chayote and dried mushrooms.
Note that many countries impose a law against carrying foreign fresh fruits and plants home so double check before you pack. These fruits also do not contain preservatives so it is best to be consumed while inland.
Vietnamese medicinal herbs
You can find various kinds of Vietnamese medicinal herbs, both fresh and dried in Sapa market. However, foreign customers are advised to have a local friend or guide in order to choose the right herbs they need at reasonable price. Herbs are sold separately or packed together for treating different diseases. Those herbs can be used for herbal bath and traditional massage as well. In addition, raw honey is also among one of the most favorite products in Sapa. Light weight make these products all perfect to carry home.