One of the best parts about traveling is hunting for souvenirs – exclusive objects that proudly represent their home country. Saigon is a prime destination for anyone seeking some artisanal delights for loved ones back home or for themselves as a way to remember their unique experiences in Vietnam. Here are our best picks on great souvenirs to buy in Saigon and of course, where to find them:
1. Marou Chocolate
Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat was founded by two Frenchmen, Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou, whose devotion to creating world-class chocolate has put Vietnam on the map as a gourmet chocolate destination. All ingredients in Marou Chocolate are from cacao plantations in the Mekong Delta. Everything is made in factory, one of which is located on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, while the second much smaller one in Ben Thanh doubles as a café and patisserie.
If you intend to take something back from your travels, come and grab these lovingly hand created delights. Most Vietnamese are still getting used to the bitterness of dark chocolate as their selection is predominantly of the dark variety, but it makes a great gift for epicureans. By the way, the chili hot chocolate at Maison Marou (167-169 Calmette, District 1) is the bomb! We can’t recommend this item enough! Do not miss out!
2. Ao Dai (Vietnamese National Costume)
Sitting on top of the list is the ao dai, the Vietnamese national regalia. The ao dai’s unique design accentuates the inherent beauty of Vietnamese women, making them more attractive. It is demure yet charming, and highly elegant. Many foreign visitors have fallen in love with this traditional long dress and even order several tailor-made ones to take home.
Where to Buy?
If you want to buy fabrics to sew your own creations, there’s an abundance of places to shop. For example, the Ly Tu Trong area in District 1 offers a wide array of beautifully printed fabrics of the highest quality. Some stores to put on your list: Nhat Nguyet (28 Mac Dinh Chi, District 1); Huong Collection (67 Thu Khoa Huan, District 1); Nice Silk (237 Le Thanh Ton, District 1); Thu Silk (235 Le Thanh Ton, District 1).Or hit up the largest and most famous fabric market in Saigon, Tan Dinh Market. This place is fantastic for discovering one-of-a-kind fabric with dazzling patterns and intricate details.
Positioned in the heart of Saigon, Miss Ao Dai (21 Nguyen Trung Ngan, District 1) offers ao dai enthusiasts endless possibilities. You can have an ao dai tailored to your specifications within four hours at a very reasonable price. The artisans here successfully convey Vietnamese aesthetics through each unique and exquisite design.
3. Non La (Conical Hat/Straw Hat)
The non la is not only an accessory, but also a cultural symbol. It first appeared in the mid-13th century and has gone through the vicissitudes of time and now plays an important role in Vietnamese people’s life, especially farmers. In addition to protecting the wearer from the heat in the summer and the downpours of the rainy season, the non la also emphasizes the beauty and charm of Vietnamese women when combined with the ao dai and ao ba ba (another kind of Vietnamese traditional costume). The quirky non la is a perfect choice for folks who’ve admired Vietnam from afar through the pages of National Geographic.
Buy several of them as they are relatively cheap, ranging from VND10,000 – VND30,000.
Where to Buy?
Head down to Ben Thanh or Binh Tay market (LTK37 to LTK43 stall) and you will encounter numerous stalls selling non la. The Bui Vien Area is also worth a visit.
4. Tea & Coffee
Bring home some tea and coffee. One cup will instantly transport you back to those early mornings sitting in your favorite open-air coffee shop enjoying the irresistibly addictive cups of Vietnamese robusta.
Where to Buy?
In terms of coffee and tea, hundreds of famous exotic brands such as Starbucks, Cafe Benne, and The Coffee House have set up shop in Saigon but Phuc Long Tea and Coffee still prevails and retains a firm foothold in the market. Because Phuc Long is only located in Ho Chi Minh City, their uniquely flavored is highly coveted all around the country and by foreign purveyors. Their products vary from fruity peach teas to soothing green teas and traditional black teas. All of their roasts and loose leaf teas are lovingly dressed in gorgeous packaging, reflective of the growing design culture in Vietnam.
Another recommendation is the gourmet tea from Sense Asia. Their signature product is a collection of 32 different teas, all from different locations in Vietnam. They sell everything from green to oolongs, to the well-aged pu-erh tea from the Chinese province of Yunnan. The packing is incredibly gorgeous and features a smiling portrait of the farmer behind each blend. Needless to say, this is such a great way for curious souls to gain some fascinating insight into the Vietnamese tea culture.
If you decide to buy coffee for your loved ones, pass on this article to them so they know how to make it: How to Brew The Perfect Cup of Vietnamese Coffee
5. Propaganda Art
Propaganda art is a form of political propaganda often used to raise awareness for safety and public health. Most propaganda posters were originally created during the country’s turbulent years to help raise the spirit of both workers and military troops. Nowadays, they are increasingly recognized as works of art and are gradually becoming a trendy retro art movement. You can find this kind of art on t-shirts, canvas totes, and calendars. It might be the coolest gift you could possibly get for that hipster friend at home.
Where to Buy?
Come to Saigon Kitsch (43 Ton That Thiep, District 1) and let the in-house specialist recommend a piece that best suits your personality. The store specializes in promoting and distributing Vietnamese propaganda products from postcards and souvenirs, to jackets and T-shirts. Here, you can add a little color to your wardrobe as well as your home decor. This place has skillfully merged Vietnamese propaganda art with urban fashion, as well as souvenir items.
6. Authentic Ceramics
Ceramic products have long been a typical souvenir of Vietnam. The idyllic life of Vietnamese people is exquisitely portrayed as painted illustrations on these porcelain cups. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. There is no doubt these handcrafted items and their production have turned into a tourist attraction for foreigners who are enchanted by Vietnamese culture.
However, transporting these fragile goods can get extremely tricky so we suggest you save your ceramic purchasing to your last day.
Where to Buy?
If you have a car at your disposal, drop by the pottery village in Thu Duc district, which is about 40 minutes outside the city. This is where you can get your ceramic products with a touch of your own personality. Pick a design, select your own color scheme, and make your own souvenir to take back to your family at home. They’ll love it! Or you can purchase pre-designed handcrafted pieces. It’s still a highly personal gift given you have to sort through the inventory of hundreds of shapes and patterns. In addition, the savings are exponential when you buy items at the workshop as opposed to within the city.
In case your plans won’t permit you to spend 40 minutes in a car, you can check out Authentique Home (113 Le Thanh Ton, District 1) to pick up elegant pre-made ceramics. Founded in 1995, this craft shop has dedicated itself to uphold the fine craft traditions of Vietnam with refined design, selected materials, and masterly craftsmanship. From functional homewares to sophisticated sculptures and spectacular hand painted vases, the attention to artistry is mindblowing.
So next time when you’re on a random shopping spree, keep an eye out for these locally-sourced gems. If you’re spending money, you might as well invest in beautiful mementos that will instantly send you back to happier days in Vietnam.