Stay away from the tacky souvenirs. An insider takes us around her favorite local perusals for everything from custom made leather satchels to hand-painted silk dresses.

From the 15th to 19th centuries, the port of Hội An was packed with ships from all around Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as traders flocked here to buy silk, spices, gems, ceramics and forest products. Today’s visitors are equally eager to fill their bags. Most of the town’s 19th century shophouses now house boutiques selling clothes, art and handicrafts. It’s hard to know where to start.

shopping hoi an

Clothes & Accessories

While Hội An has gained fame for its tailored clothes, my experiences have been hit or miss. Luckily, there are some wonderful ready-to-wear options. Metiseko (142 Trần Phú) offers bold and unique prints on silk and organic cotton. Along with resort-wear for men and women, you’ll find cute accessories such as colourful fans and printed clutches. O Collective (85 Nguyễn Thái Học) is another standout, uniting a gaggle of collections by Vietnamese and expat designers. Look for embellished silk dresses by O-Thala, cute jumpsuits from Dragonfly and stylish yoga wear from Essens. For floaty, ethereal frocks, check out Papillon Noir (30 Trần Hưng Đạo), which stocks hand-painted silk and linen dresses. Women looking for funky easy-to-wear clothes that can be layered should head to Avana (57 Lê Lợi). Some pieces incorporate traditional cloth woven by ethnic Co Tu women. For kids, Copenhagen Delight (76 Nguyễn Thái Học) offers classic Danish-designed baby and kids’ clothes at non-Nordic prices.

While Hội An isn’t on the coast, the beach lies just 10 minutes away. If you forgot your swimsuit—or just want more—hop into Thaikila Blue Glue (28 Trần Phú), which transforms recycled plastic into eye-popping bikinis. Think ruffles and sequins and pompoms, oh my! Hot Chili (86 Nguyễn Thái Học) also offers swimsuits and quality cotton t-shirts and beach dresses.

Many visitors have leather shoes made in Hội An. Perhaps they’re luckier than me—all my handmade shoes have disintegrated faster than Cinderella’s slipper at midnight. What has lasted are my custom-made leather bags from Friendly Leather Bag Shop (44 Phan Bội Châu). Be sure to confirm every detail from the leather to the lining to the zips and the colour of thread you prefer.


Jewellery

If, like me, you love all things sparkly, you’ll find it hard to walk past Lotus Jewellery (82 Trần Phú), which is packed with silver jewellery—some inset with semi-precious gems like citrine, rose quartz, and topaz. Pricier but more unique gold, silver and gemstone jewellery in organic shapes may be found at GAM (130 Nguyễn Thái Học), which also houses a stylish cafe and little museum displaying raw gemstones and crystals unearthed in Vietnam.

shopping hoi an

Handicrafts

For those blessed with a large luggage allowance, the nearby woodcarving village of Kim Bồng produces incredible hand-carved wooden statues, parallel boards inscribed with lucky messages and furniture. If you lack the time for a boat ride out to Kim Bồng, check out the intricately carved wooden statues and souvenirs at Âu Lạc Wood Art (152 Trần Phú).

For gifts, my favourite store in Hội An is Reaching Out (103 Nguyễn Thái Học), home to sophisticated housewares and bedding made by disabled artisans. A beaten brass tea-light holder for Mom, a traditional cotton áo dài tunic for my daughter, a quilt for Grandpa… This is where I Christmas shop.

Speaking of quilts, Mekong Quilts (36 Trần Phú) also stocks beautiful bedding handmade by disadvantaged women. More feel-good shopping can be done at Lifestart (14 Nguyễn Thái Học), which sells everything from body lotions to handmade toys and supports scholarships for local students and programs for disabled locals.

shopping hoi an

Cotic (60 Nguyễn Thái Học) is another winner, displaying art and art installations in the front and beautiful ceramics, silver jewellery and scarves in the back room. The old wooden building is stunning.

The Hoi An Handicraft Workshop (9 Nguyễn Thái Học) is housed in one of the town’s oldest and largest shophouses. The front room is used for traditional music performances while the back and upper rooms display everything from hand-painted handbags to lamps. Here, you can try your own hand at making local crafts via workshops in embroidery, mask painting, lantern-making and more.

Directly across the street lies the Cocobana Tearoom (16 Nguyễn Thái Học), the perfect place for a much-needed tea break. Their beautifully displayed and packaged teas make great gifts—you’ll find every brew imaginable. This shophouse is among the most beautiful in town. If you’re lucky and the doors are open, you can get a peek into the back altar room, a vision of red and gold lacquer. In Hội An’s charming Old Town, even shopping counts as a cultural experience!

shopping hoi an

 

by Elka Ray

Elka Ray is a Canadian/UK author and illustrator who lives in Central Vietnam. She’s written two novels, Hanoi Jane and Saigon Dark, and is also the creator of a series of popular kids’ books about Vietnam. Learn more about Elka’s fiction at elkaray.com and her children’s books at stickyriceworld.com.