Souvenirs & Other Shops in Hanoi

Around Pho Hang Bong and Pho Hang Gai, just northwest of Hoan Kiem Lake, are plenty of souvenir shops selling T-shirts and Viet Cong (VC) headgear. It might be worth noting, however, that neither Ho Chi Minh T-shirts nor VC headgear are very popular apparel with Vietnamese refugees and certain war veterans living in the West. Wearing such souvenirs while walking down a street in Los Angeles or Melbourne might offend someone and result in a costly trip to the dentist.

Pho Hang Gai and its continuation, Pho Hang Bong, are a good place to look for embroidered tablecloths, T-shirts and wall hangings. Pho Hang Gai is also a good place to have clothes custom-made. Take a look along Pho Hang Dao, just north of Hoa Kiem Lake, for souvenir Russian-made watches.

If you don't make it up to Sapa, there is a wide selection of ethnic-minority garb and handicrafts available in Hanoi; a stroll along Pho Hang Bac or Pho To Tich will turn up close to a dozen places. Craft Link (Tel: 843 7710; 43 Pho Van Mieu) is a not-for-profit organisation that buys good quality tribal handicrafts and weavings at fair-trade prices, and funds community development initiatives for the artisans.

There is an outstanding shoe market (Pho Hang Dau) at the northeast corner of Hoan Kiem Lake; however, it can be difficult to find large sizes for big Western feet.

For the best in CDs and DVDs, there are several shops along Pho Hang Bong and Pho Trang Tien. Be aware that they're bootleg, though, so not strictly legal.

On Pho Trang Tien you'll also find many shops willing to make dirt-cheap eyeglasses in a mere 10 minutes, using decent imported lenses from France or Japan.