Sapa is emerging as the top shopping destination in the mountainous north. Most items are clothing, accessories and jewellery produced by the multitude of minority in the area. More recently, some Vietnam designers have also been getting in on the producing clothes and household t inspired by tribal motifs and patterns. Some of the stores on Pho Cau May are the best places where you can buy selection of designer gear.
Lots of the minority women and young girls have gone into the souvenir business, the older women in particular are known for their strong-armed selling tactics. One frequent Sapa sight is a frenzy of elderly H’monq women clamoring around a hapless travel shop to hawk their goods, which range from colorful ethnic garb to little pouches of opium stashed away in matchboxes. When negotiating prices, you do need to hold your ground but go easy when it comes to bargaining, they may be persistent, but are not nearly as rapacious as Vietnamese vendors.
A word of warning on the clothes: as beautiful and cheap as they are, the dyes used are natural and not set. Much of the stuff sold has the potential to turn anything it touches (including your skin) an unusual blue/green color – check out the hands and arms of the H’mong for an idea. Wash the fabric separately in cold salt water as it helps to stop the dye from running. Wrap anything you buy in plastic bags before stuffing it in your luggage.