The best souvenirs to buy in Ho Chi Minh City include traditional hats or dresses (ao dai), paintings, silk clothes, Vietnamese snacks, jewellery and fair-trade handicrafts.
Ho Chi Minh City (and Vietnam in general for that matter), is so full of fascinating sights, sounds, tastes and emotions that you’d be hard-pressed not to take a single souvenir back from your travel, to at least have something to remember your unique experiences by.
Luckily, the city is blooming with souvenirs you can carry back on the plane with you: authentic handmade gifts, traditional items, street market treasures, affordable art pieces and artisanal handicrafts made by skilled designers. There is no end what to take back - including coffees, teas and dried snacks to treat your friends and family back home. Items from ethnic minorities can be purchased in select places as well, and make for great souvenirs.
Welcome flower - jasmin
welcome flower - orchid
Vietnam is a country that runs on coffee. There is a cafe on just about every block in Saigon and Hanoi and they’re packed most of the day with a mix of locals leisurely sipping away enjoying the day and others grabbing a quick fix on their way to wherever they’re headed. The cafe culture in Saigon is why it’s one of our favorite cities in the world. To see the list of our favorite Saigon cafes
Pia durian cake
Bánh Pía is well known cake in the South of Vietnam, it’s also called “bánh lột da” which means “peeling of skin cake”. In fact, Banh Pia is a version of Teochew Mooncake (and quite similar to Suzhou mooncake), however, it is not considered moon cake in Vietnam, they are sold all year round not only on Mid-Autumn festival. I guess because it’s tasty so people can wait to eat it once a year
Banh Pia has many paper thin and soft layers of crust which are easily be peeled off when we touch it. A traditional filling is mung bean paste and sugared pork fat. Nowadays, filling with others ingredients such as yam paste, durian , salted egg yolk, winter melon, dried sausage, etc. have been added to suit all tastes. And durian and mung bean paste with one or two salted egg yolks filling are one of the most popular sold
Souvenir - pillow gift
Vietnamese lacquerware is sought after by collectors for its beauty and durability. Some lacquer manufactories in Saigon host free tours. Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum at Pho Duc Chinh is home to many fine pieces of vintage lacquerware. The art galleries along Dong Khoi feature modern lacquer pieces. It can take more than 12 stages of production to create one piece. A lacquer tray takes 75 days to make! Production in Vietnam dates to the 18th century and the best lacquerware is handmade. Lacquer is a natural varnish from a tree of the cashew family. In HCMC you can buy inexpensive lacquerware at Ben Thanh Market.
For a memorable Vietnamese souvenir, pick up some lacquerware in HCMC. Reputedly a Chinese import to Vietnam, lacquer production is a time and labour intensive process. Lacquer is a natural substance mined from rhus tree resin. Some pieces are layered with ten to 15 coats of lacquer. Before a second coat of lacquer can be applied to a piece, the previous coat must dry for one week before it is sanded. This process is repeated until the piece is finished.
Since its foundation in 1995, Authentique Home has dedicated itself to celebrate and uphold the fine craft traditions of Vietnam with refined design, selected materials and masterly craftsmanship.
Before buying an Ao Dai, the traditional clothing of Vietnamese women, you should know a certain number of things.
One doesn't have to travel far in HCMC to see woman dressed in long, snug fitting shiny dresses. The form fitting but flowing ao dai (say 'ao yai'), worn over silk trousers, is said to flatter every figure. Ao dai translates to 'long dress'. According to one famous saying, the ao dai covers everything but hides nothing. As the Vietnamese national dress for women, the ao dai is heartily promoted by the national government. It is often called the ao dai Vietnam for patriotic reasons.
Most Vietnamese ceramics created after the era of Chinese domination were influenced by Chinese art. In time, these porcelain works evolved into something distinctly Vietnamese. Vietnam now produces high quality ceramic household items, from teapots to large bowls. Often cobalt blue and white, but available in a variety of colours, pieces can be used decoratively and functionally. In HCMC a tea set with tray costs about VND250,000.
Popular due to its informal design, flowing lines and animal themes, Vietnamese ceramics are highly prized and make fantastic gifts. Merging indigenous and Chinese aspects, Vietnamese potters also borrowed from India, Champa and Cambodia to create unique glazed, hand painted, terracotta and ironstone pieces. Vietnamese porcelain and ceramics such as jars, bowls, vases and plates are widely available for purchase throughout Ho Chi Minh City.
Boat modelling is a craft as old as shipbuilding, and dates back to the development of water transport. In Vietnam, model boats hail from a woodworking village in Dong Nai, and there are hobby stores in HCMC where you can buy the boats. Replicas range from miniatures to complex, full-masted scale models. The time to complete a model boat ranges from five to ten days. There are reproductions of famous ships, sailing boats and ships in bottles.
Some of the most popular boat models include the RMS Titanic, HMS Britannia and USS Constitution. Fancy an historic tall ship, flash Florida speed boat or intimidating gunship? While you are in Saigon you can have your dream model custom built. Just remember to bring lots of pictures and blueprints! It usually takes hundreds of hours to handcraft a model. Construction woods vary but typically include kiln dried teak, mahogany, rosewood and other tropical wood.
There is no more iconic souvenir than the Vietnamese non la, or 'leaf hat'. Even as Saigon climbs the rungs of modernity, the humble leaf hat can still be seen atop many a head around HCMC. This distinctive lid has become a national symbol representing the hard-working spirit of Vietnam and its people. The conical hat is fashioned out of bamboo, coconut leaves or palm leaf and leaves are hand-stitched into the bamboo frame. Non la can be found in most markets around Ho Chi Minh City.
Expect to pay under VND50,000 for a non la. You can find leaf hats at local Saigon markets and all big shopping plazas and tourist markets. It is said that even today each non la is created by hand. Created out of necessity given Vietnam's tropical climate, the non la has but one important mandate: to protect its wearer from heat and rain. It is unclear when exactly the non la made its appearance into Vietnamese culture, but recent evidence suggests it has been around for at least 2,000 years.
Water hyacinth is a fast growing free-floating plant that has become a problem in the Mekong Delta where it clogs waterways and chokes river life. That's the bad news. The good news is that the plant is being harvested to create weaved ornamental and functional products ranging from table mats and picnic hampers to sofas and chairs. Water hyacinth products have a naturally soft texture owing to the plant's spongy stem and a distinctive smell, like a cross between leather and a fine cigar. Make sure to visit one of HCMC's stores that sell water hyacinth products.
Water hyacinth is one of the world's fastest growing plants. If left uncontrolled water hyacinth will obstruct riverways and rob the water of oxygen, destroying fish stocks. Additionally, water hyacinth is a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. Fortunately, the plant can be harvested and made into decorative and functional items such as slippers, furniture, baskets, purses and serving trays. When in Saigon visit one of the many stores that sell items crafted from water hyacinth.