Silk was once used as a type of currency in trade and played a big part in Vietnam’s history and economic development. It still plays a prominent role in Vietnamese culture today. Looking to buy some? Here are the best hotspots.
What is silk?
Silk is a natural protein fiber produced from the silkworm’s cocoon, and some forms can be woven into textiles. It takes around 3,000 silkworms consuming 104 kilograms of mulberry leaves to produce two pounds (one kilogram) of silk; the process lasts over three days. The result is a material that is light weight, soft and very absorbent, making it an ideal fabric for warmer countries.
Silk was once considered extremely luxurious and thus available only to noble families. Now the fabric is widely used, and beautiful silk products are affordably to anyone. They make great souvenirs. It will cost you at least VND$70,000 for a meter of silk and at least VND$100,000 per meter for premium kinds. Be weary of buying silk for prices lower than that since they can be of questionable quality.
Located on the edge of the Old Quarter of Hanoi is a silk haven that goes by the name of Hang Gai Street (or Silk Street). This is the go-to place for silk shopping, and this street has a handful of small shops that all specialize in silk and embroidery. You will find similar merchandise being sold in these stores, but at different prices, which may confuse you. Yet, due to the authenticity of what you are getting, it is still better than negotiating for silk at the market.
Hoi An is known as a tailoring mecca. The old town itself has around 400 tailor shops dotted along its alleyways. The Hoi An Cloth Market is a silk dream come true, and you will find some of the finest silk in Vietnam on sale. There is a wide range of silk to be bought here; you can later take it to a tailor to create your dream silk outfit.
Alternatively, head over to the Hoi An Silk Village, once a silk hub in Hoi An 300 years ago involved in the silk trade. Now you will find dozens of local artisans manufacturing and weaving silk into garments and tapestries using ancient looms. You can buy the material or any finished product. This is also a resort and restaurant all in one.
Ho Chi Minh City
Contrary to popular belief, Ben Thanh Market is where you should not go if you are looking to buy authentic silk for a reasonable price. Chances are that you will end up buying fake silk at outrageous prices. Granted some stores do offer the real thing, but the information you get is mixed, so it is best to stay away altogether. The cloth market at Tan Binh or Tan Dinh are better alternatives, as is Chinatown (Cho Lon).