You’re in Asia, and one of the traditional trades is that of silk. Hardly anything makes a better souvenir than silk from Vietnam. Without getting into too much detail, the silk from Vietnam is traditionally woven differently than the style from China- I actually really prefer the Viet style.
You’ve read about Hanoi then, and you know about the history of the guilds and the naming of streets, so logically the first stop is Silk Street near Hoan Kiem Lake, right? Makes sense. There are loads of tailors. Perhaps you want to copy that nice Ralph Lauren dress, or you want to have a jacket made (and you’re not in Hoi An). You can generally have something made there for quite cheap- my girlfriend had a dress made for $85, which involved a lot of pleating, as well as having it lined. Good price.
But you can do it better. You go where the silk merchants go. And where is that you ask? Why the Silk Village, obviously. Within Hanoi there is a small village where they make and sell silk. This is where everyone from Silk Street comes to buy their silk.
In our last couple weeks in Hanoi we talked with a friend of ours, and she volunteered to take us to the village to do some shopping. It’s very well known, and it’s where all the newlyweds go to buy new clothes, or dresses,or shirts…you name it, and it’s there.
Walking into this town was like leaving Hanoi behind, and stepping into a quiet, less touristy version of Hoi An. If you listen carefully you can hear the clanking of old wooden looms, which you are more than welcome to go see. In these darkened rooms, old women monitor looms as they churn out some of the nicest silk you have ever seen. You can go see the difference between different blends, like rayon-silk, or cotton-silk. Hugely educational, and amazingly interesting.
Now, if you want your silk, this is where you go. My silk robe, which would cost over a hundred dollars in Canada (hand embroidered, reversible, 100% silk) was $15. I almost choked when hearing that. I bought some silk ties, at about $5 each,and we bought our friend a nice dress as a thank you.
Finding the village on your own would be a challenge, especially if you don’t live in Hanoi. But any good taxi driver will know it, and take you there quite easily.