Laos is an excellent destination for anyone interested in picking up elaborate handicrafts. Hill-tribe silks, arts, crafts, home-furnishings, jewellery and couture quality textiles dominate the market. Although many of these products are available in Thailand, some of the things listed above are unique to Laos and its hill-tribes. In buying traditional crafts such as silks and carvings, tourists are invariably helping to support a still-growing and fragile economy.
Lao women wear the traditional phaa sin – a wraparound skirt. The phaa sin is worn with a silver belt and you will soon notice it is worn by school and university students and government office workers. A vast choice of phaa sin, shawls, bags and jewellery can be found in the morning market and around Vientiane. As well as traditional Lao weavings, you will find hill-tribe embroidery, wall hangings and quilts. The inherent art form of weaving has been practiced in Laos since the 14th century; subsequently it has attracted the attention of affluent and educated western-based weavers who have descended on Laos to re-establish the trade that dwindled so rapidly under the Communist regime – the vast majority of which operate on a fair trade basis, working to increase sustainable development within the country.