7 Things To Buy in Hue - A Heaven of Handicrafts

The ancient capital of Hue has roots that run far deeper than its Imperial kingdom. The villages in its surrounding areas had been specializing in artisanal handicrafts long before Hue became the seat of the King, and have continued to do so long after he relinquished power.

Hue has developed into a popular tourist destination since then, but still, most tourists who come to shop in Hue neglect to check out its satellite villages, each of which has a strong passion for the craft in which they specialize. There are around 70 of these villages in Hue Province and a visit to any of them will give tourists a wealth of souvenir options. Incredible Asia Journeys will suggest you 7 best things to buy in Hue!

Perfume River Hue

1. Non Bai Tho

1.1. What is the Non Bai Tho?

One of the best things to do in Hue is to go shopping Non Bai Tho (Poem Conical Hat). All tourists know of the conical Palm Leaf Hat (Non La) worn by Vietnamese people in the farmland and occasionally the city, but many don’t know of its Hue-based origins. The farmers of Hue Province invented the hat first because of the strong sun and heavy rain so prevalent in this region. To distinguish their original from the growing popularity of the Non La throughout the country, Hue’s artisans developed embroidery techniques to stitch song lyrics, poems, and iconic Vietnamese scenery between the two layers of palm leaf. This became known as the Non Bai Tho, or Poem Hat, and its words can only be read in sunlight, making it one of the most magical things to buy in Hue.

1.2. Where can I buy a Non Bai Tho?

Tay Ho Village about 12km from Hue City is the mecca for Non Bai Tho. Girls here start learning to weave poems into palm leaves when they are about 10, with boys helping to collect the materials and iron them for the girls. The tradition started in 1959 and its technique remains unchanged since then because machines lack the dexterity needed for weaving.

Non Bai Tho in Hue

2. Sinh Folk Paintings

2.1. What are Sinh Folk Paintings?

The tradition of folk paintings is known across the whole of Vietnam; the north has Hang Trong and Dong Ho paintings in Hanoi, while Hue Province has Sinh paintings. These works of art are made on woodblock and pressed onto Do paper, using brushes made from pineapple tree roots, meaning that it’s a very natural process from beginning to end. Sinh paintings are largely religious and are burned at the end of the year in accordance with Vietnamese folklore.

2.2. Where can I buy Sinh Folk Paintings?

As long as you don’t adhere too strictly to Vietnamese folklore, you can keep your naturally-made Sinh painting forever. A trip to Sinh Village 9km from Hue will reveal the wealth of choice on offer, with hundreds of colorful, durable paintings hanging from the walls of village houses. 

Sinh Folk Paintings in Hue

3. Ke Mon Jewellery

3.1. What is Ke Mon Jewellery?

The artisanal jewelry of Hue Province actually stemmed from one single man, Cao Dinh Do, who moved here from Thanh Hoa Province to teach villagers the ways of precious metals. In the past, the gold bracelets, earrings, rings and various other highly-prized pieces of jewellery were admired by Vietnam’s super rich and the royal family in Hue.

3.2. Where can I buy Ke Mon Jewellery?

Anyone looking for higher-end shopping in Hue should head to Ke Mon Village, lying about 40km northwest of Hue City. Though this is definitely one of the most expensive things to buy in Hue Province, you cannot fault the intricate quality of the material and its decorations. Ke Mon Village also has several pagodas and statues made of gold, meaning it is well worth the trip for tourists who are into precious metals.

4. Lien Calligraphy

4.1. What is Lien Calligraphy?

The large scrolls and banners featuring Chinese letter characters around Vietnam are all examples of Lien calligraphy. Vietnam comes alive with these banners during big celebrations like the Vietnamese New Year (Tet) and the Mid-Autumn Festival (Ram). The banners contain messages of health, money and luck so that households adorned with them can welcome in the new year with the best advantages possible.

4.2. Where can I buy Lien Calligraphy?

These large banners might be a bit troublesome to take home, but they certainly liven up any room with their vivid colors and bold, beautiful lettering. Chuon Village (also called An Truyen Village) is a place in Hue Province that is known for this kind of calligraphy; the villagers here put in mammoth shifts just two weeks before Tet and a single household can produce over 100 pieces in a day during this time. Chuon Village’s location just 10km northeast of Hue means that it is an easily accessible destination for anyone shopping in Hue.

Lien Calligraphy in Hue

5. Thanh Tien Paper Flowers

5.1. What are Thanh Tien Paper Flowers?

Along with Lien calligraphy, the weeks leading up to Vietnamese New Year are very busy for the skilled craftspeople who create these intricate flowers from bamboo and paper. The flowers are admired for their beauty and people like to have them for their homes and during religious rituals. The paper-preparing process starts a year before the finished product; bamboo is dried, split, and dyed before it is destined to become a rose, chrysanthemum, or the ever-popular lotus flower. 

5.2. Where can I buy Thanh Tien Paper Flowers?

Just 7km from the center of Hue City is Thanh Tien Village, where villagers have been producing paper flowers for decades. The popularity of Thanh Thien paper flowers is fading nowadays and many of the younger generation opt to move into Hue City rather than carry on the legacy of the town, leaving the flower-making to their parents.

Tourists with Thanh Tien Paper Flowers

6. Zeng Textiles

6.1. What are Zeng Textiles?

The traditional clothing of the Ta Oi tribe who live in the southwesterly reaches of Hue Province is a very sophisticated affair. A plain black background with humbly-coloured geometric shapes is the repeated motif of Zeng, which was on the brink of extinction before a Ta Oi woman, Mai Thi Hop created workshops for the now-sought-after textiles, which has grown from a workforce of 4 to a mini-empire spread across 3 factories.

6.2. Where can I buy Zeng Textiles?

A Luoi District bordering Laos is where these 3 factories are based. It’s a 60km journey, but anyone with a love for textiles and authentic tribal culture in Vietnam will get a lot of value out of a visit. Textiles here are very cheap and buying them helps the economies of many of the tribes in the region, as Zeng has recently become a cross-tribal venture.

Zeng Textiles

7. Healing the Wounded Heart Shop

Healing the Wounded Heart Shop is a well-known establishment in the city and is a must-visit for anyone shopping in Hue. This little charity shop stands out because it uses recycled materials to create its amazing handicrafts. A team of disabled craftspeople runs the shop and warmly welcomes tourists, showcasing their unique bags, jewelry, and various home decorations. Most of the profits from the shop are used to support disabled children in Hue Province, while the rest goes to the disabled artisans. Visiting and purchasing from Healing the Wounded Heart Shop is not only emotionally rewarding but also supports a great cause.

Check the best tours to Hue and other cities in Central Vietnam:

That's all about the best Hue products that we want to recommend tourists buy in Hue tours. If you have any other unique Hue items, share your thought with us!

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