Just in time for those who need to do some Christmas shopping while spending the holiday season exploring Southeast Asia, we’ve put together a list of our favourite handicraft and artisan centres to shop.
While your clients will undoubtedly discover a bounty of souvenir shopping for themselves wherever they roam, this shortlist includes organisations that we’re proud to support because of their commitment to preserving heritage crafts and supporting artisans.
Turquoise Mountain is a global organisation dedicated to restoring national heritage sites and craft traditions. In Myanmar, their work focuses on helping preserve traditional techniques and connecting artisans with international markets. Shop elegant gems and jewellery for which Myanmar is famed, discover the history and heritage woven into their traditional textiles, or marvel at the intricacy of the handcrafted woodwork.
Artisans Angkor’s slogan succinctly captures their dual missions “caring for the past, crafting for the future.” What started in the 1990s as a vocational training centre focusing on traditional Cambodian crafts has since become one of Siem Reap’s largest employers, with showrooms and boutiques near Angkor Wat and in the capital of Phnom Penh. Visitors to Siem Reap can shop from an extensive collection of silver jewellery, hand-loomed silk, lacquer tableware, art and more online as well.
The Laos-based organisation Ock Pop Tok was created by women and continues to be run by women to preserve heritage Lao textiles and bring economic benefit to local artisans. Over the past 18 years, a small shop selling one woman’s assorted of textiles and garments has grown into a network of more than 78 artisans, three shopfronts, a cafe and various education programmes. Learn about the ethnic groups of Laos through their fabric traditions and shop clothing, handbags, home goods by women all over the country. Ock Pop Tok has three shops in Luang Prabang and also sells online.
In Galle, you’ll find a number of craft centres supported by the rural crafts council. With programmes teaching everything from how to work with bamboo, lace, leather, wood and more, the array of quality goods available for purchase will astonish. Sri Lankan artists are famous for their skills in working with terracotta, silver, brass, wood and bone. As such, common products on offer include ceramics, sculptural carvings and remarkable jewellery. You can often find these beautiful products for very reasonable prices. Textile work is also very popular here, so keep your feelers out for deals on batik garments, hand-woven lace and baskets.
Vietnam’s shopping scene is as varied as its landscape. But two places in particular are hotspots for shopaholics: experience the laid-back charm of Hoi An and the cosmopolitan hustle of Hanoi through their incredible boutiques, markets and tailors.