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Enterprising Hmong handicraft vendors

Hmong handicraft vendors you'll see in Bac Ha and Sapa - Vietnam, Luang Prabang - Laos and Chiang Mai - Thailand

Although the ambulant Akha street vendors of Khao San, Tha Pae Gate and other tourist hot spots are very successful and the Lisus in Pai night market do well in the high season, across Southeast Asia it’s the enterprising and commercially minded Hmong that dominate the hill-tribe handicraft market. Their bright colours and bold patterns can be and have been, readily adapted to produce a wide range of tourist-friendly items on a near industrial scale. Check-out the Blue Hmong bags and skirts at Chiang Mai’s walking street markets, the cushion and duvet covers in Luang Prabang’s night market and the amazing array of Black or Flower Hmong handicrafts on sale at Sapa and Bac Ha.

Bac Ha, Hmong cushion covers
Bac Ha, Hmong cushion covers

What’s smart is the way traditional Hmong handicraft techniques have been adapted and applied to useful and attractive items that 21st-century tourists do want to buy. The hardworking Akha have only a limited market with their wooden frogs and silver bracelets but check out these Hmong kitchen aprons below! Ideal souvenir to take home to mum or gran really – they even do kid’s sizes – yet no Hmong ‘housewife’ would of course ever actually wear a pinafore even if such a thing as a Hmong housewife existed!

Hmong style Kitchen aprons in Luang Prabang market
Hmong style Kitchen aprons in Luang Prabang market

Check out also these soft toys in Bac Ha Market which have been made using traditional Flower Hmong materials and patterns – another attractive gift to take home to little niece Susie – very clever!

Bac Ha
Bac Ha, soft toys Flower Hmong style

It’s also nice that traditional embroidery and handicrafts are flourishing in this way; – ok it’s all for the tourist buck but it shows obvious pride in their craft and designs and they have very adroitly upgraded centuries old techniques to produce 21st-century products. As we say very smart so we’ll give our Black Hmong mouse-pad a rest, stick on our White Hmong pinnie and go and make some brunch!

Black Hmong bed-spreads in Sapa – we bought 2!