Originating from the cocoon of the silk worm, this luxurious fabric was once reserved for those of noble blood. Luckily, nowadays anyone can pick up a candy-coloured silk scarf or even sleeping bag along Hang Gai Street in Hanoi's Old Quarter. Bring a lighter along to make sure you're getting the real deal: 100% silk will burn, while cheaper silk/acrylic blends will melt and smell like burnt plastic.
You'll find a selection of great silk bargains in Hanoi whether you're looking for dresses, shoes, trousers or paintings. Perhaps a flowing Vietnamese ao dai has got your eye? No problem, you'll find it here. Vietnamese silks drape brilliantly and are blessed with enough body that they are easy to sew. And although industrial production in Vietnam is slowly making dinosaurs of manual weaving looms, silk fabric is still being produced around Hanoi in the manner that it was during French colonial times, on the original equipment.