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  7. The night market

From 5pm to 9.30pm everyday

The night market, in the centre of town, "opens its doors" every evening at round about 5 o’clock. This market was only supposed to last for a few weeks. It opened in December 2002, on the Occidental Christmas Eve; a few Hmongs and other craftsmen of the region proposed their products to tourists, who are always looking for traditional gifts. At that time, no electricity: it could be called the candle market ;-)

This market, finally, never stopped, and is for ever increasing in size so as to have, now, a few hundred stalls. The products range from chess games in ornamental stone to silk scarves, passing by embroidery, sculpture, more or less real opium pipes, portrayals of Buddha in all imaginable forms, local paintings, done around the symbolic Buddhist representations, etc. It is a place where you must go and where bargaining is often very colourful…

Contrary to their Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese neighbours, Laotians have no bargaining sense and no idea of how to swindle you, (its very rare to find someone who will take advantage of tourists, by increasing his prices astronomically). So you’ve got to be careful not to bargain under their cost prices, so as not to aggravate the endemic poverty; what you mustn’t forget, is that the storekeepers are not always very good accountants in this latitude...

Since 2005, there are more and more Chinese and Vietnamese products. The opening of borders, the ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations), the flow of money due to tourism, are certainly some of the reasons for the change in this market where you can still find a lot of local handmade craftsmanship. The market gradually breaks up around 9 o’clock in the evening, but there is always some way of finding a last souvenir up until 10 o’clock.

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