Nha Trang

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 12:00am

When you've overdosed on the picture-postcard calm sea, lined by the long white Nha Trang sand, pull on your shorts or sarong and walk no more than 10 minutes to snatch a bag full of Vietnamese souvenir bargains.

Tran Phu Street, which runs behind the beach, has the greatest proliferation of stores. Fortunately, because Nha Trang is still developing, they are not wall to wall and local businesses still dominate. Those targeting visitors are laid back; few try to hustle the passer-by inside.

One of the best emporia is OPA (100/12 Tran Phu Street, tel: 84 58 823 466), occupying a small space often manned by three generations of its family owners. Its specialities are silk lampshades with flat-pack internal metal frames (from US$6, American being the currency of choice and quotation), and high-quality women's silk shoes in almost every colour imaginable (from US$10). Touting 100 per cent family-made products, Ngoc Anh (100 Tran Phu Street, tel: 84 58 816 867) is the place to go for silk and cotton embroidery, which appears on linen tablecloths, place mats and women's clothing, and in framed pictures of rustic Vietnamese vignettes (tiny examples from US$6).

Thai Quang (100 Tran Phu Street, tel: 84 58 818 241) offers shelves full of resin casts of seated and standing Buddha figurines and heads (from US$10) and a similarly serene selection in cast bronze (from US$20). The resin range also extends to Catholic figures and Chinese Zodiac animals. Some of the finest Vietnamese products in Nha Trang can be found at the gift shop in the plushest resort in the vicinity, Ana Mandara (below, Tran Phu Road, tel: 84 58 829 829). Locally made celadon and blue and white ceramics cost from US$15, and relatively pricey designer threads, shoes and bags from Ho Chi Minh labels SXS and La Bella steal the show.

For the other end of the souvenir spectrum, wander through Dam Market (above), off Phan Boi Chau Street, at its liveliest from 5.30am until lunchtime, then more sedate until closing time at 5.30pm. Carved wooden boxes, chopsticks and statues, lacquerware, painted fans, T-shirts and cheaply made knick-knacks abound. Embroidered garments, tablecloths, napkins and pictures fill the showroom at Diem Tham Quan (64 Tran Phu Street, tel: 58 826 879). Some of its most detailed framed works are portraits of Vietnamese minority people, which are sufficiently intricate to resemble photo-realist paintings. A different type of artistic purchase may be made at Long Thanh Gallery (126 Hoang Van Thu Street, tel: 58 824 875), named after the Vietnamese photographer. On display is a selection of atmospheric black-and-white landscapes and portraits.