Hanoi offers a less frenetic and commercialised shopping experience than Ho Chi Minh City in the south of the country. Traditional arts and crafts are more popular here than mass produced goods, and night markets are lively social occasions not to be missed.

The old town is where most of the art galleries are situated. A lot of up and coming artists exhibit here and if travellers can spot quality and bargain skilfully, they can pick a truly unique and worthwhile memento of their Hanoi visit.

Popular souvenirs also include paraphernalia from the communist and war eras, including Chairman Mao branded goods, medals, bullets, and Zippo lighters - the latter invariably of modern provenance and not found in a former battle zone as claimed by the salesman.

Other souvenirs include silk garments, wooden carvings, shoes from silk or bamboo, ethnic weaving, rice paper notebooks and paintings, and the distinctive conical hats which have been worn for centuries and are still much in evidence today. Visitors should look out for hats made in Hue, which each have a unique poem inside the rim.

Shoppers should avoid buying gemstones unless they have the skill to tell the difference between jewels and polished glass.