Talat Sao is split into two distinct sections: The air-conditioned shopping mall (the only one in Laos) is the best place to find electronics, sports equipment and jewellery, while the cavernous original Morning Market is fairly overflowing with mass-produced silks, cheap T-shirts, trinkets and other souvenir type items. Talat Sao is the market to visit if you are looking for something in particular – although bear in mind that the catwalks of Paris and Milan are a long way from Vientiane.
From early morning to mid-afternoon, Talat Sao is as bustling as it’s possible to get in Vientiane. The labyrinth of alley ways stock a mish-mash of products using the ‘stack them high, sell them cheap’ philosophy. Although the market can be quite disorientating, it is clean and walkways are tiled. A visit to the Morning Market is a genuine experience, with traders coming from all over Laos to sell and source products. The city bus station adjoins the market creating a scene of constant coming-and-going that contrasts sharply with the rest of this rather sleepy city. Inside the open-air but under-cover market, sellers may pester you to look or try – just as in every market in Southeast Asia.
Despite looking like a shopping mall in a provincial town rather than the flagship shopping destination of a capital city, Talat Sao mall is still a breath of fresh, air-conditioned air to many tourists battling with the tropical heat outside. There are a range of shops and services for tourists to enjoy over five floors, including a Big C supermarket, a three-screen cinema, a children’s play area with plenty of arcade games and flashing lights, and a food court on the fourth floor.
The clothes stores offer a practical range of items for work, school or leisure but don’t expect to find any cutting-edge fashion. When it comes to electronics, there have been many instances of replica products being sold as genuine so be careful and remember, if a price seems too good to be true, it usually is. There are also several banks and currency exchange services on the ground floor.