Amidst the bustling city streets in Ho Chi Minh City, filled with shabbily dressed street peddlers, alongside the ancient architecture and markets with names like Ben Thanh and Binh Tay, there are always great numbers of tourists.
Ben Thanh market, built by the French in 1870, located in District 1 is a must see destination for most all tourists. Trade is always brisk in the morning as vendors and market goers haggle over everything from clothes, footwear, arts and handicrafts, brocade, jewellery to specialty foods.
As an age-old commercial centre, it draws multitudes of foreigners speaking a multiplicity of languages.
Binh Tay Market (informally referred to as Cho Lon Market) with its elegant Chinese facade topped with distinctive reddish-brown roof tiles, and a yellowy coloured central clock have made it the most attractive and photogenic market in Saigon.
Much of the trade that goes on at Binh Tay Market is wholesale. Many Vietnamese who own stalls at other markets purchase wares in bulk at Binh Tay Market for resale at their own market.
The market is heavily stocked with body care products like shampoos, body lotions and creams. It is also especially good for household items and a galore of electronic devises.
If you’re looking for the trendiest most fashionable and multi-stylistic watch, you will most assuredly find it in Binh Tay market, just be prepared to bargain to get it at a good price.
Shopping on demand
On Le Lai street in District 1, just 20 metres far from Ben Thanh market, tourists can choose from a legion of unique and beautiful suitcases or handbags.
If you are a fashionista or a tourist with the ability to look beyond the trends set by others and create your own artistic style then you won’t want to miss Saigon Square. The shopping centre gathers both clothes and handbags from common to the sophisticated. Prices are rarely listed, but don’t hesitate to bargain.
Nguyen Trai street at night is also a most fascinating place for purchasing clothes.
Drawings for interior decoration are found on Tran Phu street in District 5. There are generally fewer customers here, tourists can relax and spend more time contemplating the drawings.
HCM City seems to have a specific street for everything, and shoes are no exception. For tourists who like stylist footwear with good quality, they should come to Ly Chinh Thang street in District 3, where the latest and favourite fashions can be found.
Another address is Luu Van Lang street in District 1, to the left of Ben Thanh market. There are sandals for foreigners. A part of this shopping centre is set aside exclusively for children.
Vietnam is often touted as the custom tailoring capital of the world. Tourists searching for a nice cloth for a gift or Ao Dai (traditional long dress), should visit Soai Kinh Lam cloth market.
This is a wholesale market so the prices are cheaper and the choices are more abundant. Cloths are diversified in colour, size and origin.
Antiques street (otherwise known as Le Cong Kieu street) is located just outside Ben Thanh Market. The stores are riddled by imitations but tourists may find a diamond in the rough! Items include copper items (incense burner and altar), wood items (statues of Buddha), porcelain items (plates, bowls) and paper items (stamps and old money).
Be careful when buying “antiques” in Vietnam however as it is illegal to export real antiques out of the country.