On our mission to complete all other ASEAN destinations (we have yet to visit the Philippines, Brunei, Myanmar and Laos by the way), we picked Vietnam and decided to visit Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is more popularly known. The only thing that passed through our mind when we choose Ho Chi Minh City, SHOPPING!
Time allocated: three days and two nights.
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City is truly one of the main highlights of this city. We saw a lot of new shopping malls springing up around town, but it is the markets that attract bargain hunters like us. The markets still play a central role in the daily lives of its people, which is always a good indicator for fair prices.
These are some of the markets that travellers may visit and shop:
1. Cho Ben Tanh (Ben Thanh Market)
Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is the most popularmarkets of all. It is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous landmarks. If you are staying downtown you could perhaps walk to it from your hotel as it is centrally located. Head to the market preferably early morning to pick up some bargains including lacquer ware, bamboo goods, arts and crafts. Also on sale are clothes, textiles, luggage, watches and electronic goods. Edible products are also available. Spices, nuts, snacks, coffee and dried seafood are not to be missed. Take note that some items have strictly fixed price.
Address: Le Loi, Ben Thanh, Quan 1
Opening hours: Daily 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
2. Night Market
When night falls, the streets surrounding Ben Thanh market comes alive. The streets are no longer filled with chaotic traffic, but replaced with myriad of stalls and customers. Besides food, travellers can also find stalls selling apparels, souvenirs, and other items. Fellow Malaysian ladies will be delighted to find that baju kurung and headscarves are sold at a fraction of what they would have paid back home. Some sellers could even speak Malay – they must have plenty of practice these past few years since Malaysian ladies are among the largest cohort of visitors to the city.
Address: Neighbouring streets of Ben Thanh Market
Opening hours: 6:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
3. Cho Tan Dinh (Tan Dinh Market)
If we were to compare Tan Dinh Market to Ben Thanh Market, Tan Dinh Market is smaller and less touristy. It is not overly crowded yet the stalls are jam packed with huge selections. Tan Dinh Market is where the locals shop, thus the prices here are cheaper. You could find fresh produce, household items, and fabrics, among others.
Address: Tan Dinh Ward, District 1
Opening hours: Daily 5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
4. Cho Binh Tay (Binh Tay Market)
Though it is a wholesale market, retail goods are also available. The crowded Binh Tay Market is the major attraction in Chinatown that offers everything you can think of. Come here if you are looking for reasonably priced fabrics. The market is chaotic, with small aisles selling all manner of goods. Be careful not to get lost in here.
Address: 57 Thap Muoi, Ward 2, District 6
Opening Hours: Daily 6:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
5. Russian Market
Do not let the name confuse you – no more Russian products can be found anymore here (during the Cold War period when USSR was still in existence, this was the place where Russian goods were sold wholesale). Head here if you are looking for warm clothing like jackets and active wear. We love the selection of the winter wear here because they are of good quality and reasonably priced. These days, this market is more like a modern shopping arcade, with air conditioning so you can shop comfortably, unlike the crowded traditional markets.
Address: 328 Vo Van Kiet Street, Co Giang Ward, District 1
Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
6. Saigon Square Shopping Mall
This air-conditioned shopping arcade brims with stalls on two levels retailing fashion, accessories and jewellery. The shops and stalls here are seemingly placed haphazardly around the mall. Bargaining is required because prices here are initially inflated.
Location: Corner of Nam Ky Khoi and Le Loi in District 1
Opening Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
You may get a items at an affordable price. Here’s how you can bargain like a boss
1. Don’t be shy when bargaining at the markets
You can typically push the price down to one-third or one-quarter from what is was initially stated. Be prepared to give the look of a slight shock when hearing the initial price. Haggling is an art, so wearing that kind of surprised look is part of the game.
2. Take Your Time
If you see something that catches your eye, shop around first and enquire about prices as it is fairly easy to find different shops selling similar items.
3. Be Smart
Just think about what you would be willing to pay for an item and bargain accordingly. Be prepared to walk away from a deal. This actually gives you more power and in most cases, will get you called back by the seller with an acceptance of your ‘lowest offer price’.
4. Be nice
Smile, laugh and generally be nice. At the same time, consider what is fair for the traders too. People always respond to positivity and that makes the shopping experience more pleasant for both parties.
5. Do Not Touch
Touching an item would mean you are very interested to buy that particular item. Ask for the price only if you are really interested, the traders could be very pushy and you could end up buying things you do not really want.
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 12.2. Read other contents HERE.