Believe it or not, even though you have spent years shopping at several malls and commercial centers that shopping has become a boring and ordinary task to you, exploring an Asian market is always an exhilarating experience. Visit Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and you will understand. Being a bustling market in the daytime and a social center after sunset, Ben Thanh Market is absolutely a must-see attraction of the most dynamic city of Vietnam.
Past and Presence
Built in 1870 by the French, the market was initially called Les Halles Centrales before being renamed Ben Thanh in 1912. From a wet market created by street vendors by the early 17th century, Ben Thanh has experienced many ups and downs throughout it’s history, and is now the oldest surviving market and one of symbols of Ho Chi Minh city. That makes it a must for any visitors travelling to this 300-year-old city.
Today, because the market possesses one of the most crucial locations in District 1 (the intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street), transportation is extremely convenient and trade is bustling. In the morning, you can find almost everything from dry food to clothes for a reasonable price. The market atmosphere can sometime be a real hustle and bustle, but it is an exciting experience after all. However, always remember that bargain is a must in any Vietnamese market.
From late afternoon until late night, the shops inside the market are closed, but several restaurants are open outside on the surrounding streets. These small yet interesting restaurants can offer you a variety of choices: bubble teas, grills, seafood, etc. When you are tired of eating, stand up and take a walk along the neighborhood which has in no time transformed into a night market full of lights and glamour.
Ben Thanh Market is possibly the most well-known symbol of Ho Chi Minh City, showing up in a large number of publications, movies, online articles. Why it is so? Because your trip to Ho Chi Minh City cannot be completed without a visit to Ben Thanh market to experience the “real Vietnam”!
What can be found here
Ben Thanh is firstly well-known as the place for real Vietnamese food. There a number of vendors and food stalls in the market food section that offers guests dishes freshly made to the order. Here, one can taste various kinds of local dishes like banh xeo, banh cuon, banh beo, cha gio, hu tiu… In the evening, while all stalls inside the market are closed, sidewalk restaurants around the market open and make it extraordinary lively area. One of the most recommended foods by tourists is deep fried whole fish, so remember to try it at least once when you dine here. Besides, one can also taste seafood and enjoy cool beer at cheap price (only $1-2 for a beer only). One advice for tourists is not sitting deep into the crowded food tent to avoid the heat.
Curious about what the locals eat, wear or use daily? Just come here and find out the answer. From clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry to kitchen ware, grocery, sweets, and great Vietnamese coffee… every thing that Saigonese need for their daily life can be found here. Taking a look at things for sale here, seeing how people make transactions or which kind of goods is purchased most by the locals, one can learn much about the local life and get useful experience for shopping in Vietnam also. For the ones who are keen on shopping, here is exactly the place you are looking for.
Besides goods for daily use, tourists can find here variety of eye-catching local handicrafts, souvenirs. Just pick up some cute fridge magnets or delicated small piece of lacquer, one has got small gifts for friends and family at home or something to remind him/her about the trip to Ho Chi Minh city. “I live in Bangkok, the land of markets, but I still found this market rather interesting. It sells items slightly different from what I get in Thailand. Fascinated by the coffee bean/powder and knick knack shops. My sons bought a fridge magnet each with famous Vietnamese landmarks on them. I don’t normally purchase souvenirs when I am overseas but landed up with some nice pieces of lacquer from one of the shops”, a tourist from Bangkok said. Here is some advices for an idea of what to buy when you are in Ho Chi Minh City.
More: Shopping Guide in Ho Chi Minh City
Though quality of goods is quite good but price here is often inflated up to two or three times than the initial. Hence, one should “go at least three or four stalls to compare the prices, and see how cheap you can bargain the items down to”, Peter Stevenson, a tourists from Gold Coast, Australia shared.
Another tip is go shopping in the market before 8am for “morning price” that is a little lower than the usual for the same good. “Cool” price at the beginning of the day is for easier first transaction which is believed to bring about good luck to the sellers for the rest of the day. Read more about Bargaining Tips here.