One of my best friends recently was an ESL teacher in Ho Chi Minh City and emailed me about this amazing new concept store there called L’Usine and La Cafeteria. Housed in an old French colonial building, the owners were influenced by the elegance of the Indochina era, while creating a space that serves a distinct need in the burgeoning capitol - a place for creatives to congregate. Part store, part cafe, part art gallery, the store literally has a well-edited selection of anything you might need - from loose knits specifically chosen for HCMC's humid climate to vintage bicycles to imported Mariage Freres teas. Brands include Lomography, Wetter Indochine, Cheap Monday, United Bamboo, and Sienna Miller's Twenty8Twelve.
What to buy: Anything and everything from women's clothes by Kunzi and Twenty8Twelve, men's shoes by Supra Footwear, Baggu bags, Rosebud Perfume Lip balm, and Lomography cameras and film. I would probably pick up some of the Trois Filles scarves, and then relax over a Vietnamese iced coffee and croissant in the cafe.
The shop is just down the street from the An An Hotel. It is an art gallery that sells art made out of monarch butterfly wings. At first I was a bit freaked out as I don't support killing butterflies for art but the monarch butterfly lives for a day or so and this is how the artist collects them.
What to buy: We stumbled upon this place by accident. It is butterfly wing art. The gallery is amazing and the artwork is so reasonable. The photos I attached does not do it justice. My aunt bought a piece of the artwork one day and I went back the next day to buy 4 pieces. One of the pieces I wanted was sold out and they said they would call the artist to work up a piece for me the next day in the late evening as I was leaving then. As luck would have it, when I went the next evening to pick up all 4 pieces, the shy artist was there. He came in to deliver the artwork and I kind of called him out to his workers as he spoke no english. He signed and named my pieces on the back. They were named but they made labels for me. I felt a little guilty because EVERYTHING in the artwork is some form of monarch butterfly. Supposedly they are already dead and aren't "killed" for the sake of art. I had a little problem with this.
What to pay: Shocking at how inexpensive they are. The artwork is about $45 US for a 12x15 and with a frame, an additional $5 US. Altogether I spent $186 US for 4 pieces.
This shop sells batteries and some camera supplies as well as all sorts of nice souvenirs and gifts.
We went in because my roommate needed batteries for her camera, discovered all the other stuff they carry, and left with several purchases each.
Well, if you are a frequent traveler like me and your good ol earphone died out or unfortunately got stoeln (like me!) fret not.. this store is a life savior not only because its located in the city central, but because the staffs speak fluent English!! not only that, i finally was able to find earphones on display that i could actually try before purchasing, unlike the other stores where i went to at minh khai street or something (lots of computers area, not sure if i got the street name right), the store owner/sales insisted that i had to buy it first before trying it on. ok, fine, i'll pay if its sealed up in a box or something, but the earphones were all in a transparent ziplock bags for heavens sake...
Anyway, the sales guy at Kool Audiophiles is pretty cool guy and gave me a little more discount after i told him how i was miserable for 2 days without music as i as exploring the city. Other than that, i actually spend hour trying out other earphones and headphones..lol.
Drop by folks if you need an earphone or headphone..
What to buy: Portable Headphone amps (in diy candy boxes!), earphones, headphones, accessories..koss, crossroads, hippo, cresyns, alessandro....and much more..
What to pay: anyway from 20-2000 dollars...for high end headphones
There a real market towards the northern end of the building with the remainder selling goods mainly targeted at the tourists. There are many branded goods on sale here and you would need to bargain aggressively on the offered price.
I would think that anything between 20-25% of offered price is a good price for the stall holders. I've got myself a branded T-shirt for about that and I still reckon the stall holders are more then happy with the price that I've paid.
The hotel (Windsor Plaza Hotel) provides a free shuttle bus service to the city centre and Ben Thanh Market is the first stop along the route. It drops you off at a minor road opposite the Ben Thanh Market. For return to the hotel, just wait at the same spot where you alighted.
As of history, it seems that this is a New Ben Thanh Market built in 1912 and renovated in 1985. If so, the building should be close to 100 years old.
Thuong ax Tax Mall (Tax Mall) was in the local english newspaper on 24-Dec about its Christmas deco and seeing that we headed down to it.
Outside the Mall, alot of locals were taking pictures of the Christmas decoration.
Inside on the 1st floor, a supermarket that virtually sells everything the locals would buy as their essentials including some shirts and T-shirts bearing prints that speaks of Vietnam or Ho Chi Minh City. Here the prices are fixed and check out counters with barcode scanners and cash register.
Bags can be deposited at the entrance service counter with the key locked boxes for free.
Outside of the supermarket, shops within the malls sells branded products but prices were comparable to those back home.
What to buy: Vietnamese Coffee
Vinatural (Mixed Fruits chips)
What to pay: local prices
A 5 storey air-conditioned shopping mall. Branded Goods / mechandise can be found here. Some shop owners / assistants would know you are tourist and may inflate prices. For local products/produce that you can bring home with you, you might want to check out the supermarket. You should be able, from it, to guage the reasonable prices of non-branded clothes, bags, etc by checking out the prices in the fixed price supermarket.
Shoes / Bags / Accessories
2nd / 4th Floor:
Clothing and Apparrels
Bulk Clothing and Apparrels?
What to buy: Generally, the quality isn't very good even for branded stuff. Please check the quality before offering your reduced prices. We had wanted to purchase a pair of barmuda shorts but after checking, decided against it. Price in this case is in-material.
We did buy local vietnamese coffee 3-in-1 and lots of other items available from the supermarket.
What to pay: Local Prices but tourist beware of inflated prices.
Fixed prices at supermarket.
The Ben Thanh Tourist market is the main shopping area in Ho Chi Minh City. Here hundreds of stalls sell a wide array of goods from souvenir shirts to fine silk to cashew nuts. Housed in a massive space and it will take shoppers hours upon hours looking and buying bargains. Primarily because of competition from nearby stalls, it is quite common sight to see shopkeepers chasing and trying to convince customers who might not find prices cheap enough. Some even resort to holding on to the hand or arm of customers. Usually shopkeepers give discounts if you buy a large quantity of goods.
What to buy: Handicrafts
Everyone talk about Ben Thanh Market, but is a BIG DISAPOINTMENT to me ! In general the sales person there very unfriendly and rude. If you don't intend to purchase the item and just asking prices, they will be very unhappy and might scold you. Don't we as a consumer having the right to ask around and knowing the price before purchase ? Everything are over price at Ben Thanh. The sales person love to pull tourist's hand asking them to buy things from them. For man might love it, but I hate !
The night market around Ben Thanh similar with with Ben Thanh Market which open only during day time, things selling, people's attitude ..... etc ! But the great part is you don't need to experience shop in the oven.
Saigon Square 1 is a much, much better place to shop. With air-con, the sales person at Saigon Square 1 in general don't have the same attitude problem like those @ Ben Thanh Market. There is another Saigon Square 2 (nothing much compare with Saigon Square 1), so don't go to the wrong place like what I did.
I couldn't imagine finding a wine shop in Ho chi Minh city ! But I came across this shop when I was looking for a gift for a Vietnamese friend.
The team is very helpful and I could find my ideal gift very easily ! They know a lot about wine and others alcohols !
There are many products for all budgets and you can even taste wine like in a wine bar (an it's an affordable price).
It is very classy but not snob !
In the shop, they do not only sell wines but also many other alcohols. For instance : vodka, tequila, rhum ...
I had never seen fine wine bottles before and cognac bottles so expensive !
If you are an amateur you will apreciate this wide choice.
What to pay: There are product for all budgets
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