Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City
Tip Update: This place is listed under Patricia Schultz's "1000 places to see before you die" so it's a must see.
Have you heard of the old adage, " if you want it, we have it?" Well, this applies here, they have coffee beans for the isomniacs, snake wine for impotent men, enough bags and shoes to satisfy Imelda Marcos , etc etc. Just remember to drive a hard bargain when you are here. There's always a two-step pricing for people who look sadly like a Japanese ( moi ) or Caucasians. Yeah, it's almost as though we are wearing T-shirts that say , "Big Spender"
To see photos of the snake wine and other curiousities, click on b'packer's HCMC page
Ben Thant Market was built in 1914. The clock tower with 4 clocks facing 4 directions is considered the symbol of the City. The market is one of the biggest markets in the city where everything can be found, from vegetables to fish, electronic gadgets, clothings and leather bags, shoes etc..
The market now also caters to the increasing tourist visiting HCM City... with a wide range of cheap imported goods, mainly from China...
At the back of the market, small food stalls serve a wide variety of local dishes...
This is the biggest market in HCMC. You can practically get everything here - clothes, food, utensils, arts and crafts, souvenirs, meat and vegetables, coffee powder, etc etc. It's open air - you can move through the many galleries gaping at how many things are being sold here. Bargain hard before you buy anything. My favourite section is the food section - where you can slurp down warm Vietnamese Beef Pho (noodles) (~5000dongs), have cold desserts (~2000dongs) and watch the world go by...as long as you don't mind the chaos going around you.
Jan 2007 Update (from friends): ..." am glad that I have gotten there now than later cause it is now largely invaded by tourists, especially those from Europe. So things are getting expensive and we got slightly burned at Ben Thanh market buying some local delicacies. Later, we actually go to their supermarket which was alot cheaper!!"...
Most definitely on the tourist trail, Ben Thanh Market is a landmark at the big roundabout where Le Loi, Tran Hung Dao and Ham Nghi meet. The central island of the roundabout, alive with bright yellow flowers, is a good vantage point from where to photograph the energetic market. It is also interesting to watch the traffic go by!
Ben Thanh supplies everything and more... From fresh vegetables to stationary and power tools! For those who suffer claustrophobia it may be a bit daunting squeezing down narrow aisles past product displays and bustling patrons.
Vietnamese versions of western food halls are very informal. Small stools line the many stalls, most of them occupied by hungry locals. Food preparation occurs in the open right in front of you. It is therefore easy to decide on a tasty-looking dish. Pull over a stool and tuck in!
This market is an easy walk being 700 metres from the city centre and the Rex Hotel. As we were staying at the Rex we visited this market several times, both early morning (10am) and late afternoon when it is very crowded.
The walk along Le Loi street south to the market takes you past many shops and street vendors selling much of what you will find in the market. It is your chance to check the quality and price before you reach the market.
At the market there are hundreds of stalls selling designed label clothing, bags, beads, shoes, jewellry, cosmetics, crafts, lacquer ware etc, all at very low prices. Do not accept the first offer price, bargain hard but remember the exchange rate is over 18,000 Dong to the US $ and 1,000 Dong is approximately 5 cents. Be reasonable with your offer.
There is a large food market which we walked through but did not eat here. It all looked good and most likely was safe to eat.
The market was constructed by the French in 1914 and has a stylish clock tower.
HCMH is not complete without going to Ben Thanh market. You get all kinds of stuff here but you must do these:
(1) Bargain Bargain Bargain
(2) Bring a calculator - you need it to convert Dong to US$ or to your local currency
(3) Best to avoid Fridays and Saturdays - thats when the crowd is incredible. Lots of foreigners like me go and shop. The prices they quote for the goods is higher on Fri/Sat than if you are there on late Sunday evenings/ Mondays. You could try this wonderful clothes shop named Phanh
(4) Dress lightly as you will be going into a "sauna"
A much cooler place which I visited was Andong Market
Other Interesting HCMC Places
Everyone knows about this one :o) We had heard so much about it that we had to hit the market to try our bartering skills. ....and got some great bargains!! I bought a lovely pair of carved shoes - originally $12US, but I got them for $9US. Also bought some lovely costume jewlery - two nice pieces for $7US - originally $10US. Kelli was ruthless!! ...buying Louis Vatton bags and helping Howie with bargaining for watches and shirts for a pittance. All in all, we had loads of fun :o)
A visit to Saigon without a visit to the Ben Thanh Market would not be a visit to Saigon. . . . .
Where ever on the planet, I love to visit the markets, stroll around or in the narrow alleys, look at everything the eyes can catch, listen to voices and noises, smell the atmosphere. . . ; there are the flowers with their colours, fragrances, nicely arranged by the vendors; there are the fruits, I like to taste or just look at, discover new ones, ask for their names; the local craftworks, telling so much about local customs, the colourful and lively crowds of locals, so different from one place to the other, the atmosphere of “real” local street life. . . To me, essence of travels is also here, as much as world renowned museums, famous architectural “marvels”, high summits in the mountains I love so much, “breathtaking” landscapes; here are people and a bit of their everyday life, and I keep my five senses just receptive, gathering and recording feelings and impressions which make my modest trips a bit more than souvenir boxes.
Come, let’s have a look. . . . see the beautiful orchid crowns and colourful bunches (first picture) on the northern side of the market building, where the vendors take a moment for a short lunch, waiting for customers, or just keep busy, preparing bunches and compositions (picture 2) for weddings, receptions, funerals, official buildings or offices decoration. . . . or for people who just like to have beautiful flowers in their home. . . . . On the Northern side of the market, you have plenty of choice (picture 3), just for the “pleasure of sight”.
Stop there, look (and smell, specially the lilies and jasmines), there are the flowers and lots of small details which make the visit more interesting, the busy people, the tools, the containers, a bit an “organised mess”, and, unavoidable in Saigon, a motorbike. . . . (picture 4).
This coffee packs a punch!! I love it so much, I had it for breakfast; I had it for dinner. Thick but not as thick as a Greek/Turkish coffee, smells wonderful and robust and gives you a nice kick to start or push the day! Every restaurant and cafe serves it, and prices range from around 2000 dong to 5000 dong depending on where you are having it. You can buy the drip coffee containers as a souvenir of HCMC or Vietnam at Ben Thanh market. They have the usual cheaper metal ones as well as the better crafted ceramic ones. The metal ones should cost about 5000 dong (US$0.33) after bargaining.
Ben Thanh market covers almost 1 square kilometer which enables hundreds of stalls to sell souvenirs, clothes, fruits, vegetables, fish, electronic appliances and many more. It has become a tourist magnet due to variety of goods that can be bought. The building was built in 1914 and the clock tower is one of the symbols of HCMC. You can get some good prices if you have good bargaining skills, but Ben Thanh is not the best place for shopping. It is a good place for learning the product variety and average prices, but you will definitely find better prices in HCMC.
Another feast for the eyes (and the imagination. . . . . and the palate!) are the fruits in this market;
I just like the shapes, colours, and the way the fruits are displayed, like here (First picture), the rambutan pyramid, green mangoes, green oranges, orange persimmons, brown longans, red shining Malay apples, (and in upper left corner, a bit far, one of the most delicious on the planet: the mangusteen!). People prefer to sell them rather than left you taste them one after the other, but it is worth to try!
Is this stall (picture 2) not colourful, almost all green, with the big grapefruits, the huge durians, green mangoes, a bit red with the dragon fruits (look at the tamarinds in the bags) and the orange vendor. I cannot stop. . here (picture 3) another stall with custard apples, and small jackfruits beneath, and other ones we have seen before. Well known fruits like pineapples are also on the market (picture 4). And here, outside the market, the lady allowed me to make a picture of her durians (picture 5), very big ones here, but without her, and she hided behind the newspaper with a big smile.
Locates at the intersection of Le Loi ,Ham Nghi , Tran Hung Dao and Le Lai Avenues . It’s the biggest market in HCMC and also a place attracts many foreign tourists , almost everything is sold in this market u can find anything u want but it’s also known as the most expensive market , things are always charged much higher than other places .If u visit the market if u really wanna buy some T-shirts or sth please haggle to have a bargain .
U can find the “business” not only have in the market but also on the streets around it there are many shops dealing in food , shoes ,sandals , and even second-hand clothes.
One more thing u should beware of is that street venders outside the market,i recommend u be careful with them and shouldnt buy anything from them.
Hope u have a nice trip!! :)
This large market is close to the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao. The market was formally established by the French colonial powers after taking over the Gia Dinh citadel in 1859. This market was destroyed by fire in 1870 and rebuilt to become Saigon's largest market. In 1912 the market was moved to a new building and called the New Ben Thanh Market to distinguish over its predecessor.
Food, T-shirts, cloth and material, souvenirs, kitchenware, spices, fruit, flowers, watches, jewellery - are just some of the things on offer here where you'll find everything you need under one roof. The quality of goods varies, and you must bargain - expect the initial price to be inflated up to two or three times what it should be.
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is the commercial hub of Vietnam and certainly its most lively city. This place springs to life early in the morning with the hustle and bustle of the local markets and the incessant honks and noise from all manner of vehicles. If you would like to see Saigon up close and personal you should visit the large local markets of which Ben Thanh Market is the oldest and largest in Saigon. I was amazed at how large and varied and different this market is than anything I am use to at home.
'Ben' means pier or port and 'Thanh' means fort. It gets its name from the original market which was located on the shores of the Ben Nghe river close to old fort Gia Dinh. Its proximity to that fort and the river is the reason for its name. It has been in its present position since 1899.
At Ben Thanh, you will find practically every staple household commodity imaginable. If consumerism offers intimate glimpses of how people live, wandering among the tiny, packed stalls here will give you some unique insights into modern Vietnamese life. Ben Thanh also has a large, inexpensive food court which caters to local specialties. And you will also find produce, flowers, postcards, balloons - you name it and you will probably find it - sold on the sidewalks surrounding the building.
By day, the enclosed part of Ben Thanh market is open and is packed full of textiles, bags, shoes, clothes, foodstuffs, handicraft items and more. It is worth a look but I do not recommend buying anything unless you really MUST have that item as I feel the stuff sold here is expensive, by my standards. Unless you have superb bargaining skills, don't even touch anything or you'll be hounded by persistent stall-holders.
By night, there is the open-air night market, which I feel, has better bargains (like clothes, bags and shoes) and many interesting food stalls. My friends did not get any stomach upset from eating the food there but I suggest you get yourself fully vaccinated against food-related diseases (like typhoid) first before trying some of the food here, just to be on the safe side.
Day and night, along Le Loi street and surrounds, you can walk around to find lots and lots of shops selling souvenior items, clothes, bottled water & drinks, bags.
While walking we also chanced upon ITC shopping centre, near the surroundings of ben thanh market (don't know the exact street name). We got a FAR better price for the handicraft items that my friend wanted at ben thanh market during the day, I got 3 good-quality clothing items, all for under USD15 at this place.