Traditional wet markets in HCMC are diverse in sizes and products they have to offer. Many of them may captivate not only local people but also foreigners, especially those who want to indulge in both shopping and exploring Vietnam’s culture.
If you wish to visit a traditional market each day in Saigon, it would take you years to complete the list. Yet of the thousands of them throughout the city, Ben Thanh Market and Russian Market in District 1, and Binh Tay Market in District 6 are among the best known to foreign visitors. At these three places, expatriates can rest assured that they won’t miss the chance to either sight-see or do the shopping whenever they drop by.
Ben Thanh Market
Known as one of the most popular tourist attractions in HCMC, Ben Thanh Market is visited by some 15,000 shoppers per day on average. Located in the heart of the city, this distinctive market is designed to resemble an indoor dome with an uplift ceiling. Due to this architecture, Ben Thanh seems to have a spacious and well ventilated atmosphere although it is always packed with customers.
A giant clock carved onto the southern gate’s wall, which is also the market’s main entrance, is Ben Thanh’s striking feature. What makes Ben Thanh outstanding is a market-goer may find all he or she wants in Vietnam just by coming to the market where a great variety of products are available—from clothes, shoes and fresh or dried fruits to food from different regions of Vietnam.
“I was really impressed by the variety of items at the market,” said Antonio Sullivan, a Canadian tourist, who was awestruck by Ben Thanh’s uniqueness. “Another thing that impressed me is the market has both the fixed price option as well as the bargaining area.”
However, some foreigners said they were overwhelmed by solicitations by aggressive vendors. “Sometimes, shop owners are a little bit aggressive, but I think that is part of this lively and busy market,” said Craig, a tourist from the U.S.
At night, when the Ben Thanh’s main structure is closed for the day, the night market is ready to be bustling. Mobile stands are set up along the streets surrounding the main structure. Different kinds of products can be found there ranging from clothes to souvenirs. Interestingly, a range of Vietnamese street foods can be found, so a visit to Saigon would not be complete without tasting some street foods there. The night market is like a “miniature” of the bigger Ben Thanh Market. The difference is shops are located outdoors and the atmosphere is airier. Foreign tourists enjoy shopping at night just as much as during the day.
Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market in District 6 has become an ideal destination for many foreigners due to its special architecture. Dating back to the 19th century, Binh Tay Market was built by a Chinese merchant. Having been inspired by the Chinese traditional style, the market takes on an ancient palace appearance, a feature that wows many strangers.
Foreigners are likely to be amazed by Binh Tay’s number of stalls. Over 2,000 stalls at the market stock many products in various shapes and sizes, allowing visitors to experience part of the activities of a market which is arguably the biggest wholesale market in HCMC and Vietnam.
Averill, a British tourist, expressed her feeling about Binh Tay Market. “I really enjoy shopping here,” she said. “You can enjoy the atmosphere and learn the Vietnamese way of life from the food to the variety of products.” Choosing to buy some souvenirs and some southern spices, Averill said she got them to remind her of this place.
David, another foreign traveler who was visiting Binh Tay, shared Averill’s view. “I have been to some markets, but this is one of the most unique markets I have ever seen. I feel like I learned a lot about Vietnamese culture,” said David.
The statue of this market’s founder placed in the center is considered the symbol of wealth of this market. To aliens, Binh Tay may offer a place where they can come over to admire the ancient architecture, learn about the history of the market as well as shop at reasonable prices.
Founded 20 years ago, Russian Market in District 1 gradually transformed itself and turned into a place where tourists can purchase products suiting Russians’ demand. The most popular products there are winter clothes such as men’s and women’s neck jumpers, thick and extra thick leggings, and hoodies, to poplin coats, scarves and gloves. There are also some souvenir shops selling pictures, watches and colorful Russian dolls or treats and food imported from Russia.
“I want to get a new coat and jumper when I return home and I can buy them here at low prices,” said Rachel, an Irish tourist. Jennifer, an Australian tourist said she came to the market to buy winter clothing. “I have a Russian friend and I am buying him these gifts,” said Jennifer. “I think he will be very surprised. I also bought some nice warm clothes for myself because I’m going to Japan soon.”
Foreigners, living in Russia or not, can easily find the familiar scenes of warm wear when they set foot on Russian Market.