Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market is one of the “places” to be visited in Saigon. Especially for the ladies, it is a place for shopping for Vietnamese “oleh-oleh” (souvenir). Somehow this market reminds me of Chatuchak weekend market in Bangkok, Thailand.

Market is located in downtown District 1. Ten minutes by taxi from the Notre Dame Catheral, with around 40,000VND taxi fare.  There is a square opposite the market with a statue of General Tran Nguyen Han who was a 15th-century warrior served under King Le Loi. 

Market has four gates so it is convenient for the shoppers to get in and out.  Within the market, the shops are well organized according to the types of products.

If we enter from the gate opposite the square, we will see shops selling textiles, clothes, beautiful material for áo dài (Vietnamese national costume, now most commonly for women), t-shirts, sunglasses, etc.   

Also we could find souvenirs, handy craft, chinaware (ceramics), lacquer boxes (kotak souvenir dengan coating pernis/lacquer), sandals, ladies bags/wallets, jewelries, etc. This part reminds me of Mangga Dua in Jakarta, Indonesia. The difference is that Ben Thanh is a one big storey building covered with high ceiling. Meanwhile Mangga Dua is a few storey building.

My three favorite things to buy are all cute girlie stuff:
  • Miniature mannequin dressing up in cute áo dài or cheongsam dresses. It has four hangers on top and two arms-hangers to display light weight jewelries i.e. rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.... One funny story.… I bought one for my girlfriend as her birthday gimmick. Not only that she likes it, but her husband uses it too to hang his watches! Happy to hear that boys like it too! Unfortunately, in my last visit, there was not any shop selling this.
  • Girl sandals decorated with beads. Preferably for indoor use. They are so cute and available in many colors: black, white, navy blue, pink, yellow, gold, green, etc.  By the way, mine is white!
  • Bag/pocket made from colorful fabrics with nice embroidery. I normally use it for traveling, to wrap my personal belongings before I put them in the luggage. Some fabrics are embroidered with shoes or underwear. So can you guess what the content is? Smile -:)

In the center of the market, there are food stalls selling food and drinks. Each stall has few chairs for customers. Passing these stalls, we can smell variety of food they are serving. Mostly is the local food. Wet market is at the back, selling fresh vegetables, fishes, meats, flowers, etc.

At the other side of the market, we can see shops selling Vietnamese cà phê (coffee) and (trà) tea. It is recommended to buy Vietnamese coffee with its coffee filter for “oleh-oleh” (souvenir)! We can enjoy it with condensed milk at home.

Vietnamese Coffee & Tea. See coffee filter on right bottom corner?
Can we bargain in this market?  There are specific sections with “fixed price” signs, but others do not. Questions and Answers with the shop owners are often done through a calculator. LOL… Numbers talk! 

During the chats, the shop owners often touch our hands, with no meaning, it is just their habit, with no harm intention. Sometimes they just touch shopper hands when they try to offer their products. They offer their small stool (read ‘dingklik’ in Bahasa Jawa) to seat and see their products.

Bringing “oleh-oleh” (souvenir) for family/friends from the most attractive place in Saigon such as Ben Thanh market is fun. It is more fun to squeeze everything in the luggage and try not to be overweight. Finally, it is such a happy feeling to see happy faces of our family/friends when they receive it. My pleasure of giving and sharing…

Tintin went to Saigon too....!!!

More info about Ben Thanh Market: Wikipedia:

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