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Ben Thanh Market – a Saigon shopping heaven where haggling rules

Sunday, October 22, 2017, 07:30 GMT+7

Ben Thanh Market is undoubtedly the most famous market in Ho Chi Minh City, especially for foreign tourists who quickly realize that never-ending haggling makes the venue a no-go for the faint of heart.

In the afternoon before leaving Vietnam, Spaniard Marc Vila Serena, his wife, and two children spent nearly an hour in Ben Thanh Market in District 1 hunting for gifts to bring home in Barcelona for friends and family.

The family of four had also visited the market a few days prior and admitted that they were blown away by the variety of goods sold in the market’s stalls.

While Serena’s daughter chose to buy a backpack and clothes from the market, the parents opted for balm, lacquer wood decorations, and pop-up cards featuring Saigon’s famous landscapes.

“We wanted to buy things that will remind us of Vietnam,” Serena said.

Tourists go shopping at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City District 1 - Photo: Tuoi Tre
Tourists go shopping at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City District 1 - Photo: Tuoi Tre

Postcards, key chains, decorations, paintings, wooden crafts, scarves, ceramics, and brocade, are just a few of the items sold at Ben Thanh. Both foreign and Vietnamese tourists often admit to feeling overwhelmed the first time they step into Ben Thanh Market and find themselves lost amongst the hundreds of stalls lining the 'alleys of souvenirs.'

The sellers at Ben Thanh Market often claims that the market sells exclusive goods that can’t be found at any other market, as the place has always been considered a unique shopping destination for foreign tourists.

Leila Scheffers, a tourist from the Netherlands, wandered the market before settling on two pairs of chopsticks, a wooden wine holder, two ceramic teacups, and a Buddha statue.

“I was thinking about what my family and friends would like.  I have friends who like sushi and noodles so I bought chopsticks.  My dad likes wine so it would be nice if he could use this wine holder”, she told Tuoi Tre News.

Bargaining is a must

In reviewing Ben Thanh market, both Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor emphasize that buyers should equip themselves be prepared to bargain from the moment they enter the market.

According to TripAdvisor, Ben Thanh Market ranks 40 among more than 250 things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.

“One of the most interesting places in Ho Chi Minh City, shopping is good here but bargaining is a must,” said one reviewer.

Among the hundreds of people who left comments regarding their bargaining experience at Ben Thanh market, some saw it an interesting experience while the others found it annoying.

“Go here if you're in to bargain hunting. Haggle with 50% initial price off on all items if you want a good deal,” Christian L commented on TripAdvisor.

Tourists go shopping at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City District 1 - Photo: Tuoi Tre
Tourists go shopping at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City District 1 - Photo: Tuoi Tre

“Tourist attraction. Bought nuts and dried fruits. Can try before you buy. Please do bargain! Don't be shy! We were told by a local tour guide to bargain down to 65% off. Enjoy! (not quite for me, I don’t like bargaining),” Julie W added.

Meanwhile, Mark Young, an Australian who has lived in Ho Chi Minh City for nearly four years, shared that shopping at the tourist market just isn’t for him.

His trips to the market and other souvenir shops are limited to taking friends and family on their visits to Vietnam.

“Souvenir shops are generally not the place to go if you want quality products, but often friends and family want to buy for a lot of people, so they only want something cheap,” he explained.

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DONG NGUYEN / TUOI TRE NEWS

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