Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Shopping in Ho Chi Minh is truly one of the highlights of this fascinating city. New shopping malls are springing up all over downtown Saigon, bringing with them international fashion brands to please the most demanding of fashion connoisseurs, but it is the variety of shopping experiences and one-off items that most excite us about shopping in Ho Chi Minh.
Boutique fashion is more prominent here than almost anywhere else in Southeast Asia, where bespoke items can be bought at a fraction of what they cost elsewhere. Markets in Ho Chi Minh are also highly recommended as they still play a central role in the daily lives of locals and visitors – truly a shopping experience you won’t forget quickly.
1. Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market, Saigon
Situated in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, bustling Ben Thanh Market in District 1 is a great place to buy local handicrafts, branded goods, Vietnamese art and other souvenirs. Here, you’ll find eating stalls inside the market where you can get a taste of hawker-style Vietnamese cuisine or simply cool off with a cold drink when the bargaining becomes too much. The market is big, difficult to navigate at times and certainly best avoided during the hottest part of the day but all the same its well worth a look. When night falls, restaurants around the perimeter of the market open their doors creating a vibrant street side scene filling the air with the scents of wok-fried noodles, barbecued fish and meats.
One of Saigon’s oldest landmarks, Ben Thanh offers a great atmosphere that is absolutely authentically Vietnamese.
Ben Thanh Market Highlights
Save your appetite and head to Ben Thanh Market in the evening where you can be served some real street style local food at one of the 20 or so eateries that surround the market building. Chefs will cook in front of you with an endless array of cuisine choices including vegetarian noodles, fresh seafood, crispy rice pancakes and steamed cakes. You will be in great local company as most of the places thrive with locals enjoying a bite to eat and a quick drink on their way home from work.
For shopping heaven head to the market preferably early morning to pick up some bargains including lacquer ware, bamboo goods, arts and crafts. Also on sale are clothes, textiles, luggage, watches and an assortment of electronic goods. Spices, nuts and local fruits heavily scent the air which is also filled with the chatter of tourists and locals haggling for bargains. Do note however that some items will be strictly fixed price.
Good to Know about Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is situated in District 1 in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City at the intersection of Le Loi, Ham Ngh, Tan Hung and Le Lai streets. Shops close late afternoon with shopping best done in the morning before the heat of the day hits.
The market is one of Ho Chi Minh’s most famous landmarks and is known by all taxi drivers, although if you are staying downtown check first to see if you can walk to it from your hotel as it’s very centrally located.
2. Vincom Center
Vincom Center in Saigon
The luxurious Vincom Center is Ho Chi Minh City’s largest shopping mall with over 250 shops spread out over two separate buildings. Vincom Center A is a charming, low rise colonial building housing many flagship stores for international fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Hermes. Vincom Center B occupies the first four floors of a modern glass skyscraper just across the street from the original premises. Here you will find more high street brands, sporting apparel and homeware.
With more than 250 shops, Vincom Center is Ho Chi Minh City’s biggest shopping mall – so big in fact, that they have separated it into two separate buildings just across the street from each other. Vincom Center A is housed in a delightful French styled period building connected to The Continent Hotel, while Vincom Center B is just behind it, occupying the first five storeys of a modern, glass-fronted skyscraper. If you are looking for international products then this should be your first stop as this is where most international luxury brands have their flagship stores, right in the tourist heart of the city. There are also some convenient restaurants and cafes serving food from most regions including many international franchises.
Vincom Center A
Vincom Cenre A is the smaller and prettier one, with a beautiful, baroque styled facade and nothing but the top brands in world fashion pulling customers in with inventive window displays: think Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren and Hermes. As well as premium fashion, there are a limited number of electronics retailers and bespoke home decor shops on the higher floors. On the basement floor there is a children’s playpen called Kids Yard and just next door, an excellent Paris Baguette bakery that sells a wide range of goods and some of the most delicious baguettes in Ho Chi Minh.
Vincom Center B
Just a quick hop across Dong Khoi Street is Vincom Center B. From the exterior, it couldn’t look more different. Instead of ornate French arches, there is a sheer glass frontage stretching up 26 storeys. However, once inside the type of shopping is much the same, with Jimmy Choo, DKNY, Charles & Keith and a host of jewellery and perfume shops. This shopping mall is a little easier to navigate as it is built around a central bank of elevators so shoppers can see what is on the floors above and below. On the basement floor of Vincom B there is an excellent food court with Buds Ice Cream, Carl’s Jr burgers, Seoul Garden, and many other offerings from across the world. • Vincom Center A: 171 Dong Khoi, District 1 • Vincom Center B: 72 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1 • Opening Hours: 09:00 – 22:00
• Tel: (+84 8) 3936 9999
3. Binh Tay Market (Cholon Chinatown Market)
Binh Tay Market (Cholon Chinatown Market)
Cholon is the name given to Vietnam’s largest Chinatown, located in District 5 in the south west of downtown Ho Chi Minh. Along with the interesting historical and cultural aspect of Cholon, the central market called Bin Tay is a fascinating assortment of handicrafts, lacquerware, textiles and fresh goods including many weird and wonderful exotic fruit. Overall, Binh Tay Market is chaotic, hot and a lot of fun. Ho Chi Minh City’s Cholon is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown with roots dating back to 1778; it’s also a place of great historical and cultural importance. Chinese minorities hid here from the Tay Son and subsequently had to rebuild the area twice following attack with as many as 70% estimated to have died trying to escape on boats. Those who survived settled and began selling a variety of Chinese products. During the Vietnam War Cholon was a thriving black market for US soldiers trading in American Army issue supplies. The area today is a popular site for those on the tourist trail and also attracts many Taiwanese and Chinese visitors. Cholon is an interesting place to see classical Chinese architecture reminiscent of years gone by with plenty of Chinese restaurants.
The Binh Tay market at the centre is busy, crowded and messy with small aisles selling all manner of goods. This market sometimes disappoints tourists when compared to other markets in Ho Chi Minh as the products are not that varied, but the main draw to Cholon is not to shop but to enjoy the authentic Chinese atmosphere that has existed here for hundreds of years. It’s a wonderful place to experience at night.
The crowded Binh Tay Market is the major attraction in Chinatown and offers everything you can think of, from fresh produce to Vietnamese goods and especially items with a Chinese flavour.
Temples in this area include Thien Hau Temple on Nguyen Trai Street and Quan Am Temple, on Lao Tu Street. Both feature interesting Chinese-Buddhist style architecture and interiors with pagodas, courtyards, altars and paintings. Chinatown is also home to the Cholon Mosque on Nguyen Trai Street and Cha Tam, a small Catholic cathedral on Duong Hoc Lac Street.
Cholon Restaurants & Dining
Chinatown is full of authentic local restaurants as well as incredibly cheap street hawkers. Like many Chinatowns around the world you will know you have arrived once you see lots of roasted duck and pork hanging in front of the local eateries.
The noodles served in this district have more choices of Chinese style than the usual Vietnamese pho rice noodles while unusual herbs or exotic foods such as dried seahorse and ‘thousand year old eggs’ (aka salted duck eggs) can be spotted here and there.
Saigon’s Chinatown isn’t big on night entertainment. Luckily it is located not far from the city’s downtown where all the night action is. There, tourists will enjoy great choices of bars, pubs and cafés.
Some of them have interesting live music featuring local and international artists but the best part of all this is that beer and alcohol drinks in Vietnam are not expensive and if that’s not enough there are always happy hour promotions.
You can easily combine exploring and shopping in HCMC’s Chinatown. Though it is a wholesale market, Binh Tay also sells retail goods.
Popular items range from Vietnamese silk to lacquerware and hand-embroidered clothes to skillfully woven textiles. You will enjoy discovering many exotic items including delicious tropical fruits. Enjoy shopping and eating.
This area has a unique atmosphere and should not be missed; it’s a small town in itself with its own character, very different from other areas of HCMC. Tour around Chinatown by foot or take a traditional cyclo ride to make an interesting day out.
Good shoes and light clothes will be needed to make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable, especially when visiting Binh Tay Market as it can be hot and very crowded most of the time.
Good to Know about Cholon
Cholon is located on the west bank of the Ho Chi Minh River, mainly over district five. There are plenty of tours available which will take you on a trip round Cholon including the more unusual bike tours which will whizz you round the area at night pointing out the sights and where to eat. Keep any bartering light hearted; expect to receive a discount of around 20% and remember to take time out to sample some of the local nuts, fruit and beer on sale.
4. Fashion Boutiques
Fashion Boutiques in Saigon
Anyone with an interest in fashion simply must spend some time hitting the boutique fashion stores in Ho Chi Minh, with something for almost any taste and budget. Dong Khoi Street in downtown District 1 is a great place to start, but really there are plenty of other fashion boutiques spread out across Saigon. Here is a list of 10 boutiques not to miss in Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh is truly a shopping paradise, whether you are looking for bespoke fashion, local silks or even handcrafted lacquerware. As the world becomes one big shopping mall of international brands, Ho Chi Minh retains its love of boutique fashion and one off collections – and all at a fraction of what you might pay for any of the European or Japanese brands. Here are our top 10 picks of the best fashion boutiques in the city:
1) Nguyen Cong Tri
A designer with worldwide fame for his cutting edge yet elegant women’s line (and one of the hottest names in world fashion following his critically acclaimed show at London Fashion Week), Vietnamese designer Nguyen Cong Tri makes stunning evening dresses at his boutique on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street in District 3, a few blocks from Reunification Palace. Depending on how daring the customer is, they might bolster their wardrobe with an elegant floor length dress embellished with feathers, a silk blouse with three-dimensional flowers exploding out of the fabric or even a bodysuit designed to look like the human musculature. This is a boutique for standout items with real wow factor. They have several off the rack options and many bespoke creations available, although it can take up to 10 days and several fittings for the most technical pieces. • Location: 194 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, District 3.
• Tel: (+84 8) 39306757.
One of the real success stories of Vietnamese fashion, Khaisilk started in 1980 with one shop and has grown into a national brand of boutiques, restaurants and hotels. Despite their growth, Khaisilk still produce the same luscious silk scarves, ties, shirts and blouses, in both muted everyday tones and more flamboyant hues that has won them many fans throughout the world. On our last visit, standout items included a figure hugging Chinese style silk dress buttoned to the neck, cute his and hers silk robes, and a colourful range of leather handbags. Reputedly, this is where the Princess of Thailand shops for scarves, sheets and other luxury silk items so anyone heading down to their flagship, multi-level store on Dong Khoi Street is in prestigious company. Another reason we love Khaisilk is because off the hanger fashion can be tailored here at little or no extra cost. • Location: 107 Dong Khoi Street, District 1.
• Tel: (+84 8) 38291146
Magonn is a bohemian, start-up fashion boutique with a fantastic young women’s line. There are currently two branches open in Ho Chi Minh with a style that meanders between contemporary and retro, with cute nautical striped dresses for everyday and some sexy strapless dresses that are perfect for a night on the town. Magonn’s designs are sweet and playful with polka dots, 60s inspired floral swirls and a love of pastel shades. There is something at Magonn to suit most budgets and at their Le Thank Ton address they have a cafe on the second floor; however, we still recommend visiting their larger boutique on Hai Ba Trung Street first. • Location: 41 Hai Bà Trưng, District 1.
• Tel: (+84 8) 38 220649
4) Massimo Ferrari
Renowned designer Luis Antonio Torres has worked for the biggest fashion houses in the world including Gucci and Armani so it was a real boon for Ho Chi Minh when he moved to the city in 2009 to open his own fashion boutique – Massimo Ferrari. Massimo Ferrari produces bespoke Italian menswear for select clients who know exactly what they want and expect to receive exactly what they order. The quality of materials and craftsmanship is equal to anything found on Saville Row in London but at seriously lower prices. The showroom is a well proportioned mix of classic European suit styles and men’s apparel, including suede loafers and smart leather workbags. There are also smaller items such as cufflinks and ties that would make a perfect souvenir for a discerning gentleman. • Location: 42A1 Tran Quoc Thao, District 3.
• Tel: (+84 8) 3930 6212
L‘usine stocks a unisex collection of contemporary fashion, combined with an art gallery and one of the coolest coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh on the second floor. The fashion range here is supplied by emerging Vietnamese labels as well as contributions from abroad so there is a nice range of everyday T-shirts from Cheap Monday, retro lace dresses from Boaime and handmade laquerware from Indochine. The interior design of brushed concrete floors and whitewashed brick at L’usine is hipster perfection and you could easily waste half a day shopping and snacking on macaroons.
• Location: 70B Le Loi Street, District 1
6) KIN Boutique by Cong Tri
If you are looking for a bespoke ball gown or something extra special, then this tailor close to Ben Thanh Market is the best place to go. KIN Boutique has garnered a reputation through word of mouth due to their impeccable work and jaw-dropping use of chiffon and satin to enhance evening gowns. It’s worth bearing in mind that dresses take over a week to make and may require several fittings, although they do offer worldwide shipping. There is also a ready-to-wear section, again with a focus on interesting materials, and on the second floor they have a range of wedding gowns. • Address: 198 Lê Thánh Tôn, District 1.
• Tel: (+84 8) 3502 3090
7) My Way Deco
Using a combination of lacquer, leather and stainless steel, My Way Deco produces homeware that is both fashionable and functional: an arching, stainless steel egg cup that resembles a scroll, a range of asymmetrical ashtrays and a black lacquer and leather coffee table all took our fancy on our latest visit. There is a real mix of European and Vietnamese characteristics in the design of the pieces and it creates something totally unique. Mature yet funky – let the yellow and black bumble bee exterior be your guide to one of the best homeware boutiques in Ho Chi Minh City. • Address: 13 Nguyen Thiep Street, District 1
• Tel: (+84 8) 3823 8532
Dogma is part urban clothing shop, part art gallery, selling classic propaganda imagery from the Vietnamese War stamped onto T-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs and plenty more besides. The clothes are made with all natural fibres and have the feel of premium quality. The art gallery is another intriguing space with many classic paintings from that divisive era – some of which show military imagery, and others promoting egalitarian ethics and encouraging everyone to work hard for the common cause. There are two tiers of paintings, reproductions and prints – obviously prints are much cheaper, but it’s nice that there is something for every budget. Dogma is on the second floor of a shophouse above a funky knickknack shop called Saigon Kitsch that sells diaries, pens and other colourful souvenir-type items. It is located on Pasteur Street, close to Le Loi. • Address: 1st Floor, 43 Ton That Thiep, District 1
• Tel: (+84 8) 3821 8272
9) DMC by Do Manh Cuong
Vietnamese designer Do Manh Cuong is perhaps the standout designer of high end fashion in Vietnam and DMC is his personal chic boutique selling both men’s and women’s elegant fashion items. Stand out items include layered floor length dresses and formal men’s jackets. Bold use of colour is a trademark of Coung’s style – formerly black and white was synonymous with the DMC clothing, although now he is moving into a broader palette. There is a range of day wear and more formal night time apparel on offer. Do Manh Cuong had previously worked for Christian Dior before returning home to open this boutique so it is a great opportunity to pick up a unique luxury garment that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
• Address: 213 Lý Tự Trọng, District 1
10) Minh Hanh
Another widely acclaimed Vietnamese designer with awards and recognition, Minh Hanh has her flagship boutique in the Vietnam Designers House close to Turtle Lake roundabout in District 3, and also has a permanent display in Zen Plaza shopping mall in District 1. Her fashion is worn by celebrities and fashion icons throughout Vietnam so if you are looking for something fresh and unique, a visit to Minh Hanh has got to be on your itinerary. Bright colours and a fusion of classic Vietnamese culture with modern asymmetrical cuts are the trademarks of this fashion house. • Address: Vietnam Designers House – 161A Hai Ba Trung, District 3
• Tel: (+84 8) 3521 0641
5. Saigon Square
A wholesale market with some of the best prices in Ho Chi Minh, anyone looking for great bargains should make Saigon Square their first stop. Small stalls are densely packed into this warehouse like space, with products stacked high and sold cheap. T-shirts, shoes, swimwear, luggage, jewellery and textiles are all found in abundance here. Anyone looking for bargains while in Saigon should head to Saigon Square on the corner of Nam Kỳ Khởi and Le Loi in District 1. This shopping arcade is packed with stalls on two levels selling fashion, accessories and jewellery – be aware of forgeries though, and remember the old adage that if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Even though it’s always bustling with shoppers, Saigon Square is air conditioned and under cover so it is far more pleasant than shopping in the nearby Ben Thanh Market and it’s generally accepted that prices are far better here. Shops and stalls in Saigon Square are seemingly placed haphazardly around the mall so the best thing to do is just stroll along the aisles looking for something that takes your fancy. Bargaining is expected here and as it is so close to the tourist heart of Ho Chi Minh, prices are initially inflated. If there is something you have your eye on, shop around and enquire about prices as it is fairly easy to find different shops selling similar items. Just consider what you would be willing to pay for an item and bargain accordingly. As well as the main branch on Le Loi Street, there is a second branch at Tôn Đức Thắng, close to the river. The setup is much the same here, although it is smaller and a little more dated. It must be said that male fashion is a little underrepresented at both Saigon Square Shopping Malls but for ladies discount fashion in Ho Chi Minh, Saigon Square should be your first destination. Diamond Cinema shows all the major Hollywood blockbusters and although it only has six screens, it’s a very convenient location if you are looking for a cinema in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh. Movies are played in English with Vietnamese subtitles and prices are generally much lower than in most western countries. A single ticket will cost around 90,000 VND ($4 US). • Location: Corner of Nam Kỳ Khởi and Le Loi in District 1.
• Opening Hours: 08:00 – 22:00
6. Diamond Plaza
Diamond Plaza in Saigon
Diamond Plaza is a department store in District 1 that is surrounded by many of Ho Chi Minh’s most popular attractions such as Notre Dame Cathedral and April 30th Park. Housed in a converted period building, there are several floors of shopping separated into men’s and women’s fashion, homeware, and sports goods. Once you’ve finished shopping, there are multiple dining and entertainment venues to enjoy. In particular, family friendly activities located in Diamond Plaza include bowling and a cinema. Diamond Plaza is a beautifully renovated department store in a Ho Chi Minh City surrounded by many of the city’s most attractive sites, such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Post Office, and the April 30th Park – a charming open space with tall trees and greenery. The department store is housed in a charming colonial-looking building, with an attractive glass-fronted office block rising up into the sky just behind the shopping centre. There are many reasons to visit Diamond Plaza, not least for the world class shopping: cosmetics, perfumes, watches and jewellery occupy the first floor, both men’s and women’ wear on the second, including formal attire and most major sporting brands, and on the third floor there is a convenient collection of electronic products and mobile phones. The other main reason for choosing to visit Diamond Plaza is the family entertainment options such as the large bowling alley and video arcade on the fourth floor, and the Diamond Cinema on the 13th floor. Superbowl Vietnam is modern and colourful with all the flashing lights and loud clatter of pins common in bowling alleys across the world. The 32 lanes at Diamond Superbowl ensure there is almost always an alley available, but it might be worth booking on weekend evenings. Prices per hour of bowling range significantly from weekday mornings (200,000 VND) to weekends after 19:00 (375,000 VND). Diamond Cinema shows all the major Hollywood blockbusters and although it only has six screens, it’s a very convenient location if you are looking for a cinema in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh. Movies are played in English with Vietnamese subtitles and prices are generally much lower than in most western countries. A single ticket will cost around 90,000 VND ($4 US). • Opening Hours: 09:30 – 22:30 (Superbowl and Cinema open until 01:00) • Address: 34 Le Duan Street, District 1
• Tel: (+84 8) 3825 7750
7. An Dong Market (Craft Market)
An Dong Market (Craft Market), Saigon
An Dong Market is mostly a fashion wholesalers for locals but on the top floor there are many crafts stalls, making this one of the best places in Ho Chi Minh to buy handicrafts from the skilled artisans who practice Vietnam’s proud heritage in lacquer and woodwork. Located outside the city centre, the Craft Market is in District 10, in the west of the city. However, it is easy to grab a taxi. It should take no more than 10 minutes from downtown Saigon. Opening Hours: 08:00 – 14:00 Location: An Duong Vuong Street, next door to Windsor Plaza Hotel, District 10.
Khaisilk is a fashion and homeware boutique creating modern designs from Vietnam’s luscious silk fabrics. Starting with just one shop and growing to be a brand of international repute, Khaisilk is a true success story. Located on the fashionable Dong Khoi Street in District 1, come here to check out their dresses, handbags, scarves and bedsheets.
9. Art Galleries on Dong Khoi Street
Art Galleries on Dong Khoi Street
Art galleries in Ho Chi Minh range from rough, paint-by-numbers reproductions of famous paintings, up to some of the world’s leading modern art. Obviously the prices are drastically different too. If you are looking for a nice range of art galleries in Saigon, you should walk down Dong Khoi and take your time to look for galleries that have higher quality paintings. Le Xuan Art Gallery and Ben Thanh Art have some cheaper examples of Ho Chi Minh art, while Cua Hang Saigon Crafts and especially Apricot Gallery are higher end galleries with better quality work and prices to match. Ho Chi Minh City is a fun place to shop for bargains. Some goods can be unique and fascinating – old propaganda posters, for example; we found one that exhorted people to plant garlic for export.
Clothing includes silks and hand-woven fabrics with a reputation for high quality. Vietnam is also famous for handicrafts including bamboo ware, ceramics and lacquer. There are, too, all the usual holiday souvenirs such as T-shirts and beaded handbags at prices that are hard to beat.
10. Parkson Plaza Department Store
Parkson Plaza Department Store, Saigon
Parkson Plaza is an international standard department store that is laid out in the tried and tested formula of cosmetics and perfumes on the ground floor, fashion for men and women on the second and third floors, with homeware and restaurants on the fourth. This is a compact shopping experience with mid- to high-range products such as Coach, Calvin Klein and Lacoste. • Address: 45 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1. • Opening Hours: 9:30 – 22:00.
• Tel: +84 (0) 8 3827 7636
Palm Vietnam Travel – Posted by Ms.Alex