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Ho Chi Minh City’s Ben Thanh Market

February 18th, 2011 by

Ask anyone about Ho Chi Minh City’s must-visit area for a “shop ‘til you drop” experience and Ben Thanh Market is sure to come up.  It is undoubtedly one of the ultimate destinations in old Saigon.

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The market provides not only satisfaction for shopaholics but culture hunters as well.  The iconic landmark has a dash of French colonial charm and is one of the most indelible attractions in the city.

Ben Thanh Market is an effortless walk from some of the best accommodations in Ho Chi Minh City. In the heart of District 1, the market is in front of the big roundabout where Le Loi, Tran Hung Dao and Ham Nghi avenues meet. The traffic loop is the ideal spot from which to take photographs of the busy market.

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Ben Thanh Market is divided into two main portions: an inner part, further divided into crisscrossing aisles, and an outer section composed of shops that surround the market itself. Since tourists abound, it follows that the prices of goods are slightly higher here. Be prepared to get your haggle on and start by slashing sticker prices in half.

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Variety-wise, Ben Thanh Market never disappoints. There are tons of items to browse through, from designer knockoffs to jewellery, leather goods to sewn crafts. Grab a traditional coffee and sweet and browse away.

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Shops on the outer circle of the marketplace offer fresh vegetables and colourful flowers. Piles of fruits like orange persimmons, longans, rambutan, mangoes, and mangosteens perfume the air with heady, exotic scents. Copious hole-in-the-wall food stalls dole out typical fare like banh mi, pho, and goi cuon and fuel a hungry market populace of vendors and patrons alike.

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After a slurp of pho on a low stool, discover Ben Thanh Market after dark. The night market is open as of 5:00 p.m. but kicks into another gear between 10:00 p.m. and midnight. This other side of Ho Chi Minh City features a vastly different kind of vibe. If you need to reboot your energy stores in order to keep pace, grab a cold glass of sugar cane juice before you cleave the dense crowds in Ben Thanh’s labyrinthine aisles.

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