Whether you've just begun planning your next trip to Vietnam, or you're chasing down specific info on currency regulations or visa requirements, check out Vietnam Royal Tourism Online for up-to-the minute travel information.
Vietnamese arts and crafts, or mass-produced resin knock-offs thereof, are sold by dozens of shops around the central tourist district. The best, most expensive items can be mostly found on Dong Khoi or the immediate side streets. The goods tend to get progressively simpler and cheaper as you move west toward Ben Than Market (though the best wood-carving shop is a stall on the back side of Ben Thanh). A few shops have authentic woven silk textiles from Sapa and the north. Lacquered paintings, plates, bowls, etc. are quite striking and unique to Vietnam. Vietnamese propaganda posters can be very impressive and offer a taste of history. When buying keep in mind that is very useful to have local currency. Be advised that banks and formal exchange businesses will provide you with a decent rate, especially when compared with agencies like Statravel on the main Vui Ban street who will offer much lower rates. Goldsmith shops will also change money at decent rates, though as always it is better to know the going rate than to trust in luck.
BoSua Local Street Wear, 55B1 Vincom Tower, Dong Khoi St, District 1, ☎ +84 9 04142182, . 9AM-10PM. 145,000.
Ginkgo T-shirts, 20, Le Loi, District 1, ☎ +84 9 05493148, . 8AM-11PM. Original and quality souvenir t-shirts with creative designs inspired by Asian and Vietnamese cultures. They have anoher store within District 1, located at 56, Bui Vien. 210,000 dong.
Phuong Mai Art Gallery, 129B le Thanh Ton str.,Dis.1 & 213C Dong Khoi St, Vietnamese contemporary original art works including oil paintings, lacquer paintings, water color paintings and sculpture.
For bookshops, you can go to:
Nguyễn Huệ bookstore (on the Nguyễn Huệ boulevard)
FAHASA on Nguyen Hue
Sai Gòn bookstore (on the Lê Lợi Boulevard).
small bookstore located around Phạm Ngũ Lão St. and Bùi Viện St.
but they don't seem to trade books (no second hand).
Chợ Bến Thành aka Ben Thanh Market, Southwest end of Le Lai: a den of thieves, but some great shopping. Ben Thanh is recognizable from its clock tower on the large traffic circle. The largest old-style market in the central district, with several hundred small stalls stuffed with goods on almost impassably narrow aisles. Due to its popularity with tourists, the market is now divided between tourist goods (jeans, T-shirts, smaller souvenirs in abundance) and regular items (fruit and vegetables, rice, kitchen wares, flowers, meat, fast food and local-style pickled fruits and candies). Most items are not price-marked, and vendors always quote a 50-100% higher price to tourists, so bargaining hard will save you money. The chief method of parting visitors from their money is ambiguity: for example never making it quite clear how many you are being quoted for; or what the exact price is; or what exchange rate is being used to calculate your change. Be ready for these onslaughts (often by a sweetly smiling young lady), or be prepared to part with more cash than you need to. Right at the north side (back) of Ben Thanh Market are some shops that are operated by Ben Thanh Group and they sell goods at fixed price and much cheaper than the stalls in the market. No bargaining needed. If the good selection of knock-offs here just won't do, there's plenty to be had in the surrounding side street shops or night market later. If retail warfare isn't your cup of tea, you could skip the touristy Ben Thanh altogether and go to Chợ Bình Tây (see below).
Saigon Square will be good place for visit. It is a twin of Ben Thanh but with air-conditioning. Haggling your way through this place is the rule of thumb. Local middle-class Vietnamese shop here on the weekends too. Consider planning your shopping here during the day and go to Ben Thanh for the night market. The Day Ben Thanh can be planned as a sight seeing instead of a shopping spree. It is a stones throw from Ben Thanh Market.
Chợ Bình Tây in the Chinatown, the more underrated twin of Ben Thanh, selling everything from spices, Chinese medicines, silk to obscure varieties of fermented fish, dried seafood and jerky. If you are searching for a variety of Vietnam silks and velvets, skip the tourist trap Ben Thanh Market and head for Bình Tây instead. Most of Chợ Bình Tây is wholesale goods. In fact, you can see much of Ben Thanh Market's goods are from here.
Night Market (just outside of Ben Thanh Market). Here you can enjoy many kinds of different food and drink, and go round to do your shopping as well. Open from 6pm (when the Ben Thanh Market closes).
War Surplus Market, sometimes called the American Market or "Cho Cu" or "Khu Dan Sinh" in corner of Yersin and Nguyen Cong Tru, District 1. Hidden behind rows of hardware and electric supplies shops, just brace yourself and enter. Dense warrens of stalls with old American military gear of indeterminate authenticity (e.g. "nice collection of so called authentic GI's Zippo lighter from the war era"), cheap t-shirts, and military paraphernalia. Don't hope to find a genuine Marine Zippo; they're all fake now.
Supermarkets and department stores
Tax Department Store, now known as Saigon Square, is located on the corner of Le Loi and Nguyen Hue. Formerly the Russian Market, this is now a rather sterile department store of sorts filled with stalls selling touristy kitsch, although the selections get better as you ascend the levels. There's a good supermarket on level 2. If you are traveling here by taxi, the new name may be met by blank expressions from taxi drivers. The old name seems to work.
Small western-style supermarkets, can be found on the top floor of the Parkson department store one block northeast of the Opera House, and in Diamond Plaza, behind the Cathedral, on the top floor of the department store.
Co-op Mart Supermarkets, frequented by throngs of the Saigon middle-class and backpackers alike, can be found everywhere around HCMC. In District 1 they can be found at the corner of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Nguyen Dinh Chieu, about 1km from the centre OR in Cong Quynh, walking distance away from the end of Backpacker street Pham Ngu Lao. Prices are reasonably lower, though the selection leans more toward Vietnamese culinary requirements.
Western/Japanese-style department stores 3 stores are near the centre. For most visitors, the only reason to go there is to enjoy the air-con, and derive some amusement from the silly-high prices of western-branded consumer goods.
Parkson on Dong Khoi a block north of the Opera house
Diamond Plaza, further north behind the Notre Dame Cathedral
Zen Plaza on Nguyen Trai two blocks west of the New World Hotel.
Phuong Mai Art Gallery, 129 B Le Thanh Ton St., District.1 (near the Norfolk Hotel and the Revolution Museum). A gallery showing contemporary Vietnamese artists, both established and emerging. There's another showroom at 213C Dong Khoi in District 1.
Oil-Painting - Bui Vien Street, near backpackers area in De Tham and Pham Ngu Lao streets, in District 1. There are several shops along this street selling oil painting at reasonable prices (ranging from 450,000-5,000,000 dong). If you want a portrait of a Vietnamese painting or even have your own photograph oil-painted, shop around here. You can get a readily available portrait within a day or two.
Contemporary art, Galerie Quynh, 65 De Tham St., District 1, (between Co Bac and Co Giang), ☎ +84 8 3836 801. Hours: 10AM-6PM, Tues-Sat. . A serious contemporary art gallery located in District 1. Unlike the myriad galleries that focus on more decorative works this gallery represents innovative local and international artists including Tiffany Chung, Do Hoang Tuong, Hoang Duong Cam and Sandrine Llouquet. For serious art collectors this gallery is a must-see for contemporary Vietnamese art.
Electronics, whilst some of the country's cheapest electronics can be found on and around Huynh Thuc Khang, be aware most shops are selling counterfeit items. Things such as dodgy iPods are easy to spot when compared to the genuine thing, but items such as camera batteries are much more difficult. If you are thinking about buying some extra memory for your digital camera, be warned that most of the memory will be fake. Fake Sandisk II Ultra cards are ubiquitous and extremely difficult to tell apart from real ones. These cards are apparently of low quality and one has to ask if it is worth risking your holiday snaps. Fake batteries have the potential to explode, too, so be careful. That said, you can pick up some bargains if you know what you're looking for. Just exercise caution; if it is too good to be true it probably is.
Visiting the local electronics district is another sight, where anything and everything is repaired, and nothing wasted. Loudspeaker repairs and remakes, transformer and armature winding (by hand). Think of any part, and you may find it, including 1968 helicopter parts. It is about a 15 min ride on the #2 bus from District 1. Part of the area was recently closed for re-development, and moved slightly. Some people bring older transistor component and valve gear here to be economically repaired. Novelty: 'FUKE' brand multimeter for about 100,000 dong. All things electronic are sourced from here, so they are going to be a lot cheaper than stores anywhere else, and some are even fixed price stores.
Kool Audiophiles, 16/1 Phan Ngu, F.Dakao, District 1, ☎ +84 8 3820 1757. Headphone and earphone retail company dedicated to selling only genuine products. Koss, Ibasso, Westone, Grado, Crossroads as well as the limited and hard to find genuine KSC35 products. Authorised dealer for UM Customs Monitors and JH Audio in Vietnam. All their products come with warranty and the shop staff and owner are able to converse in fluent English. Open Mon-Sunday : 9AM-8PM.
Lacquer ware, (opposite Lucky Plaza on Dong Khoi). One of the stand out things to bring home from Saigon. Head to Saigon Craft (between Mac Thi Buoi and Dong Du on Dong Khoi) for stunning original works, then Gift 42 for the best of the rest.
Home decor, for originality and value. If you're thinking of investing US$2,000 or more on home furnishing, a crate shipped from Saigon could pay for your trip. Begin by looking for major items in Gaya (Ton That Thiep just before Pasteur) if you like modern, and Verlim (40 Ho Tung Mao - just up from Ham Nghi), if your style is more formal/traditional. Organize shipping through either of these fine merchants. Then you can go wild and buy up…framed art, Gom Viet pottery (Cnr Ly Tu Trong and Pasteur), Lighting from NGA (Le Thanh Ton between Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi) or Mosaic (Mac Thi Buoi just before Nguyen Hue) and antiques found on Le Cong Kieu. Provide extra padding for your crate with Catherine Denoual bed ware (Thi Sach, just down from Le Thanh Ton), and/or Dolce Casa cushions/quilts (Dong Khoi opposite the Sheraton). Ask these and other retailers to deliver your purchases back to Gaya or Verlim. They take care of the rest.
Clothes, Vietnamese silk is fabulous and Hoang Khai shows the world. His flagship Khai Silk store at 107 Dong Khoi is a must visit. Next door, Creation and Indochina provide sterling competition. Ladies, you are spoiled for choice after this. Follow your nose, but make sure you don't miss La Bella, La Bella Blue (Pasteur and Le Thanh Ton), Song (Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton and in Eden Mall on Dong Khoi), and acclaimed designer Minh Hanh (Just up from Dong Khoi and Ngo Duc Ke). Look out for exquisite hand embroidered items along the way.
Accessories, at Gaya you'll spot Anupa bags and you'll want one. Those not loaded should avoid sticker shock and (ladies) head immediately to Ipa-Nima (No. 8, Nguyen Trung Truc Street, District 1) , for a stunning and more affordable collection. Press on to Mandarina (Le Than Ton just past NKKN) for bargain shoes and Le Hang (Le Thanh Ton between Pasteur and NKKN) for bead/bespoke jewellery nirvana.
Kids presents, musical stuff from Chuck and Anna (Lucky Plaza - bottom of Dong Khoi) will hit the spot.
DVD, buffs with no scruples should head to Ho Tung Mao
Romance, candles, oils and soaps from Harnn (Dong Du near Hai Bai Trung)
Books, Fahasa English Bookstore (Nguyen Hue just down from Mac Thi Buoi). SahaBook (175/24 Pham Ngu Lao, near lePub) is the unique store which stocks lots of authentic Lonely Planet titles . Tri Books (cnr Dong Khoi - Ly Tu Trong) which stocks a wide range of textbooks and English reference books, plus title on things like design, cookery, business and IT. Bookazine (28 Dong Khoi) is a treasure trove of new and antique copies of international titles like Newsweek and Time, carefully collected and catalogued by the owner.
For men/tailors, buying a suit can be fun and relatively cheap, but do your research first, and remember that you get what you pay for - labor costs are not what make suits expensive. Tailors frequently use fabrics whose quality is exaggerated (witness the constant claims of wool being "Italian/English Super 180). Cheap Vietnamese suits don't compare to just having an US$80 H&M suit altered by a tailor. Even the most expensive Saigon tailors fuse the suits, rather than canvas them. Any suit should contain 0% polyester. Any tailor should have multiple fittings, preferably three (with the third just being a check-up that probably won't require further alteration).
Khai Silk and Creation, have very desirable shirts at around US$30, and ties to compete with your Zegnas for US$10. Off the peg shirts can be tailored for you at no charge. Otherwise, take your favourite shirts/shorts/pants to Tricia and Verona (half way up Dong Du), who'll make you up a perfect copy in silk, linen or finest Egyptian cotton. Allow 2 days. US$25-50. Here for 5 days? You have time for a suit. For quality work from old boys who know their cloth - Cao Minh (Pasteur between Le Thanh Ton and Le Loi). Go where old money/ex pats go. Minh Doan (Le Thanh Ton just down from Nguyen Trung Truc) is your pick.
Art, Vietnamese artists are increasing their international reputation. Apricot (Mac Thi Buoi), Mai's (Nguyen Hue just up from Mac Thi Buoi), Phuong Mai Art Gallery (129B Le Thanh Ton str., Dist.1) Hanoi Studio (Dong Du), or Tu Do (Ho Tung Mau). Eat and contemplate in Gallery Deli (Dong Khoi just down from Mac Thi Buoi). Listen and contemplate in Sax 'n Art Le Loi and Pasteur). Bargain frames – Ben Thanh Art and Frame (11 Le Thanh Ton - 100 m north from Thai Van Lung).
Bicycle shops, are most frequent along Vo Thi Sau. The biggest one - actually 6 shops next to each other - is Martin at 93-107 Vo Thi Sau and has the best selection of bikes. They also sell spare parts for western-style mountain bikes.
There are two good guide books for shoppers in Ho Chi Minh City: the Luxe city guide and the MySherpa guide which also includes a map with shops cross referenced.
Vietnamese society has undergone a profound transition in the past decademore info
Vietnam has a history as rich and evocative as anywhere on the planetmore info
Vietnam Food & Drink
The Hill Tribes