Ho Chi Minh City shopping opportunities are widespread thanks to a variety of city markets selling everything the locals need and enough for the souvenir hunting tourist. You’ll also come across some impressive upmarket stores near the fancy hotels in the Dong Khoi district which are reminiscent of a western city high street.
Your first stop should be the Ben Thanh Market where you’ll be able to pick up souvenir T-shirts and excellent quality branded goods. Ralph Lauren polo shirts were going for around $5US and seemed of comparable quality to the real thing (many such brands are made in factories outside HCMC).
Quicksilver, Billabong and other Aussie surf T-shirts were on offer for a similar price and again the quality seemed excellent. North face rucksacks were also on sale for a fraction of their price in the west.
One evening we got talking to a couple of girls who told us they worked on the market then by chance the following day we ran into them on their stall which was a shirt stall. They were very nice and spoke English quite well so we ended up replacing most of our T-shirts from their stall. Look them up while you’re there. You enter from the front of the market opposite the Tran Nguyen Hai statue in the middle of the road, it’s Gate II entrance. Their stall is called Anh Xuan and its number according to their business card is “Kiosque 18-20-22-24”. Be prepared for a shopping frenzy.
Outside the Ben Thanh Market there are all sorts of stalls at night when traffic cannot access the streets at the side as well as open air cafes serving up a fine range of Vietnames food. A great area to pass a few hours. As you walk along DL Le Loi (into the Dong Khoi area) there are a number of street stalls offering Nike and other branded gear as well as some good clothes shops selling more copied brands very cheaply. Similar stuff was on sale down in the Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area but tended to be significantly more expensive than around the Ben Thanh Market. Other items to look out for are ceramics, ethnic fabrics and lacquered bamboo.
Another market worth a look is the Dan Sinh Market which is a war surplus market dealing in reproduction and fake war souvenirs. Best sellers here are Zippos with war motifs and second hand flak jackets. Binh Tay Market in Cholon is interesting for a wander around though most trade is wholesale whilst the An Dong Market also in Cholon is four stories high and stocks designer labels on the first floor. This is a good place for lunch at one of the small restaurants in the basement.
There are plenty Ho Chi Minh City tailors around who will make you a dress or a suit in a couple of days but if you’re continuing north from here you’d be better off waiting until you get to Hoi An which is where hunderds of tailors compete for your business on every street of this small town.
Don’t be afraid to haggle when shopping in Ho Chi Minh City but don’t expect massive discounts. Sellers tend to quote an initial price only slightly higher than what they expect to get for their goods so the margin for bargaining is quite small.