While everybody in the world has probably heard of the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, the Christmas Markets in Viena, or the Chatuchak Market in Thailand, Vietnam has something that’s the same, but different, to offer. This is a guide to Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City – the place that has it all, from knock-off goods to pig intestines, US-Vietnam War memorabilia to original Trung Nguyen premium blend coffee, name it they have it.
Everything in Ben Thanh Market is reflective of the products, the food, and the day to day living of the locals. And after reading this guide to Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City, you will have a better grasp of what to expect before you step foot in the hallowed grounds. It’s going to be a long day in there and it could be overwhelming too, trust us.
You’d probably wonder, why then, should you visit this scorching hot, thief den, haggler’s nightmare of a place. The answer is simple – culture. Everything that you need to learn, know, see, hear, and feel could probably be summed up in this place. The Ben Thanh Market is where you can find what locals eat, wear, use, and do. And finding some souvenirs won’t hurt!
All roads lead to Ben Thanh Market. And we mean it. This is probably the most accessible place in Ho Chi Minh city. There are a couple of bus stations around the area, and there is even a direct bus from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Take bus 152 and pay around VND 15,000 and you’re in Ben Thanh Market.
It’s really that easy. You can take taxis or motorbikes, and they will definitely know where this is. It’s in District 1 and is surrounded by the streets of Tran Hung Dao, Le Loi, Ham Nghi, and Le Lai.
Address: Le Loi, Ben Thanh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
The early bird gets the worm, and like most markets, Ben Thanh opens as early as 6 am. But if you want to be a witness to the hustle and bustle of early morning preparations, come at 4 am. You’d even most likely to witness prayers and offerings before the vendors start their day. You won’t be able to come inside the market until official opening hours, but it’s still a sight to see from the outside.
The market closes at 6 pm, but only the inside. This is the time when it gets interesting. The market springs to life outside, on the streets surrounding the actual building, and it becomes a totally different place. This is a hawker kind of place, food stalls and prop up restaurants everywhere. This can go on until midnight. You’d get to have a glimpse of Ho Chi Minh City street food/hawker stalls/night market/local scene all in one go.
What’s Inside aka What To Buy
If we tell you that you can find anything that you can possibly think of, would you believe it? This guide to Ben Thanh market, Ho Cho Minh City can enumerate all the items that can be found inside, and then you’d probably need a year to read everything.
What you really need to know is that there is a fresh food section – vegetables, fruits, and meat – by the north entrance (opposite of the clock tower). If you aren’t up for a tour of chopped and bloody animal parts, then we suggest that you don’t enter the building through here. But if you do want to pick up some fresh produce then brace yourself for the smell – it ain’t pleasant. Good thing though, most of these stalls close by noon.
Another important tip, the stalls near the main doors are the fixed price ones. These are government-run, so haggling doesn’t do any good here. An easy way to distinguish this is by the salesperson in the stall, they’re wearing a light blue collared top, which is their uniform.
Move deeper inside and this is where you’ll probably find tourists trying to haggle their way into the cheapest pack of peanuts they could bring home. Or that famous Vietnamese pointed hat – non la. Whatever it is that you want to buy, wooden chopsticks, Nike running shoes, an ao dai (traditional costume), or a Guess watch – they will have it. What you probably need is time, patience and a lot of vigilance. It’s also not the safest place to bring a thousand dollars or expensive phones and gadgets.
Another tip is to go to Ben Thanh Market as early as you can. It’s not yet hot in the earlier part of the day. Then just come back at night for the street food.
Where To Eat
If you do get hungry during day time, fear not, there are food shops and kind of food cart stalls inside the Ben Thanh Market. Dive into the very famous Pho (this post is not going to be complete without it), Xoi, Banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes), Bun cha – okay you might think I’m just literally putting a bunch of letters together but hey, sampling these dishes will make you come back for more. Needless to say, you will never go hungry in Ho Chi Minh City.
Where To Stay
If you’re a certified shopaholic and foodie haven, then it would be awesome if you stay in accommodations near Ben Thanh Market. Imagine having to scour the whole market for great bargains the whole day and then without even noticing, it would already be dark and you need to eat! All you have to do is head back to your hotel (which is right across Ben Thanh Market), drop your shopping bags and head back just in time for the night market food stands.
Yes, this is very possible. There are 3-star hotels that are still mid-range like A&EM Hotel ($40/night, 1-minute walk to Ben Thanh Market), Avanti Hotel ($58/night, 2-minute walk), Anpha Boutique Hotel ($63/night, 2-minute walk). Hotels like these (and more near Ben Thanh), will provide you ample comfort after your shopaholic and foodie experience (and a bit of luxury at the side won’t hurt).
This quick guide to Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot of guts, will power and a lot of water (keep hydrated!) to wander inside the Ben Thanh Market, let alone bargain for a few items. Make the experience more enjoyable by lowering your expectations – maybe you won’t be able to complete the rounds of the whole market in one go, or maybe you just need to focus on what you really need to buy. Whatever it is that you set yourself to accomplish in Ben Thanh Market it’s also important to keep yourself healthy and safe. You wouldn’t want to be ending up in bed while Ho Chi Minh City is just out there waiting for you.