Centrally located, Ben Thanh and its surrounding streets comprise one of HCMC’s liveliest areas. Everything that’s commonly eaten, worn or used by the Saigonese is piled high, and souvenirs can be found in equal abundance. Vendors are determined and prices usually higher than elsewhere (restaurant stalls are reasonable), so bargain vigorously and ignore any ‘Fixed Price’ signs.
The market is big, difficult to navigate at times and certainly best avoided during the hottest part of the day but all the same it’s 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. 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, and arts & 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.