Ben Thanh Market - Vietnam
A place you don't want to miss!
Located in the heart of the city, Ben Thanh market has long since become a symbol of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it’s currently known. Not merely just a place to conduct business, for nearly 100 years this market has become the historical witness to the vicissitudes of the city. It continues to speak of the economic development of the largest city in Vietnam and is still a popular meeting point for the people of Ho Chi Minh City today.
In recent years, Ben Thanh market has also been an indispensable destination for many tours to the city. Visitors to the market can not only buy goods or souvenirs, but can also witness a variety of personalities which are characteristic of the daily life of a city market.
Formed before the arrival of the French, the market was first opened in the vicinity of Ben Nghe river, at a wharf near Gia Dinh fortress, hence the name Ben Thanh, meaning “fortress by the river.” By 1911, the French colonial government decided to relocate the market to its current location, which back then was only a muddy pond. The construction started in 1912 and continued until its completion in March of 1914. The market continues its regular operation today and is open for business daily.
Ben Thanh is considered the largest retail market in its scope and scale. Here, consumers can find all sorts of items, from economical to brand names; the food items are considered to be the most selective. There is no lacking of anything, from onions, peppers, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry and all kinds of fruits both in and out of season, candy, clothing, shoes, handbags, electrical, electronics, souvenirs and on and on. You can find virtually anything you can imagine in this market.
Ben Thanh market has a total area of 13,056 square meters, or 140,533.614 square feet, welcoming an average of 10,000 visitors every day. Within, the structure holds 1437 stalls, 6000 small businesses, and 11 large businesses. The market has 4 main gates and 12 doors opening to all directions in the perimeter. The South gate, which looks out to Quach Thi Trang Square, has a three-sided clock tower. This is also the main gate to the market with stalls selling fabrics and dry food items within. The north gate faces Le Thanh Ton street and is decorated brightly with stalls of fresh flowers and fruits throughout the year. Visitors stepping into the East gate on Phan Boi Chau street will find themselves in the land of cosmetics, accessories and candies. Finally, traveling down Phan Chu Trinh street toward the West gate, you will be able to browse the different vendors selling footwear, handicrafts and souvenirs.
The market is divided into 2 main parts: Immediately within the gates are corridors surrounding the interior market. These corridors have fixed-price stalls where consumers can browse all kinds of goods such as souvenirs, casual clothing, silk fabric and fine craft items without worrying about haggling or bargaining with the prices. Beyond these corridors is the heart of the market, where stalls are leased out to businesses. Visitors stepping into this part of the market are advised to keep a close watch of their spending and bargain as much as they can. Some items tend to be overpriced and often defective or sub-standard is some way. Pay close attention to the details of the goods you wish to buy and make sure they are what you want.
When referring to Ben Thanh market, one cannot ignore the food court with the availability of practically every authentic Vietnamese dish you can find. In January 2012, the Food and Wine magazine featured this market as one of the 10 best locations to have the most attractive street food in the world, which is a solid proof of its diversity and quality.
The market is also very active at night. Around 7 pm, about 178 stalls set up along the road between Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chu Trinh streets. They set up tables and chairs, makeshift restaurants which feed the hungry night goers of the city. Most of the night stalls sell food, but a few others sell souvenir items and clothing.
Due to its popularity with tourists and foreigners, most of the vendors here are fluent in more than one language aside from Vietnamese. This is one of the unique qualities of the market. Entering the market and you will immediately be pulled into the stream of customers moving along the aisles from stall to stall, all around are greetings spoken in English, French, Japanese and Thai, all inviting you to stop by and look at the goods being displayed.
This bazaar offers the most diversified goods from all over the region and beyond. From export to import, freshly harvested and processed goods, economical and high-end items; this market has a huge variety of items to browse. The food is delicious no matter which stalls you try, they’re all fresh and tasty. Even imported goods are readily available, most taken here directly from the docks, or Tan Son Nhat airport. People from all over the world stop here when they visit Ho Chi Minh City, it's a must for any traveler to this city.