Ho Chi Minh City

History - Orientation - Information - Dangers Annoyances - Sights - Activities Walking Tour - Courses - HCMC For Children - Tour - Festivals Events - Sleeping Eating - Drinking - Entertainment - Shopping - Getting There Away - Getting Around.


HCMC's teeming streets are like the Elysian Fields tor intrepid shopping souls. While there's much junk being peddled to the tourist masses, there are plenty of great discoveries just wailing to he unearthed. Comprising the-hunting grounds arc sprawling markets, an tique stores, silk and fabric boutiques and spe¬ciality stores selling ceramics, ethnic fabrics, lacquered bamboo and custom-made clothing. And although the art scene is better up north, HCMC has a growing number of galleries selling everything from lavish oil paintings to photographs to vintage propaganda posters, There are also the quirkier gems like cyclos and helicopters made from beer and soda cans one place to browse for these is at the War Remnants Museum gift shop. The best place to begin any shopping journey is the gallery- and boutique-lined Đ Dong Khoi and the streets that intersect it. This is also the place to look for high-quality souvenirs. Better deals can be found in Pham Ngu Lao, although the selection is poorer. If you're pressed for time, several shopping centres are great one-stop destinations, including the shiny, modern Saigon Centre ( 65 Đ le Loi);and the inspiringly named (and cheaper) Tax Department Store (Russian Market; cnr Đ Nguyen Hue & Đ Le Loi), both are great places to browse for electronics, clothing and handicrafts.
Arts & Handicrafts
Dogma ( 175 Đ De Tham; ( 9am-10pm) Proudly advertising the sale of Vietnamese kitsch, this colourful store stocks reproductions of marvellous old propaganda posters emblazoned on coffee mugs, coasters, and T-shirts. There's also men's and women's clothing, purses and assorted other knick-knacks that make for fine browsing. Living & Giving (11 Đ Ngo Duc Ke) Packed with stylish linens and bedding, furniture and unusual home decor in iron, wood and ceramic.
Lotus ( 25 Đ Dong Khoi) For vintage propaganda posters (from the '60s and 70s), this place is a goldmime. Expect to pay upwards of USS85 for an original. Mai Handicrafts (298 Đ Nguyen Trong Tuyen, Tan Binh district) Fair-trade shop dealing in ceramics, ethnic fabrics and other gift items, in turn supporting disadvanlaged families and street children.
Nguyen Freres (2 Đ Dong Khoi) Stocks a lovely assortment of antique furnishings and textiles, pillowcases, silks, pottery and lamps.
Precious Qui ( 29A Đ Dong Khoi) Precious Qui specialises in lacc|ucrware and accessories (interesting forks and spoons) fashioned from buffalo horn. It also stocks a limited selection of celadon ceramic ware.
Although Saigonese fashion has yet to make a name for itself, there arc plenty of places where you can shop for stylish apparel - or even opt for a custom-made ao dai, the couture symbol of Vietnam. This quite flattering outfit of silk tunic and trousers is tailored at shops in and around Ben Thanh Market and around the Rex and Continental I lotels. There are also male ao dai available these are a looser fit and come with a silk-covered head wrap to match.
Cham Khanh (Tell: 820 6861; 256 Đ Pasteur, District 3) This is one of several ao dai shops on this stretch of Đ Pasteur. It sells particularly colourful pieces and is a reliable place for getting an no dai made. The Dong Khoi neighbourhood is awash with tempting shops selling contemporary clothing. Some will also custom-tailor clothing and shoes, and turnaround usually takes a few days. A survey of the neighbourhood around Đ Pasteur and Đ Le Thanh Ton yields at least a half-dozen boutiques; Đ Dong Khoi and Đ Ngo Duc Ke or Đ Dong Du reveal yet more.
Souvenir T-shirts are prevalent in town, with bargain deals available from vendors along ĐL Le Loi in the city centre, or Đ De Tham in the Pham Ngu Lao area- Prices start at US$2 for a printed T shirt and US$4 lor an embroidered one.
Other clothing stores:
Chi Chi (138 D Pasteur;8am-8pm) features well-chosen, lovely fabrics and fine designs; custom-tailoring offered here Khai Silk ( 107 D Dong Khoi) One branch of this well-established silk empire; a reliable choice for tailored suits or ao dai.
Reda (29 Đ le Thanh Ton; l0am-7.30pm) An assortment of stylish women's apparel, with handmade tailoring available. There's also an adjoining cafe, for a bite after browsing.
Sapa ( 223 Đ De Tham) Incorporates ethnic fabrics and designs with hip style; also sells gifts and jewellery.
Song (76D Đ le Thanh Ton) A small boutique selling sophisticated, high-end clothing and accessonei for buih men and women,
Vietnamese coffee is prime stuff and is amazinyly cheap. The best grades are from Buom Ma Thuot and the beans are roasted in butter Lovers of weasels and strange things should yet their hands on ca phe chon (‘weasel coffee’, No 8 of the signature Trung Nguyen brand). These coffee beans are fed to weasels first, then harvested from their droppings before being sold to yon. Brew and enjoy. The city's major market, particularly BenThanh Market have the best prices and widest selection of bothi regular and weasel coffee.
HCMC is brimming with art galleries, Good places to browse are the handful of galleries around the Fine Arts Museum and along Đ Dong Khoi. You'll find excellent top quality works at the following places: Blue Space Gallery (Tell: 8213695,1A Đ LeThi Hong Gam; 9am 6pm), Latquer & Oil (Tell: 8212320; 97A Đ Pho Duc Chinh, 9am-5.30pm) and Vinh Loi Gallery ( 41 Đ Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, District 3;9am-6pm) Any of these places will ship worldwide. Fo low-quality reproductions ot famous paintings, visit the painting shops along Đ Bui Vien in Pham Ngu Lao.
Carved Seals
One item found in every self respecting bureaucrat’s desk is a carved seal. Indeed, no functioning administrator, communist or otherwise, can exist without the official stamps and seals that are the ration d'etre for legions of clerks This need is well-catered to by the shops strung out along the street just north of the New World Hotel (opposite side of ĐL Ham Nghi and Just west of Ben Thanh Market). In Cholon you can find shops making these seals along Đ Hai Thuong Lan Ong. Most Vietnamese also own carved seals bearing their name (an old Tradition borrowed from China). You can have one made, too. but ask a local to help translate your name into Vietnamese You might want to get your seal carved in Choton using Chinese characters, these are certainly more artistic (though less practical) than the Romanised script used by the Vietnamese today,