Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market is an indispensable part in a Saigon City tour. The clock tower over the main entrance to what was formerly known as Les Halles Centrale is the symbol of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City nowadays), and the market might as well be, too. Ben Thanh market has long been one of Saigon’s famous landmarks. Opened first in 1914, the market is very crowded, a boon for pickpockets with its narrow, one-way aisles, and loaded with people clamoring to sell you cheap goods and postcards.
There are so many people calling out to you that you will feel like the belle of the ball or a wallet with legs. Watch for pickpockets.
Out front, near the main entrance, find lots of knockoff brand-name clothes, and farther in is a number of small souvenir stands. Toward the back are a few small cafes. This food section of the market is far more interesting. The section offers a wide range of products including pickled vegetables, ducks, crab, scorpion wine, Calvin Klein knockoffs, rice, flip-flops, coffee and tea. The wet market at the far back, with its selection of meat, fish, produce, and flowers, is interesting and hassle free; no one will foist a fish on you.
Even if you are not in a mood to shop, getting around the market is also a great experience. The market has cleaned itself up for the tourists over the years, which is a shame because the added hygiene comes at the cost of the market's old charm and raw authenticity. In open-air stalls surrounding the market are some nice little eateries that open just as the market itself starts closing down, and this is, in fact, one of the best places to try authentic local cuisine. The adventurous can sample good local specialties like rice dishes, noodle soup, bun dishes of vermicelli noodles, or ice cream and dessert for next to nothing.