Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ho Chi Minh City Part 2: Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market | Operating hours: 6:00 am to 19:00 pm

As the oldest surviving market, Ben Thanh Market marked a symbol of attraction in this 300 year old city. Originally known as Les Halles Centrales, this French-built market housed hundreds of stalls and shops selling various goods that you need (or goods you do not need).

Take a closer look at the items sold here, the way the local people conduct transactions and the goods purchased most by the local people. You will realise that Ben Thanh Market is more than just a shopping heaven for  the shopaholics, rather, it defines the identity and the daily needs of  the  Saigonese.  From clothings, shoes, bags, jewellery, kitchen ware, groceries, Vietnamese coffee to eye catching man-made handicrafts in form of key chains and fridge magnet, one may find Ben Thanh Market offers a wide range of tempting choices.

Even if you claimed yourself as an avid backpacker with no intention to shop, no visit to Ho Chi Minh City is complete without a stop at Ben Thanh Market.  

Useful Tips Four: How to Shop Effectively in Ben Thanh Market?

Tips One: Wear  light  clothing. It is hot inside Ben Thanh Market due to lack of proper ventilation. And bring a bottle of water to keep you hydrated if necessary.  

Tips Two:  Watch  your  valuables.  The  aisles  are  narrow.  And  there  may  be pickpockets. 

Tips Three: Mark  your choice of stalls. You won't get lost definitely. But in case you decided to return to the previous stall whose vendor offered better price,  you may find it challenging since the stalls tend to look about the same. 

Tips Four: The  stall owners, especially young ladies would touch you, pull you by your arms, drag you into their stalls, tug your shirt while saying "Sir, come and look, it's cheap!" or "What you are looking for?". But they do not mean anything harm. So get used to taps and pokes and do not easily look back in anger. 

Tips Five: Go  shop  before  8 am in the morning because goods sold at this time are at a lower price than usual. Lower price at the beginning of the day is believed to bring good luck for the rest of transaction day. 

Tips Six: For Malaysians, these three currencies are definitely useful: USD (for expensive clothes and suits), MYR (baju kurung and telekung) and VND (for meals, transportation and admission into historical sites).  

Tips Seven: Bargain! Bargain! Bargain! Goods are often inflated up to three times from the original price. Either you go to at least another three to four stalls to compare prices OR you bargain like there is no tomorrow. For further tips on bargaining, refer to Useful Tips Five.

Useful Tips Five: Bargaining Like There is No Tomorrow 

Tips One: Take a deep breath, take your own sweet time and walk around from one stall to another. See those friendly and hopeful faces of Vietnamese vendors greeting you to their country. Survey from one shop to another, then decide which stalls offer the best price. Then, start bargaining. 

Tips Two: You should not bargain with the first person who approaches you since he might think you are clueless about the location and he might quote the highest price. Go deeper into the market and as you go in, people will come out with better offer.  

Tips Three:  Always ask the vendors to name the price first. Then start bargaining at 25% of the quoted price (you will find their funny faces in shock and disbelief – where the fun part begins). You smile and inch up your price slowly. If consensus cannot be reached, the next stalls selling the same items are just few steps away.

Tips Four: It is highly recommended that you bargain in VND or MYR rather than USD. Because it is widely believed that those with dollar can afford to spend them. And please please, please carry small bills. 

Tips Five: Walking away – worked all the time. They will call you back. If they didn’t, it shows that you were asking for an unreasonable price, then. 

Tips Six: Agree on the price before you pay. Press the numbers on the calculator before agreeing to pay and to avoid any unintended dispute. 

Tips Seven: Bargaining in Ben Thanh Market should be a fun experience. The vendors are friendly and nice people. Do it with humor. Laugh and smile along the way. They will definitely play along and laugh with you too. Tell them about your family, and your beloved ones. That by reducing the prices, you are able to give more gifts bought from their stalls to your family members. Or by them cutting down another 5 USD you would be able to taste the popular Vietnamese coffee. Make up funny reasons and laugh together. 

Tips Eight: The last thing you would want to do is create an adversarial environment and offend the people. Be fair and be polite to the vendors. After all, it is their daily life to support their family. Be friendly to them and they would be nice to you too. Don’t forget to bring RM 1 new notes as gifts, or attraction for them to lower the prices.

Useful Tips Six: Know When You Had Enough of Bargaining 

Tips One: Do not bargain over small petty things or if you do not intend to buy the item more than one. E.g. mineral water. 
Kalau air mineral pun awak nak tawar-menawar sila lakukan terjunan akrobatik ke luar tingkap. Mohon. 

Tips Two: Notice the sad expression of the vendors. “That’s the lowest price I can give, I would have no profit if I go lower than that.” Either you walk away to another stall, or you stop hurting them by bargaining at cruel prices. The Vietnamese vendors and shopkeepers need to earn their living too. 

Tips Three: Once the vendor said: “This is the lowest price, if you do not believe me, you walk to other shop, if they sell higher prices, come back here, I will still give you this price,” then that’s the limit. 

Tips Four: You walked out. They didn’t call you back. Either you swallow your pride and return to the shop or try your luck (with lessons learned) at the other stalls.

#These are merely based on my limited knowledge and experience. I believe ladies are the experts to be consulted on bargaining.Tapi serius, kalau mak saya yang tawar menawar, saya akan lari keluar kedai sebab mak saya kejam.

Ben Thanh Night Market
Starting at about 5 pm until 12 am everyday, this is a centrally located night market, which is on the two roads on both sides of the Ben Thanh Market. Items sold here are more or less the same with the items sold in Ben Thanh Market. But at cheaper prices. Well, not that much, about RM 5 or RM 10. But still, it would make a great difference if you bought in large quantity. Again, the same bargaining rules and tips apply here.

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12 Nukilan:

shima yahaya said...

really appreciate ur might be useful for me when i get to travel to this place soon :)

Hairi Tahir said...

you're welcome. they're just a compilation of information that I obtained while reading and comparing to my own experience there. Anyway, do take care of yourself while you're there. Be safe.

shima yahaya said...

ok...thanks again :)

suzanais said...

good info and tips...I just come back from ho chi minh yesterday :)

Hairi Tahir said...

hope you enjoyed your stay there :)

Esy said...

Thank you for all the tips and info....

Hairi Tahir said...

thanks for reading... hope you enjoyed the trip

bucefalo said...

hey thanks for this nice page :-) i had fun and found some inrteresting points to remember for my visit in Saigon :-)

Hairi Tahir said...

Thanks for reading. Have fun in Saigon!

Azliny said...

Extremely good tips for newbie like me to HCM. One question, is it safe to walk at night in district 1 area?

Hairi Tahir said...

So far I would say yes. But motorcyclists are every where, hence, be safe.

nur khalijah said...

thanks for useful that i wont be clueless at there soon :)

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