When you come to Saigon, you will visit the most well known and biggest market, “Ben Thanh”. In Vietnamese, “Ben” means wharf, and “Thanh” means fort. It is located in District 1, and everyone knows where it is. It’s recognizable for it’s famous clock tower. Tourists and locals all visit this market; it contains an ecclectic mix of clothing, food (produce and prepared foods), souvenirs, jewelry…basically anything you can think of. This market is important to Saigon’s history; the current building, built in 1899, is not the original one.
Originally the market was located by the Ben Nghe River near the Gia Dinh Fort. Because the market was destroyed during the French invasion, it was eventually rebuilt and moved to it’s present location. It stands on a busy roundabout, across from the bus station, and in the center of this roundabout is a park area. Once you get across the street by carefully navigating the traffic (it’s easy to get the hang of it – they won’t hit you, and it’s not as nuts as India by any means), the interest is all inside. Sit on one of the tiny low benches to eat some noodles, or cool off with a cold dessert. Just try to see the market’s function as the locals do…for fish, for meat, for snacks and clothes. Fruit vendors are also on the street out back as are other food stalls. I just wondered around, watching and soaking in how things are done here. I’ve been told there are 3,000 stalls! Of course you will be charged more than the locals are, but that’s inevitable no matter where you go in Southeast Asia.