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Ben Thanh Market & Things You Must Know

Ben Thanh Market is one of the typical locations of Ho Chi Minh City. Nowadays, not so many people know the name of Ben Thanh Market had gone through many ups and downs in history. Two relocations, many times of construction and repair due to fire, collapse till today’s final location of the market. Currently, it’s steady in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City and considered the symbol of Vietnam’s biggest economy city.

Over 100 years old, the market has witnessed substantial changes in Vietnam, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City. Until these days, it is still one of the renowned places of interest when people go to the south of Vietnam. In this post, I’m gonna share with you all of the information about the oldest market in Ho Chi Minh City.

The History of 100-year Old Ben Thanh Market

In fact, the Ben Thanh Market that you know today is the New Market, as many people call. Indeed, the story and history of Ben Thanh include two markets, the New and the Old ones.

The Old Market – First Location

The Old Market - Ben Thanh Market at the first location
Ben Thanh Market at the first location – The Old Market. Image source: Wikipedia

Initially, the market’s location was on the bank of the Ben Nghe River, next to a river wharf near Gia Dinh citadel. The first market was built with bricks, wooden ribs, and thatched roofs. Before the French invaded Gia Dinh, the area surrounding the citadel, which was Phung citadel at that time, was only about 100,000 people and Ben Thanh was the most crowded market.

In February 1859, France occupied Gia Dinh citadel. Two days later, Vietnamese soldiers organized a fire to burn down the city. Of course, Ben Thanh Market was also destroyed by the fire. After having firmly established themselves in Cochinchine, in 1860, the French had to rebuild the market with brick pillars, wooden ribs, and thatched roofs.

By July 1870, an area of the market was burnt down. It had to be rebuilt with brick pillars, iron ribs, roofed with tiles. There were five areas: food stalls, fish stalls, meat stalls, food stalls, and grocery stores. Of these five stalls, only the meat stalls are covered with corrugated iron, the green stone-lined paving.

The New Market – Today Ben Thanh Market Location

The New Market or Ben Thanh Market in 1967 at the new location.
Photo credit to manhhai on Flickr

By mid-1911, the Old Market became old and fell into a state of collapse. As a result, the market had to be broken down to avoid the disaster. At the same time, the French also chose another location to build a new larger market to deal with the growing business needs. The chosen location was near the My Tho train station, which is today’s Saigon Bus Station. In other words, it is today’s location of the market.

The New Market was constructed by contractor Brossard et Maupin from 1912 to the end of March 1914. This new market is still called Ben Thanh. Until 1940, The two streets on the sides of the market were still the Eastern and Western bus stations. Later, those bus stations were moved to other places.

Ben Thanh Market has been operating continuously for 70 years. From July 1 to August 15, 1985, it was renovated and repaired. Over 100 years, Ben Thanh Market is now recognized as not only a big hit of tourists but also an icon of the south of Vietnam in general, and Ho Chi Minh City in particular.

How to Get There?

Ben Thanh Market’s situated on the intersection of 4 streets Phan Boi Chau, Le Thanh Ton, Phan Chu Trinh, and Le Loi. Hence, it is super easy to visit the market. There are several ways for you:

What’s in Ben Thanh Market in the Day?

Many different stalls inside the market

The market is over 13.000 m2 with 4 main entrances, 16 gates. The inner area of the market is a place for merchants from all walks of life to sell their goods. Evenly, you could get lost if not seeing the map of Ben Thanh market before. However, there is a secret rule that can help you find out where sells things you want to buy easily.

The East Gate – Heading to Phan Boi Chau Street

The East gate, Phan Boi Chau street, is where you can keep sweet memories about the land, the people, and your trip to Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam in general, by buying souvenirs such as lacquerwares, ceramics, or pictures about this beautiful country.

The West Gate – Heading to Phan Chu Trinh Street

The West gate, Phan Chu Trinh street, is a heaven for foodies. It’s where you will get lost in Ben Thanh Market food court with a bunch of local and delicious dishes. This is a menu I suggest for those who are confused to decide: Gỏi cuốn (Fresh spring rolls), Chả giò (Spring rolls), Bún riêu cua (Field crab rice noodle), Chè ba màu (3-layer sweet soup), and Mango smoothie. The cost may range from 20,000VND to 50,000VND. So keep calm and enjoy the whole menu of Saigon food at this market!

The South Gate – Heading to Le Loi Street

The South gate, Le Loi street, is where you can get yourself Vietnam image embroidered T-shirts, cool colonial hats, or get amazed by the display of dried foods such as dried fruits, dried shrimp, or dried squid.

The North Gate – Heading to Le Thanh Ton Street

Last but not least, the North gate, Le Thanh Ton street, is where vendors sell fresh food such as meat, vegetables, fruit, etc. This is the exact place that you can observe how a day works in such an Asian country. The way customers bargain with merchants, sometimes it is intense, sometimes it is interesting as a game, I suppose.

Ben Thanh Market Operating Hours in the Day‘s from 6 a.m to 7 p.m every day.

Ben Thanh Market at Night-time

A corner of the night market

When the sun goes down, it is time to explore Ho Chi Minh City nightlife. And where would be better than experiencing Ben Thanh Market’s night market, eh? Opening hours for the night market is from 7 pm to 11 pm. Trust me, enjoying dinner in Ben Thanh at night will be a cool memory you want to tell your friends about when it comes to Ho Chi Minh City.

The night market operates mainly on the 2 streets Phan Boi Chau, the East gate, and Phan Chu Trinh, the West gate. Visiting the market at night, you are able to enjoy the good foods of Vietnam made by the locals. Some of them have recipes from other provinces of the country. In addition, there are vendors selling souvenirs that you can buy for your families, friends at home while telling them the best ever journey you had in traveling Vietnam.

So, What More You Should Know?

Here is 4 additional info that I have amassed to help you guys have a more enjoyable experience when paying a visit to Ben Thanh Market.

1. French was not the First Owner of Ben Thanh Market

Before the French came to Viet Nam and started a government here, Ben Thanh Market was a place for vendors from the south to transport and distribute goods for Gia Dinh citadel’s residents since the 17th century.

2. Ben Thanh Market Now is not the Original One

Today market at night with bright lights

An interesting fact that Ben Thanh market we’ve already known is actually called a New Market or Chợ Mới in Vietnamese. In 1912, all of the vendors selling goods in Ben Thanh were required to move to a new one that people are familiar with today. About the Old Market, the government decided to employ it as a wholesale market, called Chợ Cũ (old market) in Vietnamese.

To help people differentiate these 2 markets, the new one was keeping the name as Ben Thanh Market. In which, the name Ben Thanh derives from the words “harbor” means Ben in and “citadel” means Thanh. It’s Bến Thành with the tone in true Vietnamese.

3. Ben Thanh Market is Definitely a Place Where You Can Apply Your Bargaining Skill

It does not exaggerate to say that Ben Thanh Market is an ideal place for people who want to apply their bargaining skills in convincing vendors to sell their goods at good prices. Just a small tip from my experience, the actual price is usually 50%< lower than the price sellers tell you. You can try proposing the price you want, then pretend to leave and see if they call you back. This would help a lot for you to buy stuff at a good price.

If you are a newbie in this game, I suggest that you should try to be as friendly as possible since everyone likes honeyed endearments. In this way, you might easily get your things at a cheaper price at the start. Here a list you can use to behave “sweet” in your bargain.

Hi/HelloXin Chào/xin chao/
Too spendy!Mắc quá!/mac quae/
C’mon, get the price down a little bitBớt tí xíu đi/but ti xiu diiii/
(remember to drag /i/ in “di”, it’s how you express your desire for what you want)
Thank youCảm ơn/cam on/

4. There Are a Variety of Destinations You Should Visit Near Ben Thanh Market

Since located in the hub of the city, Ben Thanh Market is considered as the core destination of Saigon. From there, you can visit Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, the Independence Palace, the Central Post Office, Takashimaya shopping center, Nguyen Hue walking street, you name it.

Furthermore, there are countless high-end restaurants in different cultural styles near the market such as the Pizza 4P’s, Lush Burger, Cocotte, Tokyo Deli, etc. So, if you have time in Ho Chi Minh City, don’t miss out on these amazing places!

Where to Stay Near Ben Thanh Market?

The area around the market with many hotels, homestays to stay

Again, this market is located right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. Therefore, by staying nearby the market, you can also visit other interesting places around the city easily. In case you look for good selections of hotels and places to stay, here are my suggestions that I believe you will love.

Luxury Stay

More Affordable Choice

So wow, Ben Thanh Market sounds very appealing, doesn’t it? Are you ready for your next trip to Ho Chi Minh City and visit the market?

Ngoc Dao
Having itchy feet at a very young age is a motivation for me to escape from a hustle and bustle life, go to more lands to learn more new things, meet more strangers and share these wonderful experiences with more people who have the same hobby.

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