Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Vietnamese arts and crafts or mass-produced resin knock-offs are sold by dozens of shops around Ho Chi Minh City's central tourist district. The best, most expensive items can be found at Dong Khoi or the immediate side streets. The items tend to get progressively simpler and cheaper as you move west toward Ben Thanh Market. A few shops have authentic woven silk textiles from Sapa and other parts of northern Vietnam. Lacquered paintings, plates, bowls, etc. are quite striking and unique to Vietnam. Vietnamese propaganda posters can be very impressive and offer a taste of history.
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When buying, keep in mind that is very useful to have the local currency. Be advised that banks and formal exchange businesses will provide you with a decent rate, especially when compared with agencies like Statravel, which offers much lower rates. Goldsmith shops will also change money at decent rates, though as always it is better to know the going rate than to trust in luck.

Chau Vien Diep Street Market by Kham Tran

SahaBook (175/24 Pham Ngu Lao) is a unique store, which stocks lots of authentic Lonely Planet titles. Tri Books (158ED Dong Khoi) stocks a wide range of textbooks and English reference books plus titles on things like design, cookery, business and IT.  Bookazine (28 Dong Khoi) is a treasure trove of new and antique copies of international titles like Newsweek and Time Magazine, carefully collected and catalogued by the owner.

Department Stores
There are three Western/Japanese-style department stores located near the centre. For many visitors, the only reason to go there is to enjoy the air-conditioning, and derive some amusement from the silly-high prices of western-branded consumer goods. Parkson is located at Dong Khoi, a block north of the Opera House. Diamond Plaza is a further north behind the Notre Dame Cathedral and Zen Plaza located at Nguyen Trai, two blocks west of the New World Hotel.

Diamond Plaza by WiNG

Buying a suit can be fun and relatively cheap but do your research first. Tailors frequently use fabrics whose quality is exaggerated such as claims of wool being Italian or English. Even the most expensive tailors in Ho Chi Minh City fuse the suits, rather than canvasing them. Suits should not contain polyester and any tailor should have multiple fittings (preferably three) with the third just being a check-up that probably won't require further alteration.

Electrical & Electronics
Some of Vietnam's cheapest electronics can be found in and around Huynh Thuc Khang but be aware of many shops selling counterfeit items. Things such as dodgy iPods are easy to spot when compared to the genuine thing but items such as camera batteries are much more difficult. If you are thinking about extra memory for your digital camera, be warned that many of the memory cards sold are fakes. That said, you can pick up some bargains if you know what you're looking for.

Guide to
Ho Chi Minh City
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