The AsiaLIFE team picks out their favourite, and most handy, Saigon shopping streets. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Based on the theory that success breeds success, businesses and shops of similar specialities can be found clustered together all over Vietnam’s cities. From wedding street to antique street, Saigon is famous for them. While retail experts may argue against such strategies, it’s certainly an advantage for the consumer to have the full range of options all in one place. Here are some of our regular go-to spots:
Luu Van Lang, District 1
While the authenticity of the famous brands along this short stretch of tarmac between Ben Thanh Market and Nguyen Trung Truc Street is for you to decide, the quality cannot be sniffed at. Many people swear by them. If a VND 800,000 pair of spunky new ‘Nikes’ lasts just a single wet season, can you really complain? Whether you’re after office shoes (mens or ladies), a sexy, dishwasher-safe pair of “Crocs”, or some squeaky clean sneakers to hit the streets in, Luu Van Lang is worth a visit before you shell out a few million in a department store. Don’t miss number 51, a shop which appears tiny at first yet opens out into a sprawling warren of footwear. With fixed (and very reasonable) prices, and a wide range of brands (although choices are often limited for anyone over a US size 10), it’s a great place to start.
Nguyen Thong, District 3
If you’re looking for a new hobby then how about taking care of tropical fish? You’re in the right place for it.
Saigon has a cheap abundance of marine life and you can do better than buying those ill-fated fish trapped in small plastic bags on the side of the road.
At its junction with Vo Thi Sau, Nguyen Thong has a line of aquariums touting exotic creatures as well as tanks of all shapes and sizes, decorations, feed, and everything else you might expect.
Visit Mr Dang at 44/019 (opposite the school) who has good English and an interesting freshwater shop where you can get anything from an algae eater (VND 20,000) to a Malaysian-imported high back arowana (VND 6 million upwards). It’s worth visiting the street just to enjoy its sheer, colourful variety.
Motorbike Repair Street
Tran Quang Khai, District 1
(between Hai Ba Trung and Tran Khac Chan / Nguyen Huu Cau)
Situated behind Tan Dinh Market, this section of Tran Quang Khai Street attracts a twice-daily parade of sweaty-faced commuters as they limp their dead machines towards its many repair shops. From Hai Ba Trung, if you reach the large Lotteria crossroads, you’ve gone too far. Now turn around and head to number 151, ‘Hau’, a popular spot with locals and expats for regular maintenance and emergency repairs. Take a seat, grab a coffee and watch as the efficient mechanics get to work. Written quotes and invoices are guaranteed and in many cases, a choice of new or used parts will be offered. Elsewhere along the road, spare parts outlets are plentiful if your sweet ride is in need of some pimping. Chrome trims, flame decals, LED under-lighting, a pair of wing mirrors, why not?
Imported Goods Street
Ham Nghi / Ton That Dam, District 1
Just a few blocks up on Ham Nghi Street sits two shops adjacent to one another. Recognisable by the bright neon signs inviting customers in, both shops are jam packed with delights from home as shop assistants perpetually stock the shelves. Colloquially named the ‘expat shops’, they save the day when you’re feeling a bit homesick or just want to indulge in some of your favourite branded treats. From a good old packet of digestive biscuits to that dollop of Marmite you secretly love, you can find an array of Western and Indian produce here. The imported products are also very reasonably priced in comparison to other shops around the city. Despite the narrow aisles, the shops impressively squeeze in both fresh and frozen items, with bakery equipment sections upstairs. A visit here will definitely help to ease any cravings.
Nguyen Kim, District 10
It’s likely you’ll be able to hear this street before you see it, as potential customers test sound speakers on the pavements.
Always check the quality of amps and any other electronic goods you buy here, but what makes the area irresistible is the cut-price tech, including iPhones and laptops.
Most of the costs are driven down thanks to the ingenuity of local technicians who can transform trashed computers into televisions among other tricks.
Visit Nhat Tao Market down Vinh Vien Street, just off Nguyen Kim, for a concentrated selection of electronics and repair shops.
Based in a building that looks half apartment block, half hospital, the market offers dirt-cheap widescreen TVs and much older sets from around VND 250,000 upwards.