Shopping and food hopping in Ho Chi Minh City (GMA News Online)

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 12, 2012)

The hot and humid weather welcomed me as I stepped outside Tan Son Nhat International Aiport in Ho Chi Minh City. It was my first time in Vietnam and I felt like I had never left Manila.

The weather was basically the same. The city’s atmosphere and the traffic situation were similar too—well, minus a few hundred thousand motorbikes.

I found out through a local that Ho Chi Minh City is home to 10 million people and seven million motorcycles—the kings of the road, like jeepneys are in the Philippines. Pedestrians must really look both sides before crossing the streets, especially tourists who are not used to the place.

It was a challenge for me to go around Ho Chi Minh, but I learned to walk faster. I traveled with my mom, who had no trouble keeping up with my pace considering that she’s more than twice my age. We purposely booked a hotel in District 1, which is within walking distance of the shopping mecca known as Ben Thanh Market.

Shopping dos and don’ts

Located in the city’s downtown area, this large marketplace offers all kinds of merchandise—local produce, fruits, coffee, flowers, clothes, footwear, and anything else you can imagine. We were especially awed by the quality of their silk fabrics, one of the best buys there. This is the perfect place to buy souvenir items and more. It is basically a one-stop shop where you can—and must— practice your haggling skills (except in the stalls with fixed prices indicated).

Even with vendors who could hardly speak English, you could still bargain to get more value for your money with the use of a calculator.

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