Of all the many places in the world that I've
travelled to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in Vietnam
offers the best-value shopping opportunities for
made-to-measure clothing, lacquer ware, woodwork,
fine cotton goods, machine embroidered and hand
embroidered goods, scarves, t-shirts, faux jewelry
and shawls. The last time I was there I stocked
up on everything. Now my gift drawer is filled to
overflowing with presents that would cost three
and four times the amount if they were purchased
at home. So when birthdays, anniversaries and holidays
come along all I need to do is gift wrap one of
these fabulous items. And guess what? I bought the
gift wrap in Vietnam, too.
note about tailors in HCMC...
Vietnamese tailors work so fast and so well.
They sometimes sew things to order in two
to three days. Here's a few of my tried and
true tips for ordering made to measure items.
a shirt or jacket from home that you love.
Pick your fabric in one of these tailoring
shops, leave your garment with them and they
will copy it exactly. Be sure to arrange for
an early fitting so that any problems can
be fixed before you have to leave the city.
ask the tailors to make the back of the garment
an inch wider than the original. Our JW experience
has been that some shopkeepers tend to skimp
on material that 'you've' paid for and make
the garment just a bit smaller. By adding
width I've ended up with the size I really
want. Remember the old Journeywoman rule --
an inch too big is far better than an inch
tailor is going to ask for at least a 50%
deposit. I try to leave as small a deposit
as possible. Though this has never happened
to me I don't want to be in a position of
losing a lot of money if the tailor does a
terrible job and I have to leave the garment
behind. If less than 50% is unacceptable then
make your deposit using a credit card so you
have a better chance of retrieving your money
always tell the tailor that I am leaving town
one day earlier than I actually am. This way
in case extra time is needed for changes to
the garment you'll have it without extra stress.
linen shirts tailored to measure...
had a five-day stay in Vietnam. On my first
day there I brought one of my linen shirts
to Nam Silk to have it copied. They completed
the job in two days and charged me $US16.00
per shirt for the linen, creating and sewing
the pattern. The finished product was perfect
and it cost me a fraction of what the original
shirt had cost. This tailoring shop is located
at 191-193 De Tham Street, District One. Tel:
(84-8) 4042429. Do yourself a favour. If you're
staying in the center of town, take a cab
from your hotel. It shouldn't be more than
$US2.00 and the cab driver will find the shop
a lot faster than you will. P.S.
I left my old, worn shirt with them so that
they would have the pattern and I could then
order more by mail when I wanted to.
an ao-dai made just for you...
ao dai (pronounced ow-yai) is a long gown
with slits on either side that is the traditional
woman's dress of Vietnam. These
are worn with matching wide silk pants. Some
women choose patterned material for the ao-dai
and solids for the pants. Depending on the
material you choose you can make a set for
about $US30 but of course better silks will
cost much more. These outfits are so lovely
and can be worn to dressy events once you
get them home.
shop that specializes in more expensive ao-dai
is Thuan Viet. 213B dong Khoi St., District
1, HCMC. THey charge $US150 and up for exquisite,
colorful, hand embroidered silk ao dai sewn
to order. See their website: www.aodaithuanviet.com
expensive ao-dai can be purchased ready to
wear at stalls in Ben Thanh Market. Other
shops like Nam Silk (191-193 De Tham Street,
District One) will tailor far less expensive
ones in gorgeous vibrant silks.
smocked dress for girls...
Ho Chi Minh City there is a wonderful shop
called, Ninh Khuong Embroidery. I came across
it by accident because it's across the street
from my tailor, Nam Silk on De Tham Street.
I later found other branches at 83 Dong Khoi
and 34 Le Loi Street. They sell the most attractive
smocked and embroidered cotton party dresses
for little girls (about $US20). They also
have outfits for babies and boys plus a lovely
selection of the softest cotton nightgowns,
sleep shirts and linens. Be prepared to empty
your pocketbook but you'll get great value
for the money. Address: 220 De Tham Street,
Thanh Market is huge...
Ben Thanh Market your first stop. It's the
biggest and oldest market in HCMC (with many
of the products coming from China). It is
located on Le Loi Street in one of the liveliest
shopping areas in the city. This
market is huge (about 3000 tiny stalls); it
is also hot and humid inside. Be prepared
to sweat for your bargains (I carried my paper
fan and used it -- a lot). My
sweetest find was a collection of shoe bags
hand embroidered with patterns of fancy very
high-heeled shoes. They are great for packing
(thin and flat) and a perfect sample of the
lovely hand-crafted items so readily available
in this country. Remember to bargain hard.
Offer 75% of the asking price and then you'll
probably both agree to meet somewhere in the
Check whatever you buy very carefully. Unfold
each t-shirt or scarf. Before you pay for
it make sure it's the size it should be and
that there are no imperfections in the material.
I found this warning on a Virtualtourist Blog.
'Be very careful of the pickpockets in the
market. I spotted one hurrying away after
trying to get at my wallet from my handbag.
Strangely, she didn't even look Vietnamese.
She looked like a regular tourist in a big
hat and capri pants'.
Dong Market in District 5 (both a wholesale
and retail market) attracts tourists from
Asian countries (many of the merchants speak
only Chinese). It has three floors -- lower
ones feature foods but the third floor has
good quality lacquer ware, woodwork and handicrafts.
All cab drivers know where this market is.
Be sure to negotiate a price before you get
into the cab.
It's a good idea to leave this
stop for last. It's farther away and you might
be able to find comparable products in the
main areas of town. Use your valuable time
for sightseeing instead.
are small shops everywhere...
from the Rex Hotel towards the Ben Thanh Market
the streets are lined with shops, stalls,
and shopping arcades. There are shoes, silk
scarves, baseball caps and t-shirts as far
as the eye can see. There are salad servers,
lacquer bowls and boxes, embroidered linens,
handbags and costume jewelry most at ridiculously
low prices. When I was there scarves were
as low as $2.00, ditto for the t-shirts (Tiger
Beer logos were popular), colorful shawls
were $8.00 and nightgowns under $10. Every
merchant is ready to bargain and they do it
with a smile.
for a supermarket?
you are looking for a small, western-style
supermarket you can find one in the Saigon
Center, corner of Pasteur and Le Loi; (2)
on the top floor of the Parkson department
store one block northeast of the Opera House,
and (3) in Diamond Plaza, behind the Cathedral,
on the top floor of the department store.
Having trouble finding your way? Most hotels
in District 1 should provide basic tourist
maps for those travellers who request them.
We hear that the Sheraton Saigon (88 Dong
Khoi Street) has a really good one though
JW has never seen it. Of course, the new Tourist
Information Center (4G 4H Le Loi Street and
Nguyen Hue) right in the center of town definitely
provides maps and any information you might
need. Still having trouble getting around?
Grab a cab. They are very, very reasonable.
Happy shopping, everybody.