As Busy As Ben Thanh Market
As Busy As
Ben Thanh Market
know and don't know about their city's most familiar market-Ben Thanh
"If we don't have it, you don't
need it." The two authors of Lonely Planet's travel guide to Vietnam use
this sentence to describe Ben Thanh Market. "The legendary slogan of U.S.
country stores applies equally well here," they say. In Vietnam, a song
composer compared the market with the hustle and bustle of life. "Life is
as busy as Ben Thanh Market," he wrote.
The Ben Thanh management board says the
name stems from the fact that at the beginning the market was near a wharf
(bến) of Gia Dinh Citadel (th�nh).
Almost a century ago, in 1907, the
construction of Ben Thanh Market was approved by the city council.
Construction was under way in 1912 and it was completed in 1914. During
World War II, the market was bombed by the Allied forces and heavily
damaged. It was given a revamp in 1950.
Ben Thanh Market has the best
location among all the markets in HCM City. On an area of over 13,000
square meters, the market is separated from the adjacent blocks by four
streets. Its north side borders Le Thanh Ton Street, the east side Phan
Boi Chau and the west side Phan Chu Trinh. The south side faces Quach Thi
The market has four main gates and 12
subordinate ones. The main gates are named after their directions-east,
west, south and north.
Vietnamese have an idiom that says
"th���ng va�ng ha� ca�m" (which literally means from gold to bran). All
the things between the two are available at Ben Thanh Market. In addition,
up to a hundred stalls sell dishes from throughout
The arrangement of the 1,500
stalls and shops are too complicated to be described
Prices and bargaining
Shop owners are required
to show prices for their goods. However, shoppers should bargain to get
lower prices. In many cases, the prices shown are not the real prices. The
management board says price competition will not allow a shop to quote
prices much higher than those their next-door competitors
Not all people go to Ben Thanh Market
to shop. Some go there out of curiosity. Foreign visitors account for a
considerable proportion of the visitors. The management board says every
day the market has 15,000 visitors. Japanese tourists make up the bulk of
Foreign visitors can use English to
communicate with shopkeepers. Some of the sellers can speak French,
Chinese, Japanese or Korean. A foreign shopper shouldn't worry about the
language barrier because every shop there has a calculator. So, bargaining
is done by using the calculator.
During the past few years, Ben Thanh
Market has become a safe place. Harassment, quarrelling, pickpocketing and
robbery seldom occur inside the market. Its 40-strong security force is
ready to intervene.
A fire alarm and firefighting system was
installed recently. The market has reservoirs and more than 100 fire
extinguishers at different places. Four backup light columns, powered by
separate sources, are installed for emergencies. The market has a total of
16 gates for entry and exit.
There are two rows of restrooms,
that is, toilets, inside the north side of the market.
The market will have a basement in the
future to increase the area for stalls. Parks will be constructed on
surrounding blocks to allow visitors to visit the market and stroll in the