Know Your Shop Streets
Hanoi is famous for its 36 shop streets. Saigon has its own streets on which numerous shops specialize in one product or a line of product. Chaøo! introduces the 10 shop streets in HCM City.
More than 60 antique shops line Le Cong Kieu, a street about 100 meters long in District 1. In fact, according to experts, only 30% of the goods on display are real antiques, the rest being imitations. A shop has at least 1,000 items to offer. Most of the customers are foreigners who seek antiques or just old items with attractive designs.
Under the shade of the foliage on Dong Khoi, one of the most elegant streets in HCM City, are souvenir shops. Available there are souvenirs typical of Vietnam, from bracelets, stone statuettes, and lacquered paintings, to silk and brocade fabrics. Among the favorite souvenirs are models of xich lo, the three-wheel man-powered vehicle, and wooden sailboats.
The short section of Pasteur Street, from Ly Tu Trong Street to Thong Nhat Park in front of the Reunification Palace, in District 1, is the location for several shops selling skillfully made handbags, baskets, household furniture and flower vases. The materials are bamboo, rattan and dried hyacinth. Imitations of Bat Trang antiques and lacquerware are also for sale.
The blocks bordered by Ly Tu Trong and Le Thanh Ton streets, and Thi Sach and Thai Van Lung streets in District 1 are dotted with restaurants, bars, coffee shops, barbershops and massage parlors. But the nightclubs there are most popular among expatriates. Carmen, Number Five, Blue Gecko, Apocalypse Now and Wild Horse have the greatest fame.
Oriental medicine street
Walking in the area of Hai Thuong Lan Ong, Luong Nhu Hoc and Trieu Quang Phuc, a visitor can smell the special aroma of herbal pharmaceuticals. This is HCM City's, and perhaps Vietnam's, largest Oriental pharmaceutical market, both wholesale and retail. Most of the shop owners are Chinese Vietnamese who pass the trade from generation to generation.
The section of Nguyen Trai Street in District 1, from the Nga Sau Phu Dong traffic circle to Le Lai Street, is lined with fashion shops. This section is considered the "haute couture" street of Saigon. Garments aside, there are also footwear, handbags, leather belts and wallets. Saigonese, especially young women are fond of window-shopping on this street.
Wedding apparel street
To Saigonese brides and grooms, the section of Ba Thang Hai Street, between Cong Truong Dan Chu Square and Hoa Binh Theater, is a familiar address. Some of the customers are overseas Vietnamese or expatriates who marry to in-country Vietnamese. Aside from wedding garments, on this section are photo studios specializing in photo wedding services.
The sections of Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street (between Cao Thang and Ly Thai To streets), and of Tran Huy Lieu Street (between Huynh Van Banh and Le Van Sy streets), in District 3, are considered a "Mecca" of Saigonese connoisseurs of shoes. Goods are abundant, from children's shoes and sandals to adults' boots. Especially at night, shoes are on sale on Tran Huy Lieu's sidewalk.
About 20 banks have offices in the area of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Nguyen Cong Tru, Ben Chuong Duong, Ton That Dam, Ho Tung Mau and Ham Nghi streets, in District 1. This is considered the financial center or Wall Street of HCM City. The HCM City Securities Trading Center, Vietnam's first stock market, is also in this area. Of course, there are a lot of automatic teller machines.
You're an expatriate and you want to chat in your own language? Go to the backpacker quarter on De Tham, Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao streets in District 1. This quarter is well known to expatriates and Saigonese. Service charges are often cheaper than elsewhere in the city. Tours of other destinations in Vietnam are available at dozens of tourist agents there.