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Are you itching for a market, or would you prefer to shop the high street? Perhaps a bespoke suit or dress? District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City will spoil you for choice. If retail therapy isn’t your thing then make your way to one of the many spas or massage parlours and kick back while the masseurs work their magic. Whichever you prefer, a little therapy goes a long way.

Retail:

Ben Thanh market is centrally located. Open from 6-am until midnight, the market is best explored early for bargain hunting, or in the evening to sample an abundance of street food. Bartering is part of the culture, although there are some stalls here who prefer fixed prices. Lacquerware, textiles, bamboo products, clothing, and some electronics can be found along with street food and fresh juices.

Saigon. Vietnam.
Fresh Fruit @ Ben Thanh Market (Cho Ben Thanh)

Dong Khoi Street, running from Notre Dame Cathedral to the Saigon River, is a shopaholic’s paradise. International brands are peppered between local silk and lacquerware stores. Homewares, Men’s and Women’s fashion, footwear, and tailors can all be found here.

Saigon Crafts have beautiful lacquerware. Merchandised gallery style, the quality of the range is obvious. With a 15 layer lacquer process, some items take 3 months to produce so they are accustomed to taking orders and shipping on completion.

For the ladies, pop into Diva Silk for ready-made traditional and western garments. Take home the time-honoured Ao Dai for yourself or a gift.  Make use of their well-known tailor for alterations or have a garment of your choice custom-made. A 24-hour turnaround on less intricate items is promised. Haggle a little on the final price, but bear in mind, the silk, linen and embroidery in this store are of  the finest quality.

Saigon. Vietnam.
Traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai.

To satisfy your souvenir and gift giving needs Gift 42 is a one-stop-shop. The store is large, selling silverware, tableware, lacquer bowls, plates & coasters. There are watches, wallets, purses, and scarves and discount given on multiple purchases. They will securely pack and ship to your home address to save carting your loot back with you.

Lacquer Coasters @ Gift 42
Lacquer Coasters @ Gift 42

Relaxation:

Many of you prefer your therapy from massage rather than retail and, fortunately, there are plenty of establishments. Cát Môc Spa offers treatment packages at the top end. Imagine 60 minutes in a fragrant steam bath followed by a body scrub, body wrap and 75 minutes of hot stone therapy. Add an anti-aging facial with a multivitamin eye treatment and 4 hours later you’ll need to be poured from the premises. All this for USD $70!

Saigon. Vietnam.
A snippet of the menu @ Cat Moc Spa

The other end, at under USD $3, masseurs from HCMC Association for the Blind will spend an hour working out those knots at the Vietnamese Traditional Massage Institute (185 Cong Quynh). The premises are not flash but the masseurs are well trained, professional and effective.

Perhaps you’d prefer to stick your feet in a pool of water and be nibbled at by tiny fish. They’ll happily feed on that dead skin you’ve accumulated from all your walking. Try it at Blue Moon Spa, it may sound gross but it feels delightful and your feet will thank you for it.

Saigon. Vietnam.
Fish reflexology @ Blue Moon Spa

Rest:

For places to rest your weary head, you’ll find plenty. Hotel Continental and The Rex both provide an authentic French colonial experience.

Hotel Continental, built in 1880 was the first hotel in Vietnam. The central rectangular garden transports you from crazy streets to a bygone era. Rooms at Hotel Continental are large. Imagine 40 square metres of space with high ceilings and French doors opening onto your balcony to enjoy Opera House views. Breakfast and Wi-Fi are included and a long lunch on the terrace overlooking the surrounding French architecture is recommended.

Saigon. Vietnam.
Frangipanis planted in 1880 in the Central Courtyard @ Hotel Continental

A short distance from Hotel Continental is the Rex Hotel. Another impressive French colonial structure originally built as a garage. Now it’s a 5-star property housing 4 restaurants including the Rooftop Garden mentioned in Grazing Ho Chi Minh City. Currently offering early bird and multiple night discounts, The Rex also offers a further discount when booking direct on their site.

Tucked away in a side street, a short walk from Dong Khoi street is the new Millennium Boutique Hotel. Their ‘Daily Save’ and ’30-day Advance Purchase’ reduce the rack rate by 40%. You’ll end up paying about USD $65 for a deluxe room with large windows overlooking the city skyline or Saigon River. Their pool bar is definitely a place to kick back and relax with a local beer in hand.

Saigon. Vietnam
Pool Bar @ Millennium Boutique Hotel

Guest Houses are dotted throughout town if you’re keeping the purse strings tight. USD$20-$40 a night will see you perfectly comfortable in clean, well-maintained accommodation in a great location.

For ease of booking, you could try a new site we’ve recently used. Travel Weta pulls together deals from Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotel chains and more to give the best deal on the day saving you a lot of research time.

First timer tips:

The travel community discusses a taxi scam where drivers convince unsuspecting arrivals their hotel is closed and take you to alternate accommodation, usually owned by a relative or friend. This may be an urban myth but at paraphernalia.co, we feel obliged to pass it on, therefore, have your accommodation details handy in case a quick call is needed.

Up until recently the Saigon Tax Centre was the go-to place for good quality, well-priced lacquerware. We sadly advise it is closed.

That’s it from Ho Chi Minh City. If you’ve previously visited, share your thoughts and memories in the comments below or throw any questions our way if you’re planning a trip. Chatting with paraphernalians: it’s a thing we love….