Just outside Binh Tay Market

Ducking low-hanging baskets and dodging rushing men pushing carts overflowing with wholesale goods, a multitude of smells and stenches came at us from every direction; merchants barked sale orders over SIM-card fuelled cellphones; and the bright colors of a wide array of products for sale leaped out from their dimly-lit stalls.

We were in Binh Tay Market, the largest market in Ho Chi Minh City (“HCMC”).  It’s a busy time of year at the market, but we put Jude in the backpack and braved the crowds to take a look.  Binh Tay is in the heart of the city’s Chinatown, known as Cholon, literally meaning: “big markets,” a huge commercial center for the Vietnamese and the Chinese (of which there are roughly half a million) in HCMC.

Binh Tay Market sells mainly wholesale goods, and contains approximately 1,800 stalls.   Each stall is fairly specialized – some sold only doormats (mostly prickly and plastic).  Others sell exclusively pottery, or shoes, or pickled vegetables, or plastic-y fabric (like the kind picnic tablecloths are made of), in all different designs.

One stall was selling dried seahorses (apparently used for “energy drinks”) along with other varieties of dried fish.  Peeled water chestnuts sat out on large blocks of ice, next to crates of root vegetables, dried mushrooms and dried beans.  One stall specialized in pottery for ancestor veneration.  With this collection of goods for sale, there were unsurprisingly not many tourists around (we saw only one inside).  Most of the market was indoors, and very crowded.

There are other specialized markets and clusters of shops just outside the perimeter of Binh Tay, which we didn’t have the chance to visit on this trip, including those for traditional medicine (pharmacies), cloth (textiles), and the rice and bean market.  The chicken and duck market moved further afield as an Avian Bird Flu precautionary measure.

Navigating through the market provided people watching at its best.  Without being too intrusive, I took a few pictures:

Baby formula and Santa outfits for sale at an outside stall


Organizing shoes

Little heels


Pottery for ancestor veneration


Rice for sale




These triangular hats are ubiquitous in Vietnam, and other parts of Asia


Activity just outside the market


A loaded moped



  One Response to “Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown: Cholon Therapy”

  1. Hi Bliss, it has been a long time since we last exchanged emails. The vegetables look fresh and beautiful but the shoes have a cheap look and maybe not in a good quality…Happy holidays! We had the holiday party in the Morgan Library this year and I took a look at the Charles Dickens exhibition there. Handwriting in his time is so neat and clean that I think his manuscript is really an art master piece. How’s everything on your side? Are you still in Asia? Please pass my greetings to Jude, Patrick and rest of your family.

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