Where the Hanoi market sprawls onto the streets, the market in the more cosmopolitan Saigon is contained in one pavilion. It’s still hot and humid, and bears all the market smells.
Now called the Ben Thane market, the French called it Les Halles Centrales and the building dates from 1914. Here you can buy everything you might need for daily living.
Real hawking goes on here. One girl tried her best to sell me a fan. When I resisted, but then later bought one from another vendor, she pursued me out the door to ask why I didn’t buy from her. So, of course, she tried to sell me something else.
Bargaining’s de rigueur here, as it is in most of the country except in the more expensive Saigon shops where they have “fixed prices.” If you’re shy about it, listen to the people next to you and you’ll catch on fast. (Once in a museum shop in China I showed a little interest in a small jade foo dog. “1800 dollars,” the manager told me. As I started to turn away, “$1500,” then, “Well, it’s raining today—not too much business--$1200.” I finally bought the piece for $320. In some cultures, you bargain.)