Saigon has a good selection of silk, fashion, lacquer, embroidery, and housewares. Prices are higher than elsewhere, but the selection is more sophisticated, and Saigon's cosmopolitan atmosphere makes it somewhat easier to shop, meaning that shop owners, especially in more upscale boutiques, aren't immediately pushing you to buy. Stores are open 7 days a week from 8am until about 7pm. Credit cards are widely accepted (often with a charge of 3%-5%), except at local markets and streetside places.
Dong Khoi is Saigon's premier shopping street. Formerly Rue Catinat, it was a veritable Rue de la Paix in colonial times. The best blocks are the last two heading toward the river, but the whole area is loaded with shopping opportunities. With the glut of Japanese tourists, there are lots of Japanese Zakka shops with cute -- though overpriced -- jewelry, accessories, and shoes. You'll also find little watch shops, repair shops, and old camera vendors (the street adjacent to Dong Khoi, Nguyen Hue, is lined with camera shops). Good silk tailors abound. Listed here is just a short selection of the many choices. Explore.
In addition to the galleries reviewed in the listings, a few other popular galleries in town include the Apricot Gallery, 50-52 Mac Thi Buoi St., District 1, near Saigon Sakura Restaurant (tel. 08/3822-7962); and Particular Art Gallery, 123 Le Loi St., District 1 (tel. 08/3821-3019).
If these galleries pique your curiosity about contemporary Vietnamese art, pick up a copy of Vietnam Discovery or The Guide, two local happenings guides, for further listings and special shows.
The city's official foreign-language bookstore, Xuan Thu, is at 185 Dong Khoi St., across from the Continental Hotel (tel. 08/3822-4670). It carries a limited selection of classics in English and French (mostly geared to Vietnamese readers), as well as some foreign-language newspapers, good regional maps, and locally published volumes for foreign students of Vietnamese. Daily 8am to 10pm.
Best are the many small bookshops on De Tham Street in the backpacker area of town. Here you'll find little hole-in-the-wall shops carrying many pirate titles and used books. Some of these places do swaps, but you're certain to come away frustrated. Just come ready to spend a few bucks, and instead of trading that old novel, pass it on to a fellow traveler.
Elsewhere in the city -- pretty much anywhere tourists herd and congregate, really -- you are sure to run into young booksellers or pass many streetside kiosks with the same collection of good books about Vietnam, from guidebooks to some of the more popular nonfiction writing about the Vietnam War years, as well as the current popular novels and backpacking classics, all photocopied at one of Vietnam's many reproduction factories and quite cheap (usually $2-$5).
Good camera stores, the likes of Thien Ngan (46 Nguyen Hue St.; tel. 08/3822-0327; daily 8am-10pm; MasterCard and Visa accepted), line busy Nguyen Hue Street (just parallel to Dong Khoi) and can print and develop as well as fix or replace most amateur equipment. You'll also find lots of good deals on used 35mm equipment -- but be warned that much of it has been reconditioned and comes with no guarantee.
Department Stores & Outlets
There are a number of newer department stores and budget outlets for fashion and footwear.
Handicrafts, Gifts & Souvenirs
Note: Unless otherwise stated, most stores listed here open daily at 9am and close around 9pm, but regular hours aren't always (or often) followed. Be prepared for somewhat random opening and closing times, based on the whims of storekeepers.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.