I was told that there is a a popular saying in Vietnam that goes “Eat in District 5, Live in District 3, See in District 1“.
Well then, I’m obviously in the right place since my hobby is eating! 🙂
I was coddled and cosseted in the comfortable 5 star hotel – Windsor Plaza Hotel (review HERE), located within District 5 and spent my daylight hours exploring its surroundings.
The best part of the hotel (to me) is its proximity to 2 wholesale haven – An Dong Plaza (air-conditioned) and An Dong Market (dry/wholesale produce market).
An Dong Wholesale Market
On one morning I went shopping as early as 6:30 am at An Dong wholesale market which is akin to Pratunam Bangkok with its grubby exterior, tiny lots and narrow aisles which are mostly blocked by the shopkeepers sitting in the aisles as they have nowhere else to sit.
Local products are the top priority here with a plethora of messy, winding stores offering shoppers Vietnamese candied fruits, clothes, local produce and handmade items.
The building has 3 floors – lower grounds for dry ingredients and a small foodcourt. The lower levels are great for those who cook – kitchenware, pots and baking wares are aplenty!
1st and 2nd floor for kids, men and women clothing. There are some fabric stalls too.
On the highest floor you will find woodcraft and souvenir shops. Look out for nicely carved woodwork, lacquer items, incense burners, animals in all sizes, beautiful trays and even tea sets.
BELOW: Traditional wear.
BELOW: The second floor is a shoe shoppers dream come true! You can find basically any type of shoe here, even for salsa dancing ones!
There are fabrics available as well.
Kitchenware and bakeware are mostly on the lower grounds.
However, don’t think that’s there’s only “cheap” stuff here, because these bird nests were not cheap at all!
And more often than not, there are family-run businesses.
BELOW: Local food on the ground floor.
They are not exactly the cheapest.
A challenging feat – this bargaining business. The difference between An Dong market and Ben Thanh is that there are not that many tourists (actually none when I was there) and you will find that prices are not inflated as much. As a matter of fact most prices are rather fixed unless you buy a lot more.
Also An Dong is in the Chinatown district so the shopkeepers can converse in Mandarin and Cantonese which is good for Malaysians, unless you’re banana like me, which in that case doesn’t help much.
This building is about 15-20 minutes from the touristy Ben Thanh market and you should take a taxi.
An Dong Plaza – air conditioned
An Dong Market and An Dong Plaza are spaced only about a hundred meters apart, and are both conveniently located near Windsor Plaza Hotel. The great thing about An Dong Plaza and An Dong Market, is that put together, there is so much variety on offer that a shopaholic would need a full day here and a thorough shopaholic like myself (the sort that would check every shop and likely every item) should just allocated 2 full days just for both shopping destinations. This is especially so if you are seeking original, stylish and inexpensive items.
With its air conditioning and larger floor areas, An Dong Plaza is also a good place to buy household furniture, besides the usual clothing.
You can find these mostly on the second floor, on display – stylish household ornaments, bedding, lighting and other such furniture.
As predicted, my interest was only in the fashion department,.
For An Dong Plaza, think of Platinum Mall in Bangkok. Wholesale, a bit haphazard so be prepared to spend time rummaging through the pile of items and while you can try to bargain, the shopkeepers are quite adamant on their prices.
Things to do in District 5, Ho Chi Minh city“.
As a background, HCMC comprises of 5 districts designated as rural and 19 districts considered urban or suburban. Some of its major districts include:
District 1: where administrative offices, consulates and the CBD are located, making it the busiest district with the highest living standards.
District 2: now being developed from one of the poorest parts of HCMC to become a new economic centre with a completed connecting bridge, tunnel and an upcoming metro.
District 5: it is known as the Chinatown of the country due to its large Chinese-descendent population, a vibrant district full of culture and history.
I shopped in An Dong since my hotel was just beside both, but I did tour around District 5 for 2 days.
Your shopping adventure is of course incomplete if you didn’t check out these main streets within District 5 – the fabric street, the medicine street, the fish street and another where nostalgic, traditional lion heads and lanterns as well as handicrafts are made.
Most are within walking distance but there are shuttles available from Windsor Plaza Hotel to certain places of interest too. Taxis, Grab, Uber are easy to get so sight-seeing is not a problem.
And if you are a cultural buff the temples, pagodas and churches might interest you.
I’m a shopaholic so I wasn’t paying much attention to those.
My eyes were focused instead on colorful, soft fabrics, ancient looking medicinal products and the cute lanterns made for the upcoming Mid Autumn Festival! 🙂
FABRICS GALORE: Fabric shopping in Ho Chi Minh city – Soai Kinh Lam fabric market
The Fabric Street Market is lined with hundreds of stores selling endless selection of silks, suit materials, cotton for shirts and material for curtains and delicate laces.
I didn’t have time to browse and select slowly but from what I can see, the fabrics options are decent. I understand now why some of my Muslim friends sourced their fabrics here. The heavy laces and transparent fabrics are definitely ideal for kebayas and Malay traditional wear.
Anyhow I have some dress designs in mind so I bought a few meters of cloth. It was about RM80 for 4 meters of gradient type.
Prices are pretty fixed though, and bargaining, though allowed, are seldom more than 10-20% of the price quoted.
All in all the variety of fabrics was good. If you are serious about fabrics, do allocate 4 -5 hours at least.
Herbal/medicine street ( Hai Thuong Lan Ong street)
On Hai Thuong Lan Ong street lies the ‘Herbal Street Market’ of Chinatown. This where you can buy mushrooms as big as an umbrella or cinnamon barks as thick as your arm!
The air was thick with the scents of various medicinal herbs as we passed shops selling dried flowers, dried abalones, local tea flowers, seafood and many more. It is definitely a good hunt for those who cook and those interested in herbs and healing properties of natural ingredients.
The street features traditional pharmacies such as Van Hoa, Loc Sanh, Vinh Thanh, Nam Xuong and Quang An Phat.
If you study the architecture, the construction of the buildings that houses the shops combines Chinese and French architectural design for an old world charm.
These dried roses were so pretty and fragrant! I reckon it would be fabulous in rose beverages and I would even steep these in milk to make cakes.
So many types of mushrooms!
Luong Nhu Hoc Street – lantern street
I got myself some baking moulds here!
Yes, this street is full of artsy shops as well as local grocers.
The Mid Autumn Festival is upcoming so we saw a lot of these lanterns, most in traditional animal designs and some contemporary ones like Frozen characters and Spiderman. If you are contemplating buying these home, fret not as they have the folded ones so you can handcarry or chuck it into your luggage.
Lion head making and painting is almost a dying art and I was pleased to see the art is very much alive here in Chinatown.
There were also traditional costumes with heavy embroidery – such detailed work which I couldn’t help but admire.
I nearly bought the whole shop here as these moulds came in so many shapes and sizes, most I’ve not seen in Malaysia!
All in all, I was contented with my shopping haul – the dresses were of quality fabrics and the designs trendy enough to suit me. The “glass” slippers were my favourite.
Now that I’ve given you a sneak peek of the sightseeing and shopping, here are the self-pampering sessions you can enjoy within Windsor Plaza Hotel.
Japanese hair salon in HCMC: Ginza Matsunaga @ WINDSOR PLAZA HOTEL
The great work of a Japanese barber is now available in Vietnam. Ginza Matsunaga is a high-end barber operator in Japan and their foray into the Vietnamese market begun in 2014.
Their stylists are Japanese citizens, Japanese trained while the store manager might be local or Japanese. Each outlet would also hire a local to ensure easy communication.
My personal experience here was favorable.
Since my hair is perfect, I got myself an anti-aging facial instead. Heck, no amount of anti-aging procedures is enough when you hit your thirties! 🙂
My therapist is a Japanese and though she wasn’t well versed in English, she was chatty and she did her job well.
After all that shopping, a massage would be heavenly. Since I enjoy a massage anytime and anywhere, I was wasted no time booking a Thai massage at Windsor Spa. Generally I enjoy a deep point, stretched out and body realignment type of rubbing down and in Thai massage there are the stretching, slapping and bending that I crave for. As expected my Thai massage in Windsor Spa delivered all that and more. My therapist kneaded me like a dough, held my arm and bend my knees and there were all kinds of pops and cracks in my joints.
My session ended with me in a carefree mood and a much ‘loosen‘ body.
But fret not if you are more into more relaxing massages as the experienced masseuses here are able to administer the aromatherapy, hot stone, reflexology and more relaxing massages too.
It was a fruitful trip to Vietnam and I must say I enjoyed it since the itinerary allowed our group a balanced mix of leisure, self-pampering activities, gastronomical indulgences and cultural sightseeing.
BELOW: The Windsor Plaza Hotel lobby.
Pretty local ushers are on duty at the lobby and I do love their uniform!
The Windsor Plaza Hotel boasts of proximity and accessibility to Tan Son Nhat International Airport (25 mins), Saigon Exhibition & Convention Centre (25 mins) and District 1 (20 mins).
Airport transfer is available upon request and there are frequent complimentary shuttle service from the hotel to top tourist spots in town.
Recognised as one of the ‘Top 10’ 5-Star Hotels in Vietnam by the Vietnam Tourism Association, guests can expect to enjoy authentic Vietnamese hospitality with a mix of commercial, retail, entertainment, and cultural experiences.
Thank you again for the awesome experience in Ho Chi Minh city this time!
WINDSOR PLAZA HOTEL
18 An Duong Vuong Street, District 5
Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, Vietnam.
Tel: +84 28 3833 6688
Sales: +84 28 3920 9520
Email: [email protected]