I've had the opportunity to visit the Ben Thanh Market a couple of times this week to do some Christmas shopping for the folks back home and our kids. This place is intense and a must see in HCMC. Walking around this market is quite the experience. Each stall is it's very own little shop, and they are very competitive. A lot of shops sell pretty much the same things, and haggling is a must at all the interior stalls. If bargaining isn't your thing, you can stick to the outer stalls, but you will end up paying more. A friend of ours made a wonderful statement while we shopped the other day. She noted that the vendors will not sell you something if they aren't still making some sort of profit. I've found it's best to start at about 25% of their asking price. It sounds ridiculous, but I got Derek's gift for just that. And don't be afraid to walk away... the next stall will probably have more of the same stuff.
Ben Thanh Market is crowded, and you will get bumped into quite a bit. There is so much to look at though: fabrics, clothing, shoes, jewelry, watches, belts, purses, luggage, tea sets, artwork, Buddha figurines, funny tee-shirts, fresh vegetables, tea, coffee, all sorts of dried fruits and meats, and a bustling wet market. We go to see many different live fish and other sea creatures for sale--we even caught a glimpse of what we think was a goat brain. (Ew.)
The whole experience can be a little overwhelming, but it's worth it. Our nanny says that Ben Thanh is only for tourists, and has told me of other markets to check out that are for, as she says, "real people." We'll be checking those out when we return from Malaysia.