Ho Chi Minh City can be a dangerous place to go shopping, as you’ll likely buy more than you intended once you see the prices. Paintings on rice paper, silk ao dai, lacquerware, embroidered cloth, musical instruments and ethnic garments are all popular gifts and souvenirs, as are curios such as opium pipes, antique watches, French colonial stamps and banknotes, while the cheapest items are the ubiquitous T-shirts and conical hats. Visitors interested in Vietnam’s history will find a wealth of copied books on the subject, sold in tourist areas by wandering vendors with a metre-high stack on their hip. Sadly the range of English-language books available in regular bookshops is very limited. For cheap and cheerful souvenirs, head for Ben Thanh market, Le Loi or De Tham; for something precious and pricey, browse the upmarket boutiques along Dong Khoi and its tentacles, such as Dong Du and Mac Thi Buoi. Bargaining is an essential skill to cultivate if you’re going to be doing much shopping. Shopping malls attract curious crowds with their glitz and glamour; some offer distractions other than shopping in the form of cinemas and bowling alleys. For something different, intriguing model ships are sold on Cao Ba Quat, north of the Municipal Theatre, just east of the Caravelle Hotel. Generally speaking, shops open daily 10am to dusk, while larger stores often stay open beyond 8pm.

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