Originally, we had wanted to venture to District 5/6 where the biggest Chinatown in Vietnam could be found. Known as Cholon locally, the Binh Tay Market is a major attraction in this district, offering everything from fresh produce to local goods with a Chinese flavour. However, through our local contacts (the hotel’s Marketing personnel I met up with + my friend’s Vietnamese colleague), we realised the market was closed that weekend. The Marketing personnel suggested we head to Tan Dinh area, which isn’t too far from our hotel, after I told her we wanted to go to a local market to experience the local way of life.
So off we went on a short taxi ride (less than 15 min) to Tan Dinh Market as our 1st stop on Saturday morning. Located at the border of District 1 in HCMC, Tan Dinh Market is the 2nd oldest market after Ben Thanh Market. Unlike other markets in the city, Tan Dinh Market’s main gate is of a unique ancient style, constructed in 1927 by the French colonial government.
Upon entering, we could see rows of fabric stalls everywhere. No wonder this is a popular place where locals shop for quality fabrics at reasonable prices. There were other types of stalls in the dry goods section as well, but majority of the stalls were selling fabrics. As the market is not that big, we completed a tour of the entire dry goods section within about 30 min! Anyway, we weren’t interested in buying fabrics to make our own clothing. 😛 Nonetheless, I didn’t leave the market empty-handed. At the dried food area, I bought some cashew nuts & lotus seeds from a friendly Vietnamese lady, who allowed us to sample the products that tasted quite fresh.
After that, we moved on towards the back of the market where there were several cooked food stalls. There were many stalls selling cups of desserts that looked like chendol. Finally decided on a Chinese-style noodle stall because I saw other customers eating his noodles, which looked like the meepok style that I’m familiar with.;) It was great that uncle could speak Cantonese so ordering was much easier! More about the food in this post. 🙂
Next was an eye-opening experience at the wet market section where we saw lots of live seafood, as well as live poultry. It was like back to the good old days in Singapore. The only difference between an authentic local market vs a Singapore market in the past is the omnipresent bikes that were constantly vying for space with us. Most locals would go to the market on their bikes, buy the fresh food produce they need & zoom back home. Hence we had to be very careful as we walked, so that we wouldn’t bump into or get hit by the bikes accidentally.
Tan Dinh Market is definitely not as large as Ben Thanh Market, but it also doesn’t feel as touristy. In fact, I think foreigners aren’t common in the market, such that the local stallholders kept looking at us as we moved around, as if we were aliens. Haha. But it was a good experience to immerse ourselves in authentic Vietnamese culture that morning. If you are interested to visit Tan Dinh Market, it is open as early as 6 am till late afternoon, with some cooked food stalls opening till late night.
As we left the market, we spotted a striking pink church across the street. It wasn’t easy to take a perfect shot of the entire church without any obstruction on the road or the electric wires hanging in the air. After a while, we decided we shouldn’t be so fussy about such “disturbances”, since this is the eclectic charm of the city – busy roads with electric wires hanging everywhere.
Later on, we crossed the busy road to check out this unique pink church, and realised it is called Tân Định church. Located at 289 Hai Bà Trưng street in District 3, Tân Định church is the 2nd oldest & largest church after the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. Constructed during the French colonial era in 1880s, it is affectionately known as the Pink Church because of its pretty rose-coloured Roman-style façade. Given we hadn’t done enough homework prior to the trip, it was a surprise find for us & we were both so enchanted to it that we kept snapping photos from different angles.
Happy to have found this by chance, but it was a pity we didn’t go in to take a look. After we left, my friend searched for the landmark online & realised its interior is just as lovely as its exterior! Gosh… “painful” lesson learnt for not being adventurous enough to check out the entire church compounds… 😦
In case you are heading to HCMC soon, do visit this beautiful Pink Church in District 3, open from 5 am to 5 pm daily for some great photo moments. 🙂