With business slow, Ben Thanh Market wears deserted look

29-Oct-2020 Intellasia | The Saigon Times | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Despite Vietnam’s success in responding to the global coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic slump has left many businesses dealing with significant challenges.

Two days ago, the once bustling Ben Thanh Market in District 1 of HCM City, the city’s most famous market, resembled a ghost town, with few buyers in sight, many shops shut and others struggling to do business, a fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although Vietnam has eased its social distancing measures, the absence of foreign tourists has hurt local businesses, especially those that mainly cater to them.

Currently, while a few booths at the Ben Thanh Market are still open, most of them cater to the local population. But more than half have been temporarily closed or completely shut down, according to Tuoi Tre.

They were all forced to shut down on April 1 when the Vietnamese government ordered a national semi-lockdown; some have yet to be opened though the restrictions were lifted in May, while others opened briefly and shut again.

Before the pandemic, the market used to receive 15,000 visitors a day on average, but this has dwindled to just a few hundred people now who come mainly to eat, according to local media.

The Ben Thanh Market, one of the city’s landmarks, was originally a trading port where merchants around Saigon came to trade.

In 1912, Eugene Cuniac, then mayor of Saigon, gave the order to build the new Saigon market (present-day HCM City) in order to develop business activities.

The market was inaugurated in March 1914 with two bus stations: Mien Dong and Mien Tay. It was then called “Les Halles Centrales”, only to be changed to “Marche Ben Thanh” in 1914.

In 1985, a major restoration of the market, including the renovation of the roof and booths, was carried out, but the original structure was preserved. However, only the clock tower of the south gate remained intact.

Today, the market covers an area of some 13,000 square meters, with more than 1,400 stalls and 16 doors opening in four directions.

The main South Gate opens to the Quach Thi Trang Park, the East Gate to the Phan Boi Chau Street, the North Gate to the Le Thanh Ton Street and the West Gate leads to the Phan Chu Trinh Street.

A foreign visitor once described the market on TripAdvisor, saying, “Discovering the Ben Thanh Market is an exciting experience because you are not only shopping, but also discovering the energy and vitality of this place. A destination not to be missed.” Not long ago, everything was available at the market from food products to household appliances.

Then on March 22, Vietnam’s borders were closed to most foreigners, and international flights are not likely to resume services anytime soon, painting a gloomy picture for this once vibrant shopping paradise.



Category: Business, Vietnam

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