Dong Xuan market

What we say: 3.5 stars

If you like markets and haven’t been to any others in Vietnam yet, definitely check out Dong Xuan -- but for souvenir shopping, there are better places elsewhere.

Looks enticing doesn't it? Hmmm.

Looks enticing doesn't it? Hmmm.

Our first problem was parking our pushbike: despite the signs clearly showing a price (1,000 VND) I was shooed away by two parking attendants. Reaching the end of the market — and the parking lot — I was encouraged by some young lads to park near their bikes. “50,000,” they said. Chancers. With a laugh, a smile and one finger in the air (to indicate 1,000 VND of course) we reluctantly left our bike (but yes, it was still there later). One to watch out for, but if you’re on foot this won’t matter.
Not on your standard souvenir shopping list

Not your standard souvenir.

But back to the market. Dong Xuan is not a tourist market. If you’re looking for gifts to take home then you’re better off hunting around Hang Gai and Hang Hom (or you could try for something here). A few stalls sell the usual tourist paraphernalia — silk cushion covers, chopsticks — so it won’t be a wasted trip if that’s what you’re after, but don’t go expecting a wealth of options.
Large spoon anyone?

Large spoon anyone? Comb? Doll?

Secondly, it’s not a friendly market. I’m a smiley person, ready to say xin chao to anyone who glances my way, but I could count the number of smiles I got back on one hand. Well, one finger actually. I mentioned this to my students this morning and they concurred — so it’s not just me.

Thirdly, don’t go during lunch or in the early afternoon. It’s lunch/siesta time, so unless you want to have to nudge the stall holders from their slumber or interrupt their lunch — not likely to get you a good price — avoid.

Bag a bag

Bag a bag?

Fourthly, be careful of your belongings. There have been reports of theft and it’s easy to see why: the aisles are narrow and there’s a lot of squeezing through gaps, when it’s easy for someone to reach into an open bag or slit it open. Don’t worry unduly, just be aware.

So what has it got going for it? Primarily it’s huge and really does sell pretty much everything – even if you don’t want pretty much anything. The hall at the back is more of a food hall, stocking huge sacks of dried produce such as mushrooms, so it’s worth a walk through for interest, though the selling is really done in bulk.

The main hall at the front is where you’ll find some souvenir items and other potentially useful bits such as bags, towels, toiletries and underwear (they even have large-ish boxers and socks). Upstairs is mainly cloth and clothes. I bought some material of decent quality, but it was a bit over-priced and the clothes … well, not to my taste shall we say.

Now where did I put my 1980s hot pants?

Now where did I put my 1980s hot pants?

Above all, it’s an experience and a good photo opportunity and that’s what you’re in Hanoi for right? I also hear that it’s worth heading up there for the food stalls and the night market, but I’ve not been yet.

In summary, if you have time and you like markets, go. If you like markets and haven’t been to any others in Vietnam yet, definitely go. But for souvenir shopping, there are better places elsewhere.

Dong Xuan Market is on Dong Xuan Street. To get there head up Hang Ngang Street from the junction of Hang Bo / Hang Bac and keep going straight. The road changes into Dong Xuan Street and you can’t miss the market.

Last updated: 30th January, 2015

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