“Whoever Said That Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness Didn’t Know Where to Shop”
Shopping is an inseparable part of almost every trip abroad, and Southeast Asia is no exception. It’s a well-known fact that after a two week trip in Thailand with the kids, you dedicate two-three days to shopping. Because it’s so much cheaper. And it’s so much fun to go shopping, and convert everything to your local currency and see just how cheap everything is.
But Thailand is no longer the only destination where it pays to go on a crazy shopping spree and come back home with a new wardrobe and a truck’s worth of furniture. In fact, if you ask me, there are some places I much prefer, from a quality perspective, from a price perspective, and even from a design perspective. A few years ago, I was in Ho Chi Minh City with my kids, and we planned on going to Bangkok from there. Of course I gave up the shopping in Vietnam, thinking I’ll do it all in Bangkok. But when I got there I discovered that their products weren’t nearly as good, and of a much lower quality, and more expensive. And I was very disappointed.
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And so here are the three places I recommend for shopping in Southeast Asia:
1. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
in Saigon you can’t not want to buy everything. When you walk in the street and see the small designer stores, or even the street vendors with the cut-paper greeting cards, and it’s all so cheap, it’s hard to stand the temptation. I love walking around the streets of Saigon, and breathe in inspiration. In fact, Saigon is one of the only places where I enjoy going to the mall.
Four of my favorite places:
Saigon Square– a colorful market with a lot of finds, some of them even original (ZARA, GAP, H&M)- all for really funny prices of only a few dollars. Even the fake’s quality is pretty high and the designs are in good taste. A lot of clothes and products for children and babies. A few years ago I bought my daughters some very cheap designer clothes and they’re still wearing them to this day (the older one gave the younger and all that). I always shop there when we visit Ho chi Minh city.
Vincom center– a wonderful mall, with a whole floor with only kids stored including a mindblowing stored like Lego, Corolle (an amazing doll company), a huge bookstore, children’s playroom, food court and more. The rest of the mall is dedicated to woman’s products, cosmetics, shoes, etc…
Diamond plaza- another mall, this time more luxurious. Everything looks very well thought of. I especially like the cosmetics floor that is simply stunning. With products of the world’s best companies, and attendants that give you free samples and put makeup on you (they’ll be happy to help the girls too ), and of course everything has testers. The joy! The prices are lower than the rest of the world, but for Saigon they’re pretty high. Other than that, they have designer stores with international fame.
Ben Thanh market- one of the places all the guides recommend. It’s a market where they sell anything you can possibly want, from cheap clothes to souvenirs, local produce like Coffee (a million kinds and flavors), tea (ditto), Vietnamese Coffee filters, baby products. It’s a huge compound, crowded and loud, with a number of exits and entries. And a food court to those interested. You should go there if only for the experience, I sometimes buy there the Vietnamese Coffee (I know exactly which brand and which type of coffee, and how much the locals buy it for)- if I can find it at a low price. It’s customary and recommended to bargain and bargain hard.
2. Manila, Philippines
Alright this one isn’t really new. Manila is THE place for shopping, if you happen to get there. Manila is full of shopping centers, from all sorts of markets to expensive luxurious malls.
My four favorites are:
Glorietta- we’re talking about a compound of a few malls made into one. Something huge. There’s everything you can possibly be looking for and then some. In Glorietta there are the biggest and most diverse stores I’ve found yet of brands like GAP, Old Navy, and Banana Republic (even in Thailand I never found the like). ZARA has a very large shop. If you get there- look for the Vietnamese restaurant in the food court. The food there is just like in Vietnam.very very tasty.
Robinsons– a department store chain with pretty much the same stores all over and a wonder of a supermarket with ingredients that are almost impossible to find elsewhere. I like their prices, and I also like their home products section- where you can find a wide variety of mosquito repellents (I collect those…) and a number of other necessities.
Greenbelt– a nice mall with a selection of big brands and large cosmetic stores where you can find some really nice bargains. My daughters and I spent a whole afternoon just in one of those cosmetic stores, impressed by everything.
SM mall chain– not specific to Manila, you can find these malls, in all sizes, all over the Philippines. If you’re in Cebu you should give it a visit. Even if you’re in Manila it’s still worth going to. Some of these malls are in the top10 biggest malls in the Philippines and indeed the whole world. They also host all kinds of afternoon activities (for free), and we once took part in a Zumba class that happened in the mall, to the great joy of all shoppers. They also have some of the best stores from, with well-known international brands. In every mall there is also a nice local book store with a collection of nice English books booklets for all ages.
∴ by the way, one of our little pleasures, whenever we go to a mall in the philippines, is the Buka. A drink of coconut water and ice with some sugar (to those who want it). Not something anyone should miss.
3. Pushkar, India
if you’re looking for shanti clothes, Yoga pants, colorful skirts, dresses and tunics, jewelry, perfumes, and oils, Pushkar is the place for you. Pushkar is a gathering place for wholesale traders from all of India and the world. To the little picturesque market come shop owners from Europe and the rest of India to buy whole stocks of clothes. And we get the lowest prices :-). The diversity is huge, and of course they’ll saw anything you ask of them. In our last time in Pushkar I had some dresses, Yoga pants and shirts (and, of course some really eye-catching skirts) made for me and my daughters for hilariously little money. Pushkar’s market really is charming and if you get there don’t miss Sanu’s fruit & juice shop.
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