Our friend EJ, a big Che Guevarra sucker, requested that we buy him a cap with a single star design similar to his icon’s famous beret. Che’s from Cuba and we’re going to Vietnam. I didn’t see the connection.

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Rowjie and I love the beach and the mountain. We’re cool with anything related to those two. And so when we were in the planning stage of our two-week trip to some parts of Southeast Asia, we hesitated to include Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in our initial itinerary. We don’t know of any beach or mountain in Saigon that we could visit.

But we heard that Saigon is known for its cheapie products, especially the outdoor stuff. We liked the picture of us with loads of shopping bags. Off to Saigon we go.

After a few-minute walk from Pham Ngu Lao area where our guesthouse is located, we reached one of the famous landmarks in Vietnam, the Ben Thanh Market. For me, it’s a smaller version of Divisoria here in the Philippines. A wide variety of goods are being sold in this marketplace. Snake head, faux jewelries, animal meat, authentic Vietnamese fabric, and a lot, lot more. We just got disappointed that we didn’t see any stall inside the Ben Thanh Market selling genuine or at least decent outdoor garments. They’re all fake.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ben Thanh = Divisoria (Photo by Rowjie)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Scorpion and Snake head for sale! (Photo by Rowjie)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ben Thanh is included in every backpacker’s list of what to visit in Saigon. (Photo by Rowjie)

One good thing though that I love about Saigon and its stores/shops is that they honestly tell you when what they’re selling is geniune or not. “No. Same. Original is expensive.” Luckily, we found the needle in a haystack when we discovered that what we had been looking for is just right across our rented lodge. We actually spent a quarter of our budget for the whole trip on several branded quick-dry shirts. Each shirt roughly costs 75% off its selling price here in our country. #noremorse

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
One of the gems in District 1 that sell genuine outdoor stuff. (Photo by Rowjie)

In Vietnam, everything is pretty much chintzy so I refused to buy a cool cap worth 35,000 Vietnamese Dong. Ending? We gave EJ a pair of chopsticks from Melaka. There was no cap cheaper than 35K Dong.

You know how much 35K VND in PHP is? Seventy pesos. And oh, I now know the connection between Che and Vietnam. It’s the star.

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