Vietnam News

Iconic Ben Thanh Market dilapidated after 100 years

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The historic Ben Thanh Market, traditionally considered the heart and soul of Ho Chi Minh City, is looking increasingly dank and unappealing with a leaky roof and discolored walls.

Covering an area of 13,000 square meters, Ben Thanh Market in District 1 has long been a tourist magnet in the southern metropolis attracting thousands of foreign visitors every year before the pandemic.

Built in 1870 by the French, the market was initially called Les Halles Centrales, before being renamed Ben Thanh in 1912.

Ho Chi Minh City last year approved a renovation plan for the market, and District 1 authorities last week proposed a specific plan to upgrade the market at a cost of VND140 billion (US$5.7 million).

The renovation project’s main goal is fixing the market’s leaky roof at a cost of VND95 billion.

Other work includes upgrading drainage, electricity supply, fire prevention and fighting systems, as well as paving the floor.

For nearly two years now, vendors at the market have had to drape plastic sheets over their stalls to shield them from rainwater leakage.

“The leakage is most serious in the fashion item section,” said a handbag vendor named Cong Tuan. “Sometimes when it rains too heavily, water flows all over the floors and dampens the goods.”

The renovation work will replace the corrugated iron roof with red tiles.

The project will also replace the fake corrugated iron roof with tile material similar to the structure’s original build. The vents in the roof will be rebuilt to ensure ventilation inside the market.

According to the District 1 People’s Committee, the renovation work aims to improve the conditions of the market while keeping the original architecture intact.

In front of the market, there used to be a roundabout. It was demolished in 2017 to serve the construction of an underground metro station.

In late 2022, traffic lights and a crosswalk for pedestrians were installed after the delayed construction of the metro station was finally finished after eight years.

District 1 authorities announced last week they had gained approval to build a public square in front of the market for VND157 billion.

Covering an area of 45,800 sq.m, the square will be paved with natural granite stones and have a park where statues of Quach Thi Trang, a student who died in a protest against the Saigon regime during the Vietnam War, and Tran Nguyen Han, a military expert who helped Vietnam ward off Chinese invasions in the 15th century, will be reinstalled.

By Quynh Tran – – October 18, 2023 

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