Saigon is not a city known for its mall culture. Sure, there are a couple of small malls like Saigon Centre, Tax Centre and Paragon out in Phu My Hung, but most pale in comparison to those found in Bangkok or Singapore or other large Asian cities…until now!
Vincom Center opened this weekend – a ‘real’ mall right in the heart of Dong Khoi Street, Saigon’s glitzy main drag. While some naysayers may bemoan the mall’s detraction from bustling markets and small, independent businesses, most Vietnamese people would probably disagree – Vincom Center’s presence propels Saigon into the new Asia, a continent aspiring to prosperity and consumerism and flashing one’s cash. Evidence? The hordes and hordes of Vietnamese visitors to Vincom on the weekend dressed to impress and posing for photos both inside and out. The people watching was just as much a spectacle as checking out the shops!
As for those – it’s basically a mix of everything Saigon has to offer plus a few newbies, all in one convenient, air-conditioned building (no more dodging motorbikes and waffle ladies and dying in the heat to get from one favourite store to another). There are high-end brands like Furla, Armani and Jimmy Choo (though it’s not open yet), mid-range places like French Connection, Mango, Levis, Converse, La Senza and Accessorize, and a whole floor of kids clothing and toys (among the brand names was one of my favourites – a dodgy ‘fallen off the back of a truck’ shop selling similar stuff to Saigon Square with some great 50,000 dong/US$2.50 pieces – fresh from the factory floor, but a bit lost enroute to the US or wherever!).
As for food, there are ice-cream chains Fanny’s, Bud’s and Snowee’s, a second outlet of one of my favourite cafes – Kita, the ubiquitous Pho 24 and Highlands Coffee, Thai Express and some Korean chains, and a second Saigon outlet of MOF – the cool Japanese dessert place I blogged about recently.
Overall, I think it offers a welcome change to the Saigon retail scene, and in the hot season, a cool and comfortable place to escape to if you’re up for schlepping ’round the shops. Now if only there was a decent bookstore….
Vincom Center, cnr Dong Khoi & Le Thanh Thon, D1, Saigon