Sellers and porters at So​ai K​inh Lam Market prepare for a busy day (Source: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) - Despite the abundance of modern supermarkets and shopping malls in Ho Chi Minh City, niche markets still attract customers who love discovering unusual, odd or hard-to-find products.

Visitors to Binh Tay Market in District 6, for example, are sometimes surprised to discover piles of votive fake currencies in US dollars and Vietnamese dong as well as rows of miniature paper replicas of houses, motorbikes and other goods.

These paper items are highly popular as it is traditional to burn them on the death anniversary of a departed loved one and on every full-moon day.

People believe the offerings will cross over to the spirit world and provide for the deceased.

Most of Binh Tay’s 20 shops that offer votive paper have been opened for decades.

Over the years, paper offerings like shoes and clothes have given way to newer items, including houses, motorbikes and cars under international brand names of Toyota, Audi and Mercedes.

Besides votive offerings shops, other markets, such as the Nhut Tao Market in District 10, offer goods that are second hand. Nearly 80 percent of the products at the market are second-hand.

First time visitors to this outdoor market may leave a headache, as the noise from competing TVs and stereos can be deafening.

“Visitors can identify the location of our market because they can hear the noise from a distance,” a shop owner said.

Nhut Tao has more than 250 stalls which operate all day. The shops specialise in electronics, including items made 20-30 years ago.

Electric rice cookers, irons, fans, TVs and hi-fi equipment are all available at low prices, but it is necessary to check items carefully before buying as many look new but may be broken or have missing parts.

If your motorbike needs anything replaced, you can easily find the part at Nhut Tao, which sells motorbike parts such as mirrors, lights, fenders, petrol tank caps, tool cases and innumerable other spare parts.

The market supplies accessories and spare parts to electronic repair shops in the city and neighbouring provinces.

One of the city’s biggest indoor markets is Soai Kinh Lam Market in the Chinese quarter Cho Lon in District 5.

The market has 500 shops offering clothes and handmade accessories.

Known for their friendliness, Soai Kinh Lam sellers allow many dealers to postpone payments until after they have sold their products – a custom that has made them popular in the provinces of the Mekong River Delta.

At the market, more than 300 tourists shop each Saturday and Sunday, while the number of local customers is 500 a day.

Nguyen Thi Tuyet, a member of the market’s managing board, said Vietnamese, particularly youth, like silks imported from the Republic of Korea, China and Thailand, while foreign visitors often buy traditional Vietnamese clothes and handmade bags and shoes.

"I began my trade career here when my mother transferred her business to me five years ago. Our profit has fallen by 25 percent compared to the time before 2000, when shopping malls had not yet expanded," said Hong Quang Minh, a shop owner.

Like Minh, many young shop owners and sellers can speak two or more languages, usually Cantonese Chinese, English, Japanese or Korean.

"Sellers here know my language and they give me good prices. Their manner makes you think they are your friends," said Erika Pang, a visitor from Hong Kong.

Minh said that tourism had brought more foreign customers to the market in the last few years.

"We understand Soai Kinh Lam is not only a brand name, but also a cultural symbol of Cho Lon," he said.-VNA