THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET
THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks

Out with the old in Vietnam

VIETNAM: They formed the charming backdrop to Graham Greene’s sin-filled Saigon in “The Quiet American”, but the colonial-era buildings of Vietnam’s biggest city are fast disappearing – sparking fears it is losing its unique charm.

constructionculturetourism
By AFP

Sunday 28 May 2017, 10:00AM


They formed the charming backdrop to Graham Greene’s sin-filled city in “The Quiet American” but Saigon’s colonial buildings are fast disappearing, sparking fears the metropolis, now known as Ho Chi Minh, is losing its unique charm. Photo: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP

They formed the charming backdrop to Graham Greene’s sin-filled city in “The Quiet American” but Saigon’s colonial buildings are fast disappearing, sparking fears the metropolis, now known as Ho Chi Minh, is losing its unique charm. Photo: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP

Any visitor to Ho Chi Ming City, as Saigon is now known, cannot help but notice the construction cranes dotting an increasingly crowded skyline.

They are the most visible symbols of one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

But like many locals, office worker Tran Trong Vu is dismayed the city’s gleaming new look is so often at the expense of its colonial-era architecture.

“They have cultural value, so we should preserve them, not replace them with high-rise buildings,” he said in the bustling commercial hub.

Others are concerned the demolition of its famed French architectural gems will render Ho Chi Minh City indistinguishable from other Asian megalopolis.

“In the 1960s and 1970s it was very much French, but now it’s very Americanised, McDonald’s on every corner,” said Hiep Nguyen, born in Ho City Minh City and author of several books on its architectural history.

“A streetscape without a story has no value,” he added.

Much of the demolition is happening in the city’s rapidly-developing downtown core, to keep apace with a mushrooming young population hungry for modernity and to feed the demand for more housing and office space.

But those aren’t the only needs being fed, says Nguyen.

“The key is money, the key is interest groups,” he said from Sydney, where he now lives.

Developers with deep pockets have scooped up swathes of land in the city centre, with privately-owned old villas or historic municipal buildings replaced by sprawling construction zones.

The most recent demolition to spark ire from conservationists is the Ba Son ship yard, an enormous French-built military complex on the banks of the Saigon River.

It is now being developed into a series of highrise towers by Vincom Group, owned by the country’s richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong, dubbed the ‘Donald Trump of Vietnam’.

City officials have inventoried more than 1,000 buildings constructed by the French when they ruled the country from 1887 to 1954 remain today, including the famed Opera House, Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral, all must-sees on city tours today.

Zest Real Estate

A few of the old haunts on Rue Catinat frequented by Greene remain, but the street is now called Dong Khoi and also features Hermes and Chanel boutiques for the city’s growing number of high-rollers.

There is no comprehensive survey of how many buildings have been demolished.

But in one central district, some 50% of French villas have gone down since 1993, according to Fanny Quertamp, the co-director of the urban development organisation PADDI.

The breakneck pace of destruction has prompted some to leap into action.

Former video game developer and conservation buff Daniel Caune is creating a mobile app called “Heritage Go” for city residents and tourists.

The app, which is still in development, will ask users to hold their phones up to colonial-era buildings, and aims to automatically generating images of the edifice in eras past.

“It’s to make people conscious of their heritage,” said Caune, who helps to run the Heritage Observatory website dedicated to archiving colonial-era buildings in Vietnam.

City officials are now writing a nine-point plan to classify buildings and mark some for protection, but admit such a huge task could take years to be implemented.

“Pressure for economic development is very high,” said Tuan Anh Nguyen, deputy head of the architecture research centre in Ho Chi Minh City’s planning department.

He said many developers who scoop up precious downtown land do not value historic buildings, adding that he would like to see the structures incorporated into development plans, as has happened in Old Montreal, for example.

The destruction in Ho Chi Minh City comes even as developers have built a replica French medieval village in the tourist hub of Danang, drawing foreign and local tourists keen for a slice of history.

The city risks losing the millions of tourists that stop into the city every year to soak in its colonial charm, said architect Ngo Viet Nam Sơn.

He said, “It’s like losing the chicken that gives the golden egg.”

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Phuket light-rail budget B34.8bn for Phase 1 only, expected to jump 10%

Everyone knows this is just a major boondoggle. I am all for light rail systems, but Thailand has p...(Read More)


‘I only shot him to stop the attack’, says Patong tuk-tuk driver

You really...really, can't make this stuff up. You can also tell that the parties involved (pol...(Read More)


Surf danger warning issued for Phuket

It seems like someone needs to actually go and look at the ocean before making these hysterical clai...(Read More)


Patong tuk-tuk drivers attack, kill motorbike taxi tout

Rats in the streets. Look at their pictures, all smiles, like they enjoyed their brief stopover at ...(Read More)


Patong taxi driver surrenders, charged for street slaying

Is this 'taxi driver' already convicted and serve jail time? When the Patong police starts ...(Read More)


Patong tuk-tuk drivers attack, kill motorbike taxi tout

When, when are Phuket Officials going to show and prove they have the balls to handle this tuk tuk m...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Cruelty is in the eye of the beholder

These wildlife officials are a complete joke....How are they even in their positions? They obviously...(Read More)


Phuket light-rail budget B34.8bn for Phase 1 only, expected to jump 10%

Not just about vanity, it's about greed. They all want their snouts in that huge trough! They co...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Cruelty is in the eye of the beholder

Some would say all zoo's are cruel. Others point to the conservation benefits of people engaging...(Read More)


Phuket light-rail budget B34.8bn for Phase 1 only, expected to jump 10%

Thai Officialdom not even hiding their budget games. It's just like pulling handles of slot mach...(Read More)