Blog Tales from the road

Saigon's pavements still a disaster for tourists and walkers

, 1 Comment
23 Mar 2017

Saigon’s campaign to clear sidewalks sounded like a great idea for tourism. Now we’re not so sure.

We’ve been bemoaning Saigon’s demise as a city for walking for a long time. So we were pretty pleased to hear authorities announce a planned cleanup of city pavements.

But as I’ve walked around the city in recent days, it seems that the campaign has targeted the relatively benign sidewalk inhabitants - the street vendors. And left the most noxious - dangerous motorcyclists - to run free.

Many would argue street-vendors are an appealing part of Saigon’s streetscape. They certainly lend humanity and colour to the pavements. They also provide inexpensive and often tasty food options. And these are some of the most disadvantaged people in the city.

The most serious hazard to travellers on Saigon’s sidewalks are the motorcyclists riding at speed and leaving bewildered pedestrians in their wake. They’re also unique to Vietnam. But not in a good way. Few places afford their motorcyclists this curious and dangerous liberty.


Motorbikes colonise the pavements. Saigon's tourist centre this week.
Photo: Mark Bowyer Motorbikes colonise the pavements. Saigon's tourist centre this week.


Motorbikes colonise the pavements. Saigon's tourist centre this week.
Photo: Mark Bowyer Motorbikes colonise the pavements. Saigon's tourist centre this week.


As I have walked the streets in recent days, I’ve been surprised by the continuing ubiquity of motorbikes riding with impunity on the pavements around the city’s most prominent streets and tourist sights.

The video footage and images here come from one of the city’s most popular tourism destinations - The Reunification Hall (former Presidential Palace) and Pasteur St, metres from the centre of city government, and major international hotels.

So it seems so far, that the city might be losing one of its sources of character and uniqueness. And a whole class of disadvantaged face an uncertain future. While the dangerous practice of motorcycles on pavements, persists unchecked.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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1 comment so far

re motorcylists' use of sidewalks as shortcuts, I was pleased to see that some apparently experimental barriers, i.e., low-lying chrome-plated pipes, have been installed on the blocks of Le Thanh Ton near the city museum. It's a good idea that deserves to succeed.

  • David Brown
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Friday, 24 March 2017 21:25