Blog Tales from the road

The streets of Saigon, then and now - the 90's and 2016

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08 Sep 2016

I recently uncovered some more video of Saigon, shot from the back of my Honda Cub 50 in the early 90’s. Back then, Saigon was a city of bicycles and motorbikes. And the built landscape was as it was when the Americans left in 1975. Last week, I travelled along some of the same main streets of the city with Mr Thanh, a “xe om” motorcycle taxi driver. Check out how much the streets have changed.

There are two views of the rapid development currently transforming Saigon.

Optimists say the city is in the midst of a painful but necessary transition to a functional modern city.

Critics say there is little evidence of a coherent plan, the city’s heritage has been trashed, and the streets are grinding to a halt as the number of cars and the population both increase. Walking is near-impossible on many major streets, public space is scarce, and pollution is an increasing problem.



This “then and now” video looks at some of Saigon’s main streets from the back of a motorcycle in the early 1990s and in August 2016.

The increased use of cars and increased congestion are the obvious changes over the past twenty years.

Most locals seem to prefer the 2016 version - it appeals to an aspiration for modernity.

Most foreigners and an increasing minority of locals lament the high toll development has taken on the city’s built heritage, and the increasing pollution and congestion.

Check out the video and excuse the nonsensical banter going on between me and my old friend Cherie as we cruise Saigon’s streets in the 90’s. We didn’t realise a YouTube outing was ahead back then.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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