Nguyen Hue Walking Street, Saigon - review by Rusty Compass
Ho Chi Minh City | see and do guide

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Nguyen Hue Walking Street, Saigon

| 13 Sep 2016
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Nguyen Hue Walking Street, Saigon
Nguyen Hue St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

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Price guide: Free

Our rating
13 Sep 2016

In 2015, Nguyen Hue St, one of Saigon’s main streets, became a “walking street” - a rare concession by city leaders to the idea that public spaces and walking are important city attributes. The nightly congregations here are well worth a look.

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Saigon’s Nguyen Hue St is a 60m wide pedestrian strip that runs from the colonial era People’s Committee Building, with its Ho Chi Minh statue, 900 metres down to the Saigon River.

The nightly congregation of locals here is a great experience of people watching. And there are some interesting little pieces of architecture and other tidbits along the way too.

 

 

In a city where pavements in the downtown area are dominated by motorcycles, often riding at speed, a proper walking space, free of motorbikes, is a welcome development. Shame about the overuse of pavers - a national obsession - and the sparing use of greenery and shade. 

Nguyen Hue St won’t win any awards for design. It’s characterless as a landmark public space. But that doesn’t mean the place is without character. The crowds of locals that descend each night provide that in spades. They come to walk, socialise, sing, dance and ride hoverboards. And they more than compensate for the blandness of the physical space.

Nguyen Hue St is busy every night. On Saturdays and Sundays, the streets that run either side of the strip are closed to traffic - adding to the size of the space and drawing larger crowds.

It’s a less enticing proposition during the day - when it acts like a giant downtown heatsink - in a city that probably doesn’t need any additional daytime heat.

There are a few landmarks along the strip worth noting. The French colonial Hotel de Ville, home of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee since 1975 (aka. the city government), is one of Saigon’s best known architectural landmarks. 

In front of the People’s Committee building is a 2015 statue of Ho Chi Minh. A more modest statue of Uncle Ho was located at the site for decades after the end of the war. The more flamboyant statue was created to mark the opening of the pedestrian strip in 2015.

Uncle Ho is flanked on both sides by purveyors of global luxury goods. The historic Rex Hotel still stands, though it’s has been renovated almost beyond recognition - and is submerged behind the luxury brands.

As you look towards the Saigon River, Saigon’s tallest building, Bitexco Financial Centre, towers over the city on the right side.

The apartment building at 42 Nguyen Hue above the Fahasa bookshop, has been colonised by local creatives and is a little hotbed of cafes and boutiques - a destination in its own right.

Closer to the river, you’ll find the French colonial State Treasury building that sits in front of the giant Bitexco Financial Centre.

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