Brian Letwin

in Heritage

Tàu Cánh Ngầm: The Curious Case of Saigon’s Lost Soviet Hydrofoils

Not long ago, hulking “creatures” glided atop the waters between Saigon and Vũng Tàu. Like the dinosaurs that came before them, they slowly disappeared, until all that was left were their skeletons.

in Saigon

Relive Your Memories of Saigon Water Park via These Photos by One of Its Makers

Although water parks involve a combination of two of the most tedious human experiences, standing in lines and prolonged direct sun exposure, the now-demolished Saigon Water Park was an icon of 2000s Saigon that remains a crucial cornerstone of many city dwellers' memories.

in Vietnam

The Vintage Charm of 1995 Vietnam on Kodachrome Film Slides

While editing a retrospective of my recent work from Vietnam in the summer of 2019, I discovered 50 yellow boxes of Kodachrome slides in my basement that were shot in 1995. The images were from my first trip to Vietnam.

in Saigon

The Tumultuous Tale of Three Ga Sài Gòn Locations, From 1885 Until Now

Travelers arriving by train in Hồ Chí Minh City sometimes express surprise that the main Saigon Railway Station is located in Hòa Hưng, some distance from the central business district. In fact, this is the third railway terminus in a city where each successive station has been built further away from the river.

in Saigon

A Brief History of the Vietnam Railways Building Before Its 110th Birthday

The iconic Bến Thành Market is not the only Saigon landmark that has endured for more than a century. The Vietnam Railways building at 138 Hàm Nghi, given its inauguration in 1914, is pushing the 110-year milestone in less than six months.

in Vietnam

My Great-Great-Grandfathers Were in Indochina in the 1880s to Build the Railway

We often see archival images of old Hanoi, but these photos are different — they are personal. The following shots, which come from a collection of five photo albums, are the only surviving record of my two great-great-grandfathers’ presence in what was then Indochina.

in Vietnam

From Saigon to Đà Lạt: A Tourist's Journey Through Vietnam in 1963

Old archives of images from 1960s Saigon are easy to come by, but how often does one get to have a peek into the past version of Đà Lạt.

in Vietnam

A Brake Failure and 200 Victims: Remembering Vietnam's Deadliest Rail Accident

About 55 kilometers from Saigon, in the small commune of Tây Hoà rests the 17/03/1982 Railway Cemetery. It currently houses 85 unidentified graves of victims of the Train 183 Disaster, the deadliest railway accident in Vietnamese history.

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in Saigon

Icons of Old Saigon: The Belt Canal (Canal de Ceinture)

Commissioned in 1862 to facilitate French gunboat access around north and west Saigon, the Belt Canal was never completely navigable.

in Vietnam

The Story Behind Hai Phong's Opera House

During the early 20th century, the French were really into building opera houses in Vietnam. Any city with a sizable European population was all but guaranteed to have a theater in its town center, al...

in Saigon

Tax Center Developer Says Facade, Unique Interior to Be Preserved

Last year, Saigon said goodbye to its beloved Tax Center, as the shopping complex closed its doors to prepare for construction of the new 40-story tower to be built in its place.

in Saigon

Travel Through Time With Saigon's Street Names

Before 1975, Saigon took its street-naming pretty seriously. The city went through a French phase, of course, during the early 20th century, when most of its roadways were dedicated to European histor...

in Saigon

Icons of Old Saigon: The Pont Tournant (Swing Bridge)

Many people are familiar with Eiffel's Pont des Messageries Maritimes (Cầu Mống), yet few remember its neighbor, the Pont Tournant (Swing Bridge), which was built by Eiffel's successor company Levallo...

in Saigon

The Lowdown on Chi Hoa, Saigon's Maximum-Security Prison

Chi Hoa Prison, located in the northern half of District 10, is one of Vietnam's most famous high-security facilities. Though it was built over a half-century ago, the seven-hectare prison remains in ...

in Saigon

Saigon’s Famous Streets and Squares: Ham Nghi Boulevard, Part 2

Home to a tramway terminus, a grand hotel and the first United States Embassy in Saigon, Hàm Nghi's 20th-century story mirrors Vietnam's tumultuous journey. This is the second installment of a two-par...

in Saigon

Saigon’s Famous Streets and Squares: Ham Nghi Boulevard, Part 1

Once a downtown canal, a breeding ground for crocodiles and the heart of Saigon’s own Chinatown, Hàm Nghi is one of the city’s three widest boulevards.

in Vietnam

20 Images of Hanoi's Old Quarter in 1896

Even as Hanoi charges into the future with flashy new skyscrapers and brand-new metro lines, the capital manages to hang on to its traditions. Particularly in busy downtown neighborhoods like the Old ...

in Saigon

Icons of Old Saigon: The Artists’ Pagoda and Cemetery in Gò Vấp

The Artists' Pagoda (Chùa Nghệ Sĩ, also known as Nhựt Quang Tự or Phật Quang Tự) and Cemetery in Gò Vấp is the last resting place for practitioners of cải lương ("Reformed Opera"), a popular form of t...

in Vietnam

18 Old Postcards That Capture Da Lat’s Fading Charm

These 18 old postcards of Da Lat provide a flashback to the early twentieth century, a time when healthy pine trees shaded the town’s valleys and streets, while magnificent villas graced its hills.

in Vietnam

[Photos] Northern Vietnam at the Turn of the 20th Century

Northern Vietnam has arguably the most charm of any region in a country graced with an abundance of natural beauty.

in Saigon

Icons of Old Saigon: The Lost Paris Foreign Missions Society Chapel

Hidden behind the Department of Foreign Affairs building at 4-6 Alexandre de Rhodes is the last surviving relic of that neighbourhood’s long association with the Roman Catholic Church – an abandoned c...

in Vietnam

Vietnam's 19th-Century Boats, Courtesy of an Artsy French Lieutenant

With over 3,200 kilometers of coastline, it makes perfect sense that Vietnam has a long and complex relationship with the sea. Whether fishing, fighting or traveling, the country's boats are a reflect...

in Saigon

Old Saigon Building of the Week: Phương Nam Mansion at 110-112 Võ Văn Tần

After being sold at the astronomical price of US$35 million, it’s beginning to look like one of the city's most exquisite works of colonial architecture has been saved for future generations.

in Saigon

Officials Approve Demolition of French Mansion at 606 Tran Hung Dao

Permission has now been given to demolish another of the city’s old French buildings, the former SAMIPIC mansion at 606 Trần Hưng Đạo.

in Vietnam

Long An Officials Will Proceed With Demolition of 1930s Bridge

A piece of Mekong Delta history is about to disappear, as officials in Long An province move ahead with the demolition of a decades-old bridge across the Bao Dinh River.

in Vietnam

[Photos] 20 Vintage Postcards of Turn-of-the-Century Nam Dinh Province

At the turn of the 20th century, northern Nam Dinh province was an ever-growing combination of Vietnamese and French influences. The local houses and marketplaces of the Vietnamese occupied the same t...

in Saigon

Old Saigon Building of the Week: Former Saigon Adventist Hospital

The Phú Nhuận Red Cross Association building at 2 Hoàng Văn Thụ originated in 1960-1961 as the Saigon Adventist Hospital.

in Saigon

Architects Lament the Demolition of Saigon's Old Buildings

With limited space in downtown Saigon, it's pretty well-known that the city's heritage buildings are often in danger of being lost to newer, flashier development projects. More than a few historical s...