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The Remarkable Tale of Ben Thanh Market

Large markets have been the cornerstone of many Vietnamese neighborhoods for over a century. When Saigon was still a collection of small towns, central markets acted as vital commerce centers where locals sold everything from tomatoes to blankets. While the dynamics of shopping in Vietnam have changed a great deal over the last 20 years, these markets still serve as important commercial arteries, especially outside of District 1. In this series, we’ll take a closer look at the history of these important buildings starting with the big boy, Ben Thanh Market.


Nifty Old Map of Saigon

For history nerds like us, there's little better than an old map of Saigon. So here's an old map of Saigon, French street names and all. We're guessing it's from the late 1940s.

View the full size version here.

A Look Back at Saigon's Streetcars

As Saigon eagerly awaits its first metro line, we look back at the city's original rail-based transportation - streetcars.


Gangsters of Old Saigon: Binh Xuyen

In the final days of French occupation, the struggle for power in Vietnam, and Saigon in particular, was a free-for-all. As French control waned and the influence of Communism was identified as the “state’s” biggest enemy, private militias and warlords jockeyed for position, hoping to take advantage of the instability. While downtown Saigon was relatively quiet, just south was the Wild West – gangs, kidnapping, piracy, murder and gambling. At the center of Nha Be’s illicit prosperity was the Binh Xuyen, a powerful gang that directly influenced Vietnam’s post-colonial history, especially in the South.


Old Vietnamese Sports Center in District 5

Here’s another gem from the Tumblr blog, Old Saigon:

"This house is located on Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street, District 5. It is used as a sports and gymnastics center in District 5 for all kinds of popular Vietnamese and Chinese sports, such as badminton, table tennis, sepatakraw and lion dancing (a traditional Chinese ritual performed to bring good luck, especially during the Lunar New Year, in which two men dance while wearing a large ornamental lion head and body)."


District 8: Architectural Treasure Chest

Stumbling upon old buildings is one of the best things about living in Saigon. While many are in a state of disrepair, some have retained their original character. Photo blog, Old Saigon, highlights some of the best remaining colonial architecture in the city like the photo above.


Saigon's Airports in Transition

Rendering of Long Thanh Airport.

It’s no secret that Saigon aspires to be the commercial and tourist hub of Southeast Asia. Even as the economy has slowed, tourism in Vietnam is growing at a pace of 11% annually. Government officials expect the economy to bounce back and for growth in the tourism sector to continue. To accommodate the rising number of visitors, plans for additional International airports across Vietnam are in the works.


Street Figures: Nguyen Thi Minh Khai

Nguyen Thi Minh Khai.

We’re kicking off our Street Figures series with one of the city’s busiest streets which spans Districts 1 and 3 – Nguyen Thi Minh Khai.


As the City Stretches – Part 1 - The Pursuit of Sustainable Development

Over the past decade, Saigon has outgrown its traditional boundaries, forcing development not only vertically but horizontally. As the sky above District 1 becomes increasingly crowded and land scarce, city planners have been looking for ways to expand Saigon’s business center.


Vietnam’s Long Road to High-Speed Rail: Past & Present

While we dream about subway systems in Saigon and Hanoi, another major project is on the minds of engineers and urban planners – high speed rail. Already the standard in Japan, China and Europe, there are two projects in the works that could bring the technology to Vietnam. But before we look at the future, let’s take a look at the history and present state of Vietnam’s railway system to see why so many are pushing for a complete overhaul.


Old Saigon: Pictures from Life Magazine

When looking at old pictures of big cities, what usually strikes us is how different yet similar things are today. Back in the 50s, Time Magazine ran some great pictures of Saigon, capturing its initial rise as “Pearl of the Orient”.


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