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[Photos] 'Da Nang: COASTAL City' – People in the City

Saigoneer is proud to be the media sponsor of Da Nang: COASTAL City, a large-format photo book exploring the urban development, landscapes and people of Central Vietnam. Produced with the support of the Goethe Institute as well as funding from Audi, the publication is split into five chapters, each covering a major theme related to Central Vietnam's urban development. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be giving you an overview of the book's fantastic photos. This week's installment covers the book's fourth chapter, "People in the City". Click here for chapters onetwo and three.

The coastal cities of Central Vietnam are in close proximity but they could not be more different. There is Da Nang, with its brand spanking new architecture and wide boulevards. Next is Hoi An which, to me, held a surprising contrast between creative innovation and ancient rituals; at the same time, it is probably the biggest tourist shopping center in the whole country. And last but not least, Hue, the former Imperial City, is dominated by the Citadel and still holds its traditions in culture – and really good food.

The question is how does this affect its citizens? Are they different, too? I went to investigate and visited their living rooms, work places and front yards. But firstly I had to find those people. I wrote emails to strangers and posted requests on social media, and I was quite surprised by the amount of positive replies. Some of the people who replied even recommended their friends and family members. Suddenly, my diary was quite full. It was like a miracle; I got the impression that they where proud of representing their cities and with their guidance I learned many unexpected things.

All three cities have a pool of young and modern inhabitants; they speak many languages and are really keen to practice English. Among other encounters, I was taken to a wedding, to a group of environmental activists, to the casting of a Buddha statue and to a noodle factory. I was given many wonderful opportunities for city tours and motorbike rides into the surrounding villages. I also met some older people who told me about the impact the war with the United States had on their lives and localities.

What stood out for me were the differences in culture and tradition. Generally, Vietnam is trying to hold on to traditional values but many people are on the edge of breaking with those. Da Nang is the most open-minded place, probably because of its ongoing push for urban development, newly established tourism and a sudden influx of Vietnamese newcomers as well as foreigners. The city is expanding faster than any other place and it has become a melting pot. Hue is growing much slower and has a lot of culture to offer. Hoi An astonished me by being at the same time old-fashioned and superstitious but also attracting creative individuals, art and craft businesses or organic food establishments.

In all three cities, I found young people who are struggling with the burdens that come with tradition. Being better educated than ever before, they strive to move forward. They want to be in control of their own destiny. It is staggering how many have a smartphone; selfies and Facebook are as popular in Vietnam as in the west.

The photo book Da Nang: COASTAL City is available on Amazon as well as at Artbook bookstores in Vietnam for VND900,000. Discount copies (VND700,000) can be ordered directly from Michael Waibel at waibel_michael@yahoo.de.

[Photos courtesy of Da Nang: COASTAL City]


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[Photos] 'Da Nang: COASTAL City' – Views From Above