Saigoneer

The Long Biên Bridge – “A Misshapen But Essential Component of Hà Nội’s Heritage”

Described by one writer as “a misshapen but essential component of Hà Nội’s heritage,” the Long Biên Bridge has clearly seen better days, but still commands such affection that recent government proposals to relocate or rebuild it had to be abandoned. Việt Nam railway historian Tim Doling revisits the turbulent history of this Hà Nội icon.

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The Saigon Monorail That Could Have Been (1966)

Saigon has been without an urban railway since the last streetcars were removed from its streets in 1957. With explosive population growth over the past 20 years, city planners commissioned a US$154 billion rail system, parts of which are already under construction. But you may be surprised to learn that 50 years ago, there was a plan to build a monorail system through the heart of Saigon.

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The “Rainbow Bridge”: A True Eiffel Classic in the Heart of Saigon

Many people will be familiar with the spurious claims that French civil engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) was responsible for two of Việt Nam’s most iconic buildings, the Long Biên Bridge (Pont Doumer) in Hà Nội and the Central Post Office in Hồ Chí Minh City. The prevalence of such claims makes it all the more strange that so few visitors to Hồ Chí Minh City are given the chance to visit the Pont des Messageries maritimes, which in truth is Eiffel’s only major surviving work in Việt Nam.

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Nguyen Hue Street (1871)

Nguyen Hue Street, one of Saigon’s oldest thoroughfares, has undergone numerous transformations over its history. With the craziness of the holidays and accompanying sea of motorbikes, it's hard to imagine Saigon as a sleepy colonial backwater. But this image of Nguyen Hue Street, taken around 1871, less than 10 years after the French formally occupied the city, paints the 'city' as a calm and sparsely populated area. 

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The History of Saigon's Streetcars

We’ve posted images of Saigon’s old streetcars in the past but were unable to find much information written about them. Thankfully, Saigon historian, Tim Doling, recently published a piece about their history on his blog, Historic Vietnam.

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Massive Old Map of Saigon (1968)

Since most of the old maps we dig up are limited in scope, focusing on the city center, we were excited to come across this comprehensive map of Saigon from 1968.

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Old Saigon Picture of the Day: Rue Kitchener (Nguyen Thai Hoc Street)

When Saigon was still a sleepy French backwater, the city's streets were full of 1 and 2 story colonial buildings, lined with lush, green tress.

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This is What Saigon Looked Like in 1881

When this picture was drawn in 1881 by a ship captain known as Favre, the French were 22 years into their occupation of Saigon. In this short time, the city took on a decidedly colonial feel both in terms of architecture and infrastructure. While not a map, per se, there are plenty of interesting details of Saigon's past.

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Fun with Old Saigon Maps (1790)

Even before the French formally occupied Saigon in 1859, they were active players in Vietnamese politics as early as the 17th century. Their influence can be seen in this 1790 map in the form of the massive citadel commissioned by Nguyen Anh.

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Colorful Old Map of Saigon

Though we can't pinpoint the exact date for this map, we're sure it's from before 1954. This was the year when the French ceded control of Saigon and south Vietnam in accordance with the Geneva Accords. When Diem's government took office, they switched out the French names for Vietnamese ones.

Whatever its date, it's a pretty sweet map.

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Video: Saigon in 1945

1945 was a tumultuous year for Vietnam. After the Japanese were defeated by the Allies in 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnamese independence from France, unaware that Allied leaders had agreed at the Potsdam Conference to divide the the former French colony at the 17th parallel. Under the agreement, the British occupied the south and the Chinese nationalists the north until French colonial authority could be reestablished.

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