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Every Morning, I'm Grateful for My Carless Ride to Work on Hoàng Sa Street

In the decade-plus of Saigoneer’s existence, we’ve had six offices strewn across different parts of Districts 1 and 3. Over that period, my homes have been located in Bình Thạnh and Thảo Điền, requiring significant commuting time.

In a perfect world, Saigon’s first metro line would provide a pleasant trip, but unfortunately, we’re living on another timeline. This means that most of my commutes have occurred on motorbike along the city’s congested thoroughfares, often leaving me drained upon arriving at work.

Sprinklers provide needed hydration to both the grass and passersby.

When we moved offices again last year, I punched the address into Google Maps and a thick blue line insinuated that Võ Thị Sáu would be my preferred route. Having traversed this street during rush hour in the past, I was not particularly excited by this revelation — no disrespect to the street's heroic namesake. Upon a second glance at my screen, I noticed an opaque grey line along Hoàng Sa Street, an alternate route along Saigon’s Nhiêu Lộc–Thị Nghè Canal that's only five minutes longer.

This suggested path has proven to be an utter delight; as close to meditation as one can have on their morning commute in Saigon. The canal twists and turns like a dragon’s tail and is flanked by modest urban development. Tree-lined and car-free before 9am, it’s a sensory cornucopia.

Rows of trees on both sides of Hoàng Sa are a welcome sight in the heat of March.

Automated sprinkler systems add to the whimsical atmosphere, as their malfunction often creates clouds of mist through which drivers have to pass. A mid-journey refresh. On lucky days when the grass is recently trimmed, a sweet scent of leveled green blades fills the nostrils.

A sense of calm is reinforced by the many temples that line the canal, providing a centering energy to my morning rides amid the scent of incense. The 15-odd minutes I spend driving along Hoàng Sa is sometimes the calmest time of my day. How many of us can say that about our morning commute?

Brian Letwin is the co-founder and CEO of Saigoneer.

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