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[Video] This Is What Saigon Looked Like in 1945

There's something wholly captivating about old footage of Saigon. In a city that seems to transform in the blink of an eye, it's rare to find evidence of the southern hub from long ago.


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Thankfully, a handful of videos still exist which capture Saigon during the long-lost days of the early 20th century. In the video below, posted to YouTube by user Clip Xon Xao, color-corrected images of the city from 1945 show a world apart from today's modern metropolis.

Though it's unclear exactly which month the video takes place, 1945 was an important year for Vietnam. Before Ho Chi Minh's historic declaration of independence on September 2, 1945, Vietnam was subject to a five-year occupation by the Japanese, whose presence not only in Saigon but across the country made a lasting impact on the rest of Vietnam's 20th-century history.

Slightly slow-moving and set to a background of violin music, the video depicts a Saigon devoid of high-end SUVs or even Honda Waves but instead filled with ox-drawn carts and rickshaws, their drivers hustling past with passengers in tow. The streets are, by comparison, wide and mercifully free of motor vehicles.

A few familiar sights pop up, including the facade of the hundred-plus Hotel Continental, Notre Dame Cathedral and the still-standard vision of street vendors with bamboo poles, schlepping along the sidewalk in nón lá.

But if there's anything to be gleaned from this video, it's that the Saigonese of days past had some great dress sense. Everywhere you turn, men are in white suits and bowler hats, women in áo dài with parasols.

Though there are few famous landmarks visible in the footage, it's the more intimate, everyday comings and goings of the city's old residents that really speak to the spirit of Saigon, both then and now.

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