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Street Cred: Phu Dong Roundabout

According to legend, the reign of the sixth Hung Vuong king was an era of fear for Van Lang, the country then occupying northern Vietnam. Dogged by its enemies, the kingdom was often under threat. When word came that a colossal army known as the An was en route to conquer the capital, the king realized he would need a miracle to save his country. Outnumbered, Hung Vuong sent emissaries to all corners of the kingdom in the hope of finding heroes: brave, strong souls who’d step up to the plate and save Van Lang from the impending turmoil.

In the rural village of Phu Dong, three-year-old boy Giong heard this news and demanded to speak to the royal messenger. Even for a normal child this would be pretty strange, but Giong was not your average kid. Up until then, the toddler had neither spoken a single world nor walked a single step; he was often described by villagers as a ball of clay. But out of nowhere, word of this enemy army reached his village and Giong was all chatter. He told the emissary to inform the king that he would be Van Lang’s savior. In addition to announcing himself as rescuer of the kingdom, the man-child also requested a fire-breathing stallion, an iron whip and a set of armor. Because, you know, why not.

In preparation to defeat the enemy, Giong ate nonstop for days, depleting the village of their food supplies. The boy grew rapidly and soon transformed into a towering hulk of a man.

Sure enough, thousands of An army soldiers arrived in the capital shortly thereafter. Thanh Giong, who was given the title of saint prior to battle, was ready. Astride his mythical steed, Giong galloped into battle wielding his whip and crushed the An front line. When his weapon broke, he found another one. With strength exceeding a thousand men, he ripped a nearby bamboo tree out of the ground and clotheslined several of the remaining An troops, causing the rest to flee.

Victorious, Giong rode his warhorse toward Soc Mountain and ascended to the sky. In commemoration of his deed, Thanh Giong was given yet another title by the Hung Vuong leader – Phu Dong Thien Vuong, or lord of the sky – and celebrated as a god by the people of Van Lang.

Today, Phu Dong roundabout sits in the center of Saigon with the saint himself overlooking the central business district. As a major hub connecting Districts 1 and 3, this is also the location of Saigon’s first Starbucks cafe, a symbol ushering the city, and ultimately Vietnam, into the next stage of economic development. Though Thanh Giong's story is a tale of protecting the country from invaders, he is forced to stare down the “twin-tailed mermaid” everyday, bamboo stalk in hand atop his warhorse. Perhaps this is one battle even the great saint of Van Lang cannot win.

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