9 months ago

Travellive 4 - 2018

One might have a

One might have a nostalgic feeling of turning back the time to the French Indochina or some would remind themselves of the Subsidy Phase of Vietnam after the reunification day Anyone who loves the Saigon of days past would certainly know those antique buildings, witnesses of time and history, at the corners of Dong Khoi, Ly Tu Trong and Nguyen Hue streets in the city's downtown area. Recently, a new spirit has been infused into these structures since many trendy fashion stores, coffee shops and eateries have been established inside the aged buildings which has helped bring a joyful and modern scene to the local people and, at the same time, giving a unique impression to international visitors. 92 OLD SPIRIT NEW LOOK Visitors who have a chance to pass by a heritage building at the corner of Dong Khoi and Ly Tu Wrong streets or an old condo near the corner of Dong Khoi Street and Lam Son Square in District 1 might find it interesting to see a long alley transforming into mobile art galleries with all kinds of paintings and a myriad of shades and colours. The distance between the past and the present seems to lessen when people start to advance up the stairs. There are sounds of a variety of footwear on all the floors, voices of people from different nationalities, and lyrics and melodies of some trendy songs punctuated by soft squeaks of wooden doors to fashion stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and spas. After climbing up each floor, visitors can pause to rest while leisurely looking at all the tiny cute banners TRAVELLIVE which are set up along the aisle, on the walls and the balconies. Those who are hungry can try classic Vietnamese family fare or Japanese rice served with fresh fruits and vegetables and sashimi. Others who wish to find a peaceful place for talking, can try cakes and drinks at a western style tea room. Visitors can also enjoy coffee and watch the bustling city life near the balcony. Or, for some nostalgic moments, one can hide themselves at any stair's corner or lean on a balcony to admire an old Saigon from a humble view compared to some nearby fancy high buildings rising in the sky. Foreign travelers to Saigon should also book an apartment or room inside those antique buildings to have a true experience of Saigon, which is so familiar yet new to those already familiar with the city, and with a twist of old and modern characteristics of course. Hosts of these Airbnb spaces have well organised modern equipments with minimal interior decoration items which remind one of Saigon back in the 60s. A French friend of mine who spent his vacation to enjoy Tet (Lunar New Year) in Saigonwas particularly excited to stay in an old-style apartment in the city. He explained that the whole of Saigon seems to be combined in a tiny place with sounds of all the vehicles, and human voices, as well as through the colors of bricks, tiles and roofs of houses, and sometimes simply by the sight of a simple pair of

citylifestyle chopsticks, and ceramic bowls in the kitchen. PRESERVATION FOR FUTURE I have asked myself about the future of those antique constructions at the corner of Dong Khoi, Ly Tu Trong and Nguyen Hue streets and other spaces at Ton That Dam and Ngo Duc Ke streets (also in District 1) and many others which will all share the same fate: being demolished to give spaces for new blocks of houses and buildings. Nobody knows the date and time but they might have the same feeling of anxiety and regret for the old Saigon which will soon only exist in their memory. Tim Doling, an English scholar who has published numerous books on Vietnam, especially on the history and architecture of Saigon-Cho Lon, shared his concern as Saigon's original identity will no longer be there, when all the old buildings are gone, and all the houses will be town blocks. "Everyone here as well as people in many countries believe that heritage conservation is the alternative to development." The scholar emphasised that if the governments in Britain, Ireland and America had had a chance to go back, and rewrite history, they wouldn't have destroyed heritage buildings because "the destruction of heritages for shortterm profits at the end of the day will cause loss of identity for the cities." Bridget March, an English artist who had great interest in heritage preservation during her time living and working in Vietnam for over five years, shared, "How can people know who you are and what you are, and how can you get people to understand you if you don't have any photographs of your family, or memory of your days to school, or your time of being a soldier, a teacher, or a nurse, and your traveling. You are nobody, absolutely nobody. If you do the same to the city, or if you knock down all of its history, it becomes faceless." The artist also shared, "I think that those heritages have to be preserved for the sanity and the hearts of future generations. And also, heritage is what tourists adore. Western visitors are always looking for the history of a place." "Heritage has to be preserved for the sanity and the hearts of future generations. And also, heritage is what tourists adore. Western tourists are all looking for the history of a place." (Bridget March, English artist who has lived and worked in Vietnam for over 5 years) TRAVELLIVE 93

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