HCMC Dining Guide

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The 'Burbs

In the past decade, Saigon has expanded massively, both in population and in area. As the real estate crisis in the U.S. illustrated, you can't just keep building cities out to the horizon; eventually, it will all come crashing down. Developers in many Asian cities realize this, and parts of Saigon are now following the model set by Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur: vertical housing. Instead of the endless suburbs of Houston or Phoenix, which are full of single-family houses, Saigon's future suburbs will largely be based on high-rise condo and apartment towers. Many developments have already been completed, many are under construction, and even more are in the planning stages.

One of the areas of the city where this transition from low houses to towers is most evident is An Phu, in District 2. An Phu is home to some of the most exclusive housing developments in Saigon, as well as some of the most expensive restaurants and best international schools. There are also a number of high-profile (i.e., expensive) projects nearing completion. The other day I drove out to An Phu to check out their progress.

The Vista, located just off the Hanoi Highway, may be the closest to opening for business.
 
Digital rendering
According to the Vista's website, the complex offers "750 luxurious units with a truly alluring array of modern facilities. Delight in an oasis of absolute serenity away from the bustle of the city. Lush flora and fauna set to perfection a series of beautiful fountains and water features." The grounds will also include a huge pool, a full-service spa, and a gym, while each unit has "timber flooring, air-conditioning, modern kitchens, lavishly-fitted bathrooms, and built-in wardrobes."

Across the highway from the Vista sits The Estella, whose motto is "Shine Above the Rest".
According to the website, upon completetion this will be "A modern and contemporary enclave...A high-rise condominium comprising 719 units with 2 / 3 bedrooms apartments and 4 bedrooms penthouses, this prime residential development is surrounded by exciting amenities and is found within a gated community. Gain peace of mind with round-the-clock security along with 100% power backup. The Estella gives new meaning to the word luxury." Facilities available to occupants will include a movie theater, gym, tennis courts, pool, and jacuzzi.

Next to Estella is the Imperia, another high-end complex.
From the website: "Architectural of Imperia An Phu combines harmoniously modern style of European and romantic tenderness features of Asia, a unique variation of color, light and space in tune with elegent, gentle style but full of personality of the owner. In Imperia An Phu, fresh green space and airy extended right window of your home. From luxurious living room, you can view overall picture of urban areas outside to forget all the stress of life and enjoy moments, completely comfortable"'
Imperia and Estella
The last place I drove by was the Riverview Palace, about 10 minutes away from these other places.
 
Riverview Palace will obviously feature all of the modern amenities advertised at the other places, as well as commanding views over the Saigon River.

What's missing from the websites for these projects is how much it will actually cost to live in such a building, though The Estella's doesn't even try to hide the the fact that it is aimed directly at high-income businessmen. It will be interesting to see how well costly developments such as these do in a city where most people can't even dream of affording to live there. Several other pricey projects are having serious financial problems right now: the Bitexco Financial Tower, for example, is nearly empty, and isn't expected to ever make a profit.

This is something I'll write about soon, but one of the strangest things about living in Saigon is noticing how well-catered to the rich are, while the middle and lower-classes still need things like decent hospitals and roads. Many Saigonese live under one roof with multiple generations of extended family, so everyone can pitch in for rent; while at the same time glamorous, spacious towers are going up on the city's fringes, most of whose occupants will probably end up being expats. Seems like someone's priorities aren't quite in order.

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