Saigon has been changing at a rapid pace for years now, thanks to Vietnam's explosive economic growth that began towards the end of the 1990's. As soon as I arrived in the fall of 2010 I could tell this was a city on the move, and in the time I've been here the 68-floor Bitexco Financial Tower has opened, the Thu Thiem Tunnel has been completed, and countless old buildings have been torn down to make way for shopping malls, condo towers and office buildings.
These past few weeks, though, it seems that this pace has picked up even more steam. This is a little odd because it is universally accepted that the property market (especially in terms of residential buildings) is frozen thanks to lack of capital and high interest rates. A number of big projects sit idle and it is unclear when things will improve.
These financial issues seem to be having less of an impact on smaller projects though, and in my neighborhood there has been an awful lot of change going on. Businesses come and go on a seemingly weekly basis and anytime I walk around there is the constant noise of construction, renovation or demolition. Nearly every time I drive somewhere I discover yet another building being torn down.
Below is a picture of the former movie theater down the alley from my house. It was being renovated when a fire broke out and gutted the interior. It has since been demolished, and as I sit at my desk I can still hear them jackhammering away at the remaining debris. Before this happened I could expect to see the theater's fading facade every time I walked out of that end of the alley, and now it is gone. I don't know if it will be replaced, or if something different will be put in.
posts about cafes, which was possibly the quietest spot in a city full of LOUD NOISES - only to be replaced by the brash, noisy karaoke bars and garish clubs that young, moneyed Vietnamese people seem to favor. Yuk.
Whenever the economy returns to normal here and developers are able to spend freely again Saigon's ongoing transformation will reach an even higher gear. I've often wondered what this place will look like in 5-10 years, but now I can't even be sure of what it will look like at the end of this year. That is change you can believe in.