HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Abandoned Temple

This afternoon I had an hour to kill between appointments and I didn't want to go home, so since it wasn't raining (a rarity at that time of day) I decided to take a cruise through the still-undeveloped part of District 2 called the Thu Thiem Peninsula. This area is directly across the Saigon River from District 1, the city's downtown, yet it largely consists of swamps and lush vegetation. There are big plans for the future of the peninsula, which I detailed in a post last year, but as of right now there is a long way to go.

The main neighborhood in the area sits near the terminal of the old ferry, which connected both sides of the river until it was shut down last year after the new tunnel opened. Now that the ferry is gone, authorities have been able to begin their planned demolition of the buildings near it - houses, schools, markets, etc. Residents have gradually taken compensation and moved elsewhere, but there are still a number of hardliners who haven't budged, hoping they can stall and get more money out of the government. The main sign that something is changing in Thu Thiem are the piles of debris where houses used to stand. Oftentimes one can see the high-rises of modern Saigon in the background, perfectly illustrating the tension between old and new.

 It's rather jarring to see a home with a family still living in it surrounded by shattered bricks and the outlines of old buildings. When I drove through today it looked like one house had just been torn down, as diggers were hauling debris into dump trucks and workers were taking sledgehammers to the remaining foundation.

Perhaps the most surreal spot on Thu Thiem, though, is the abandoned temple that sits off a rutted path along the river. The structure has no roof and is in a state of serious, yet somehow elegant, disrepair.

from certain angles you can see Saigon One and the Bitexco Financial Tower peeking over the remaining walls
 Oddly enough there is still a seemingly well-maintained altar.

 I find abandoned buildings fascinating.Why did someone put forth the effort to take the temple's roof off, but leave the rest standing? Did the temple's regulars force the authorities to stop? What will happen to it as construction on the peninsula moves forward?

 Especially in such a highly-urbanized city as Saigon, empty places like this (I mean the temple, and the peninsula as a whole) are scarce. It's so hard to be alone here sometimes, when every alley and nook, no matter how small or isolated, seems to have people in it, that I was shocked no one disturbed me as I explored the temple. The only sounds were the wind rustling through the nearby trees and the hydrofoil that goes to Vung Tau as it cruised by. When Thu Thiem is finally redeveloped into yet another new urban area, will Saigon have any quiet places left?


  1. wow, the side of the building in the front is quite skew

  2. If you like the abandoned places, you MUST check out this site. Just know that you will be spending a looong time on this site. It is huge.


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