Homeland the Attachment

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Hẻm 263 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu from my grandma’s house. (Picture taken by my dear sister Nhu Quach)

Trong muôn vạn bàn chân chen phố thị

Ai thừa giờ nhớ một kẻ đi xa…

~Nguyễn Nam Trân*


Among the footsteps flocking to the city

There is no time to miss the parted ones

~ roughly translated by Phung Quach

I parted Sai Gon in December 2010 to start college in America. Since then, I annually went back every summer (except in 2015) to be expectedly surprised by how the city transformed. New skyscrapers. New department stores. New boulevards. Constructions never stop in Sai Gon; I could not help but felt incrementally estranged in my own hometown every time I landed there after an eight thousand mile journey.

Ask any Saigonese to describe Sai Gon, and I bet (a quarter) that everyone would mention ngõ, hẻm (alleyways) as the skeleton of our city. The alleyways never fail to remind us the spirit of strongly bonded communities (which gradually disappear because of modern life), the strategic traffic escape of two-wheel riders, and the nostalgic feeling of a fading past (even though it still exists in our reality).

Having the city dearly embedded in my mind during my time in America, making Sai Gon as part of a seemingly graduation project was clearly a favored choice for me. Moreover, such a quest to find the value of alleys in a modern city also reflects my interest in the topic of revitalization in urban studies.

When I first reported my research question, “What is the future of alleys in Ho Chi Minh City during the process of urbanization”, I did not expect to find a lot of materials, if at all. However, literature review completely proved me pessimistic: many cities around the world have launched their own city revitalization programs that continue to bring cultural values, economic revenues, and environmental benefits to the implemented neighborhoods and the cities at large. Now with a more educated mindset, I am hopeful to documented what I learn from the world in this blog in order to build up knowledge, receive feedback, engage conversations, and ultimately to offer policy recommendations and execution plan for an alley revitalization in Sai Gon – Ho Chi Minh City.



*quoted in Sài Gòn – Chuyện đời của phố by Phạm Công Luận

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