A) Hey - the tail is sticking out of the boot - what should we do?
B) Just shove it in, quick!
A) I can't, it's frozen..
B) Ok, let's just go...no one will notice. It's not like we'll be in Thanh Nien tomorrow...
A) Yeah, haha.
The first day we moved into our new apartment I watched the dying rays of the sun cascading onto our balcony but was too busy to sit out there and enjoy. Ever since then I feel like I'm on a disappointing holiday - every day has been cloudy, rainy and windy...no sign of a sunset - oh well!
For some strange reason I have a morbid interest in the development of this city and have been blogging it for some time.
Good ole Nam Ky Khoi Nghai/Nguyen Van Troi have completed their widening projects to help traffic stream into the city from the airport much quicker. They are now probably the worst stretch of road in the central districts. Drains rise out of the road in pyramids of tarmac some one foot higher than the surrounding surface, patches of gravel and pot holes litter the way - viewed from above it must look like a patchwork quilt. Taxis supposed to be ferrying guests and tourists downtown in double-quick time are left painfully picking their way along a 3 kilometre slalom.
At least when it comes to District 1 and District 4 connections things have improved. The new bridge at the end of Nguyen Tat Tan is open which goes over the canal to join up with Ton Duc Thang - it bypasses the tunnel site which is underneath and is still in progress. Coming in from D4 you also get a good view of the skyline on Ham Nghi and Nguyen Hue - the BiTexaco tower under construction especially. I presume it is still set to be the city's tallest building at 60 something floors.
If it does end up looking like this, it'll certainly add a spectacular dimension to the skyline lacking anything like it so far.
Saigon Happiness Square, Nguyen Van Cu on Feb 5th 2008:
And today - not sure what's in it - the 'Now Zone' whatever that is. It's very bland and Singapore like.
Heading down to the end of Nguyen Van Cu we have the fourth bridge to cross the canal between districts 1/5 and 4 now open. This one must have had the residents of D8 very happy. What a lonely and strange backwater District 8 is, a forgotten corner of the city - but this bridge may help open it up to development. The previous access was pretty awful. The bridge has these swanky ramps that curve round underneath - something I shouldn't be excited about, but it's a level of sophistication I've not seen before in Ho Chi Minh City infrastructure. Usually its a plank on a couple of bricks. On the right of the picture is part of the continuing construction of the East-West highway, on the left, that sexy ramp.
Looking east from the Nguyen Van Cu bridge the East-West highway in progression. You can see the temporary shacks of the construction workers lining the bank of the canal:
And this from Cau Ong Lanh, the bridge which leads from Nguyen Thai Hoc into District 4...another new bridge between Ong Lanh and cau Khanh Hoi (pictured earlier with the Bitexaco tower in the background). More ramps, this time coming off the highway. After this, the highway will disappear under the river and plough through District 2, a part of Saigon's ring road. Despite this being pretty much town center.
This is the area I am referring to with all these bridges!
Heading back out to D7 and Lotte World is finished. It has to be the biggest, best organised department store in the city. I hate it. It has many Korean products as well as the whole Vietnamese high street and supermarket collection. The only good thing is the wide isles, a world away from the living hell of an inner city Co-Op Mart. Lotte World is full of people just walking around with the intention of buying absolutely nothing. Sad when a giant shop passes as entertainment...
Back to the Phu My bridge, where they are so optimistic about it opening in September that a fun run has already been organised. I'm not so optimistic. Maybe the actually bridge span will be open, but the elevated roadway that runs right across part of D7 and into Phu My Hung is still being built. When I drove down to take these pictures a violent storm was blowing in overhead, the wind was howling violently and whipping up huge clouds of dust around the construction. People were attempting to shield their eyes whilst driving their bikes one-handed along the bumpy narrow road, avoiding JCB's and huge trucks along the way. Like a scene from Mad Max, the entire road surrounding the site was caught in a vicious dust storm - I saw one old man remaining defiantly in his coffe-shop deckchair and simply place a hat over his face - others seemed caught up in an air of panic and hurried around their place of business pulling things inside as quickly as possible. At times like that I am reminded how miserable life in the city can be for some people - this stretch of construction must have made things hell for the residents.
The elevated road leading to the bridge, still under construction.
All in all, there is some progress to be seen, but don't get too hopeful!