Seen and unseen: Ho Chi Minh City’s Sidewalk Life By Annette Kim
“In many cities, sidewalks are the most important and the most overlooked public space.” The sidewalks of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) seem to be of a space where stories are told. It was where people come together, work, rest with no specific purpose tagged to its existence. However, this does not diminish its value where the process of urbanisation challenges the value of sidewalks.
Though there are those who feel that sidewalk vending is an act of the past. Where the underdeveloped country justifies for such behaviour but now for the sake of progress Vietnam has to grow out of it. The development of HCMC has put in place rules and regulations for the improvement in the country’s environment. With such implementations, the thought of zero activities on sidewalks seem to suggest the lost of a cultural practice. No monetary figure could be placed on this historically rooted tradition which once lost cannot be recovered.
The older HCMC used to be underdeveloped, forcing locals who are not educated to make a living out of sidewalk vending. Which today makes a living for roughly 30% of the population, providing low-cost foods, household goods, and services. The sidewalk vending seem to be inculcated as one of the unique necessities required in their daily lives. As a result, the execution of policies by the Vietnamese government to clear sidewalks of ‘unnecessary activities’ seem to remove the network between the locals as well.
The community was built up based on the idea of relationship between unknown passerby with vendors or the people. Interactions between the unrelated creates chance for them to be acquainted. The simple smile and nod every morning becomes a habit which one look forward to everyday.
Singapore Cultural Context
In asia, relationships and networking plays a huge role amongst people and the community. The trust factor for neighbours are relatively high. This concept is well identified in Singapore as the Kampung Spirit. Also understood as a sense of social cohesion within a community where there is understanding and compromise among neighbours, even as preferences differ from household to household. The sense of an extended family even when someone is not blood-related to you.
People gathering to play Chinese Chess at the void deck.
The development of Vietnam seem to be like of Singapore in the past. The reduction of smaller individual villages for a better Singapore. The elimination of villages brought neighbourhoods today. All of which includes a void deck or common space on ground level for the locals to interact. Void decks are usually equipped with seatings and tables for residents to relive what we call the Kampung life (village life). Initiating connection between people in these common areas such as the void deck.
Kids gathering at the void deck for a game of soccer
The void deck in Singapore seem to allow locals to look past each other’s age, race and religion. Which is also an interesting case study to follow, for the common space seemed to have allowed people to make connections with one another with no prejudgement.
Will it be appropriate for Vietnam to implement the void deck concept (or something similar) to develop their local culture with a new concept?
With Vietnam developing to be a developed country, how would the country adapt and accommodate to inflows of foreign talents and workers?