Five and a half years ago, I arrived from England to spend a year in Saigon. Of course - as you know - I m still here and that is partly because of the sensational city of Saigon. In 2012, expats who had been here for 10, 15 and 20 years were saying how they could hardly recognise the city they first came to all those years ago. But, believe me, they could not possibly have imagined was yet to come! In 5 years the city skyline has been transformed from a low rise city with a few high rise building to a high rise city with a few low rise buildings remaining!
It is not, however, the changing landscape, the demolition, the emergence of suburban sub-cities, the march of concrete pylons through neighbourhoods heralding the birth of a metro system, the re-arranging of statues that have stood for half a century that is the real change - the real change lies in the emergence of a youth culture and the explosion of $50 start-ups in cult cafes, super chic fashion labels, lifestyle boutiques and wellness enterprises.
The pedestrianizing of the main boulevard that runs from City Hall to the river has given birth to a whole new evening scene of promenading, custom motor bike cruising, street cafe culture and fashion parading.
Watching all these changes happening before your very eyes, month by month is completely addictive and for someone of my generation it is like re-living the 60s and 70s of our own, strengthening youth culture. Of course, in Vietnam, it is all happening at double speed. The young people of Saigon are going to catch up 50 years of youth culture in around 10 years and also- of course- they will believe they invented it!
I started writing 'Sensational Saigon about three and a half years ago but then I ground to a halt while I tried to work out what the nature of the change really was. This city is dynamic, addictive and devastatingly exciting. You have to experience it to believe it. With the help of my latest book, I hope you can make more sense of the changes going on around you.