Pham Viet Chanh - The coolest street in Saigon

Pham Viet Chanh - The coolest street in Saigon

Pham Viet Chanh Street and Ward 19 in Binh Thanh District has emerged to become one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Ho Chi Minh City. This up-and-coming area next to District 1 could be described as the Brooklyn of Saigon. Travel readers would be familiar with the annual "best of" travel listicles put out by the likes of The New York Times and Lonely Planet. Time Out has come out with what is probably a more useful guide with their list of coolest neighbourhoods in the world. In their first annual post in 2021, they listed Binh Thanh District in Ho Chi Minh City.Binh Thanh is a big district though (1 of 22 in a city of nearly 10 million people), and each district is further subdivided into wards (phuong). It is Ward 19 that has become one of the "coolest neighbourhoods in the world", with Pham Viet Chanh Street being the epicentre of this neighbourhood.Ward 19 is on the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal that separates District 1 from Binh Thanh District. It wasn't that long ago when the canal was lined with informal houses on stilts, with the canal serving as a wastewater dump. Once the canal was cleaned up, the areas along the canal began to flourish.All the houses that were built above the water were cleared, and canal walls were built and walking paths and trees were put in their place.Next to the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal is the Thi Nghe Market. These smaller markets are usually named after the ward they are in, and I have seen some buildings that reference themselves as being in Thi Nghe. Perhaps if the ward had a name instead of a number it would be more brandable.If you want to see a Vietnamese market in action, then come and visit Thi Nghe Market.Ward 19 is bordered on its eastern side by another canal, and here you can see the future metro line. When the first canal was cleaned up they built high rise apartments to house those displaced from the cleanup.The streets are narrow and not laid out in a grid like District 1, and in peak hour traffic you will experience Vietnam moto mayhem at its finest.Its proximity to District 1 meant that it was only a matter of time before this area was to experience an urban renewal, starting with the arrival of the new Japantown.Saigon has an established Little Tokyo/Japantown in Le Thanh Ton Street in District 1. The small tube houses in the alleys off Le Thanh Ton are an ideal place for restaurants and bars to recreate a Japanese street scene. The area though is in a central location and not far from a future metro station. A nearby block is also being redeveloped into a large commercial area, and rents have been going up faster than the average Japanese curry bar can manage.At some point in the mid-2010s, another Japantown started emerging in nearby Binh Thanh District. The cheaper rent in an area close to District 1 made it an appealing location for businesses to move to. It’s interesting to watch a neighbourhood emerge into a new hotspot. All it takes is one or two restaurants to establish a beachhead, and from there other businesses start accreting into a new neighbourhood. Soon enough word-of-mouth kicks in. I recall some friends telling me about this new Japantown that I should check out. Then it gets mentioned in local lifestyle sites, and the growth continues.

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