The Vietnamese blogger Le Bao Tuan from Hue posted on his blog a while back several beautiful pictures and his thoughts about the new development Phú Mỹ Hưng in the Saigon South new urban area of Thành Phố (City) Hồ Chí Minh. He espoused the view that this new development represents an advance in civilized life that all Vietnamese should aspire to. He was impressed with the clean park-like environment and security. He stated that "Phu My Hung is an evidence proves Vietnamese economy is developing quickly and Vietnamese people are trying to approach the more modern and more civilized lifestyle." I encourage you to visit his blog and his posting about Phú Mỹ Hưng because I believe he represents the views of many Vietnamese about new urban development.
To me, Phú Mỹ Hưng represents one valid planning model, but there are others that should also be considered civilized. Existing inner-city neighborhoods are not necessarily uncivilized, and will continue to evolve and grow over time. I hope that the Vietnamese people (and expats, too) will be offered many alternative life-styles in new developments. But in my opinion, the Phú Mỹ Hưng development was sterile and lacked the energy and interaction of people that I enjoy in my inner-city TP. Hồ Chí Minh neighborhood.
Phú Mỹ Hưng includes a mix of several different development types, ranging from high-rise condos down to individual houses. This is one of the high-rise developments, Sky Gardens.
Luxury high-rise apartments are also available in the My Khanh towers.
By observation, many of these condos or apartments are occupied by Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese families, as well as westerners and Vietnamese. The Vietnamese families include Việt Kiều, overseas Vietnamese from the Vietnamese diaspora of the 70s, as well as native Vietnamese that have built businesses and can afford to live in this neighborhood. The expatriates are said to be managers and technicians working in the many industrial parks around TP. Hồ Chí Minh, including at Phú Mỹ Hưng. In addition to an International School at Phú Mỹ Hưng, there are also separate Korean, Japanese, Taipei, and Vietnamese Schools.
There is parking available below the buildings and plazas, and it is well-organized and bright.
In contrast, I found the elevator lobbies to be depressingly cramped, dark, and dingy, and the corridors are the same with no design elements to break up the lengths of the corridors.
Its as if residents and guests are expected to shut off their minds while in transit from vehicle to apartment.
Meager amenities were available for people within the development.
Eventually, market forces will require an upgrade in design thinking about these elements.
A large block of 4-meter by 15-meter lots were sold so buyers could construct their own houses of their own design. This is the type of development I like the best, because a lot of individuality in facade design emerges although the basic model of the house remains the same for all.
However, there is thus far very little of the creativity in these facades seen in many new inner city houses in HCMC. Perhaps this reflects the conservatism of the foreign clientele.
Most of the Phú Mỹ Hưng development is arranged along Đại Lộ (Boulevard) Nguyễn Văn Linh, the major thoroughfare through Saigon South.
There is currently light traffic along this boulevard, but that will change immediately after the freeway connecting the Hà Nội Highway to the eastern and southern parts of HCMC is completed, tying into this boulevard. Eventually, there will be a freeway along this route.
Unlike the majority of TP. Hồ Chí Minh neighborhoods, there is very little interaction between people here. As Mr. Tuan points out in his posting, there are very few motorbikes and many more cars. Therefore people seem to get from their cars to their apartments with as little interaction as possible. Unlike other neighborhoods, there are very few family stores and definitely no street food stands. None would survive here anyway because there is no pedestrian or motorbike traffic. The restaurants were typical of those found in American strip malls, and were double the price of inner city small restaurants, and many times the price of street stand food.
For those who want the security and feeling of home that this kind of development gives (and I believe this is probably true for the majority of expats in countries like Việt Nam), this development is the best development of this kind in HCMC. It will eventually fill to capacity, but it will still not have the character and interaction of the inner city HCMC neighborhoods. Therefore it is not a choice that I will take.