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Nguyen Hue pedestrian street: To eat or not to eat?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 07:06 GMT+7
Nguyen Hue pedestrian street: To eat or not to eat?

British artist Bridget March agrees with the regulation banning visitors from eating and drinking on the Nguyen Hue pedestrian street in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 while Austrian Tom Dorfmeister suggested having street food stalls erected at the location.

These differing opinions were shared with Tuoi Tre News after the municipal People’s Committee issued a ban on several activities, including eating and drinking, on the street and in the area around the statue of President Ho Chi Minh.

In addition, new rules forbid the use of loudspeakers, horns, gongs, drums, and whistles, and the assembly of people without the express permission of competent authorities.

The new regulations took effect on Monday and are now enforced directly by authorized units and indirectly by surveillance cameras installed along the street.

Bridget March, British artist

I have lived in Vietnam for three years and Nguyen Hue is a place I often visit to find inspiration for my works. I probably come here once every 15 days, sometimes I have time to walk, other times I’m just passing through.

There are a lot of pedestrian streets in England and Europe. They appeared about 25 or 30 years ago, or even longer ago than that. At first all the shops said the pedestrian streets would ruin their business, but in actual fact they got far more business, and so now everybody wants to have their shops on pedestrian streets because everybody is going past their doors so slowly. The most successful shopping districts in Europe are all pedestrianized because they are safe, fun, nice, quiet, less polluted and encourage a café culture.

If this was an English city, then the pedestrianization would extend to the whole district, from Hai Ba Trung Strret, all the way across to Ham Nghi. They would be opened for deliveries between something like 11 at night and six in the morning, so trucks can do their deliveries in the middle of the night.

The regulation on banning people from eating and drinking here, for me, I think it’s completely acceptable. There are plenty of places to eat and drink here at all different prices, so I think it’s OK. I want to see the street clean and attractive to use.

When I come to Nguyen Hue, I come to walk up and down, not to eat on the street, and I wasn’t brought up to eat on the street if it’s considered rude. I don’t think the regulation will affect foreigners at all.


British artist Bridget March. Photo: Dong Nguyen/Tuoi Tre News

Also, in a space like this in the UK, people can busk, but they need to have a license from the city hall, and the license will include things like at how many decibels they are allowed to play. The regulations make it clear, so if I’m a violinist and I cannot hear myself playing, because the guy over there is singing his rock song too loud, I can put my violin down and say, “Please turn your music down, or I’ll call the council,” and he’ll be gone hopefully.

In Europe, there is a 91 db limit in nightclubs and 50bd for street performances, so your music can be heard amid the traffic but not offend people who come for a nice quiet walk. The music they play here at night I found quite loud.

In my opinion, Nguyen Hue has brought something unique to Ho Chi Minh City because it’s impossible to walk in the city because of the pavement, motorbikes, vendors, etc. But here, you really can have a nice walk.

In the future, it would be great if Nguyen Hue is used for activities like art markets, and that the pedestrianization is applied to other streets, Dong Khoi, for example.

Tom Dorfmeister, Austrian, general director at Schoeller Bleckmann Oilfield Equipment Vietnam Ltd.

I like Nguyen Hue walking street. It is an important public development. It’s situated just nicely in front of the beautiful City Hall, Rex Hotel and next to the historic opera house, providing people with a relaxed and safe place to enjoy coffee outside, without being scared to get run over by a car or motorbike.

Ho Chi Minh City authorities did well by establishing the street. They could add some highlights to it, like food stalls, but in general it is a nice place and looks great in the evening.

I do understand the decision to ban some activities on the walking street. People shouldn’t behave and act carelessly. It is a public place and you don’t feel comfortable walking through leftover food or empty plastic bottles.

The solution would be banning it or providing designated areas. Vietnam is the place for street food lovers and I think it would be a pity if we didn’t see some street food areas on the walking street.  

However, having said that, it is almost impossible to deal with litter properly in Ho Chi Minh City. I have never seen a city with so few litter bins.

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