A number of expats who live and work in the city have sent their opinion on how Ho Chi Minh City should develop to a forum launched by Tuoi Tre (Youth) Newspaper.
The forum, which is under the theme of Ho Chi Minh City and its future aspirations, was been conducted on the occasion of Vietnam’s 41st anniversary of national reunification on April 30 (1975 – 2016).
Developing tourism is one step in developing the economy of Vietnam in general and Ho Chi Minh City in particular. In order to develop tourism, I think the city should preserve its historic values, including the architecture.
I’ve been to Singapore four times and the thing that makes me love it is the way they’ve managed to keep the best of the old and put it right next to a brand new city.
Singapore is an old city with lots of English and French colonial buildings, old shop, old temples, etc. So is Saigon.
I think thousands of people would like to see no more shops shut down, no more colonial buildings removed and Saigon retain its beautiful patchwork of old and new buildings.
People come to eastern countries to experience all of the magical things, not to see concrete buildings.
When I visited Hong Kong, I loved the way it was so connected to the water, and is very easy to move around with lot of boats, and everybody was moving on the water all the time.
British artist Bridget March. Photo: Dong Nguyen/Tuoi Tre News
In Saigon, because the traffic is getting worse, I think I would like to see Saigon more connected to the water, and provide water shuttles. I think people would take the water to avoid the roads. The city’s rivers and canals are also getting much cleaner than before, let alone beautiful parks built along the canals.
It would be so delightful, so nice, to be able to take a boat into the city in the morning or to move from one district to another by boat. I hate going to District 7 from District 2 because it’s slow, District 4 is busy, and the big Phu My Bridge is dangerous because a lots of thieves and trucks, in my opinion.
In London, we have the Thames River curving around the city. They have created a number of stops along the river, so that people can very easily see the best of the city because all the city’s biggest buildings are on the water front or not far from it.
I don’t know how local authorities in Ho Chi Minh City will run water traffic, but if in London, New York, or Paris, the government will issue policy that invites companies to bid for licenses to run boats on the river.
It could be US$4million for a license to run 40 boats, with exclusive permission to run several kinds of water services including tourist services and water taxis.
Moreover, I think Saigon should put more effort to improve its “green lungs.” Hong Kong and Singapore are doing it very well. Singapore Botanical Gardens are very famous. Saigon could build a similar place somewhere along Bach Dang wharf or in the Thu Thiem area.
Bridget March, English artist
Children to learn STEM
More and more educational centres are entering Ho Chi Minh City. Several Japanese schools opened in Ho Chi Minh City last year and more schools are planning entry now. They know the Vietnamese educational market will continue to grow.
It was surprising for me that Ho Chi Minh City students, even small childre, are good at English. In Japan, we study English from secondary school to university however the percentage of English speakers is low. In that sense, Ho Chi Minh City's English education is practical and works very well.
Based on the English level of Vietnamese, I think it's good to make children learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). These subjects teach the skills which will be most required for the next generation. The next decade will be the era of creation. More simple tasks will be replaced by robots and we human beings must be able to create something new. STEM gives the fundamental skills for creation.
To train children to take part in this creation, HCMC must raise themselves to compete globally.
Simple tasks will be covered by cheaper labor or people who can't create new value. To become creative is the way to have a position in ASEAN.
In education, it's good for children to provide more opportunities and create interest in the future. Once they’ve found their inner passion, they will study harder to achieve it.
During my childhood in Japan, parents forced their children to study in order to enter "good" schools. Because of this, Japanese society has produced "good" adults who obey order and operate precisely within it, but cannot think critically or show initiative.
Those people were important when Japanese society needed industrial workers. However, nowadays we need more creative people and it has become more difficult for those educated in an old-fashioned way.
Now, we need to make children step out of their comfort areas, and be prepared for a less predictable and controllable life.
From a foreigners point of view, sometimes Southeast Asian culture looks similar. Because many western chain restaurants are entering Ho Chi Minh City it seems even the style of food is becoming homogenous.
Therefore, it's important to identify an iconic culture or style which describes Vietnam well. Foreigners expect to see the Vietnamese things in Ho Chi Minh City.
Yoshitaka Ohara, President of Habataku Inc.