Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial and financial center of Vietnam, is a bustling, rapidly modernizing megacity. Still colloquially known as Saigon, its former name from prior to the reunification of the country in 1975, it is the largest city in a country that features one of the fastest growing economies on the planet, and is thus constantly undergoing massive changes to its landscape and infrastructure.
One of the side effects of the huge growth that the city has seen — the official population of the city proper has almost doubled in the last 20 years from about 5 million to nearly 9 million, but some estimates place the real population at over 12 million — is that some projects get left behind before they can be finished.
In some instances, overly ambitious ideas prove to be more costly than first expected. In other cases, investments suddenly dry up before construction can finish, or legal battles get tied up for years while half-finished projects sit exposed to the elements. None of these cases are necessarily exclusive to Vietnam or Ho Chi Minh City, but Vietnam’s unique political and economic framework, with investors and project planners needing to navigate the complex bureaucracy that defines present-day Vietnam’s socialist-oriented market economy, has resulted in Ho Chi Minh City’s urban landscape being like none other.
Quite often, the initial impression given by these seemingly abandoned structures is negative, with many taking the view that they are blights on the otherwise stunning cityscape that Saigon is known for. Even if they are striking and interesting, a lot of people will not find them appealing.
Another view, though, is that these structures are beautiful and symbolic in their own meaningful way. They are only temporary features of the landscape, of course, as they will eventually be either torn down and replaced, or possibly repaired and finished. However, in a city where the only constant is change, they seem to be frozen in time; remaining unchanged for years, they act as an anchor of familiarity for people to hold onto as the city evolves and grows from one moment to the next.
If nothing else, however, they certainly make for interesting and unique locations for taking photos in this wonderful city.
Saigon One Tower
Saigon One Tower, informally referred to as the Ghost Tower, was slated to be Ho Chi Minh City’s second tallest skyscraper, after Bitexco Tower, at the start of construction in 2007. Mismanaged from the beginning, the 2011 financial crisis would prove to be the final nail in the coffin of the project, leaving this 641-foot skeleton to haunt the Ho Chi Minh City skyline ever since.
Perhaps it will be finished at some point, or maybe make way for another development. It’s in a prime location, so the current situation won’t last forever. But as things stand, it will continue looming over the rest of downtown for the foreseeable future.
Saigon Planning Exhibition Center
Thu Thiem Resettlement Apartments
One of the more fascinating and complicated stalled projects in the city is a cluster of large, vacant apartment blocks that were meant to be used for the resettlement of residents that were relocated from the Thu Thiem New Urban Area project. However, the buildings have been sitting unoccupied since their completion about 10 years ago, and the city has been unable to unload the nearly 3800 units to investors despite making several attempts to auction them off.
As a result, the towers are almost completely vacant, giving the area a quiet, dystopian atmosphere that seems completely out of place in Ho Chi Minh City.