Many of us view rivers as background elements in our landscape, as open space, as a pleasant vista. In Brisbane the Brisbane River was historically seen — as is the Saigon River — as a place for the mining of sand and gravel, and of industrial transport.

There is intense competition among cities throughout the world for investment, which in turn means wealth for those cities.

The word alley is more than 600 years old, owing its origin to the Old French word alee, meaning ‘walking or passage,’ and its medieval equivalent aler, or ‘go’ (today aler is spelt aller). The alleyway network in Ho Chi Minh City was introduced as a practical way of delivering goods and people to buildings away from the main streets.

Cities, like organisms, are constantly in the process of change; growing, dying, regenerating and degenerating.

Photo by Francis Xavier 

When I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh City I didn’t fully appreciate the layers and complexity of the city.

Nguyen Hue in the late 19th century when it was still a canal

Nguyen Hue, one of the most successful military commanders in Vietnamese history, and an emperor of the Tan Son Dynasty, has a major street in almost every Vietnamese city named after him. Yet the one in Ho Chi Minh City is perhaps the best known.

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