HCMC, Bikes, and A Need To Be Play-full

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me struggling through the Saigon Bridge

So I started to get into the habit of biking to work these days. For a single trip, it would take me roughly 50 minutes to cover roughly 8 km (or some 4 mi) while dealing with the heat, air pollution, and careless driving practice in Ho Chi Minh City. And of course the comprehensible (well, kind of) practice of parking places that take motorbikes but not bikes!!

I have to boast, somewhat of the moderate daily exercise is in and of itself a deviant act against the motorbike culture that we Vietnamese are somehow proud of when we talk about it, even though in reality we are so incessantly stressed about it (look how people have to cover up head-to-toe!).

While biking, I realize our city is nearly almost perfectly made for bikes (thanks to motorbikes, perhaps!). The “only” things we desperately need for now are safety (i.e. space) and probably some bike bridges across the Sai Gon River (i.e. more space)!

Also while biking, I realize that I need more random public places where I could escape the despairing traffic jams, to sit down and enjoy some views/moments after a long day. Yes, Davis/Copenhagen spoiled me. Indeed, how the city lacks of green spaces and full of concrete is hardly a new issue. Yet I still have to point out that it also lacks of play spaces [a concept that we Vietnamese don’t take seriously enough].

Play is a luxury in HCMC, just like how the more enjoyable bike rides are only in certain places that are better-planned and for the more privileged. Wouldn’t that sensible to turn this inherently so flexible and chaotic city more playful and play-full?

In term of urban play-full, I have compiled here some personal favorites from my nomadic/traveling life:

  • Design conscious + artistic urban expressions
  • Pockets parks
  • Urban cemetery

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    Where the great Aalto rests in Helsinki, Finland (picture taken from the cemetery)
  • Urban forest

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  • [Structural] Outdoor activities + social gathering
  • And some cups of tasteful cappuccino

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Overall, it is all about the bodily experience in the city: the more engaged, the more likely one enjoys it.

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