Impressions of Vietnam
Recently, LTW’s senior designers Anupan and Kyrsten headed to Vietnam to explore Ho Chi Minh City as part of research for a new luxury project. For three days the intrepid duo explored the streets, culture, materials and food of Vietnam, eager to find inspiration around every corner.
Ho Chi Minh (HCM), also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam with a population of 8.5 million people. HCM’s architecture and culture is the reconciliation between French and Chinese influence, with modern office skyscrapers amidst Oriental-style pagodas, and a mix of traditional Vietnamese food stalls next to cool, modern cafés serving the most amazing coffee and baguettes lining the streets.
The city can appear to be a collection of concrete high-rises and charming small shops, slow-moving traffic with a tsunami of motorbikes. But Saigon is more diverse than you’d imagine. New developments and an upcoming metro system are also in the pipeline!
The city is layered with pastel colours and textures, which is the effect of French influence with the Vietnamese culture on things like architecture, food and fashion. Despite modern retail and marketing forces, a strong sense of history and tradition still keeps the city as captivating as it was 10 years ago.
From Left: Bánh bèo, steamed rice cake served in a tray of 8, and Phở
FOOD AND CUISINE
Food options are plentiful with many independent and fine dining restaurants. Cà phê đá, also known as Vietnamese Ice Coffee, seems to be the national beverage. It is made using medium to coarse ground dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee with a small metal drip filter (known as phin) where hot water is added and the drip filter releases drops of hot coffee slowly into the cup. Once it has finished dripping, it is poured into a glass of ice. There are many other variations, like cà phê sữa đá, known as ice coffee with condensed milk, and cà phê sữa nóng, the hot version. The best way to enjoy your cup of coffee is to grab a chair/stool and sit by the roadside watching the cars and motorbikes go by, as done by the locals.
The café scene in Vietnam is rapidly growing, with new pop-up concepts of a gallery + retail in a café; definitely a concept you wouldn’t have seen 10 years ago.
There is an impressive ongoing effort by galleries to support local artists and handicrafts. We came across several small galleries and shops featuring both traditional and modern Vietnamese designs. A lot of the Vietnamese artists have also expanded beyond borders and are exhibiting their works abroad, allowing a glimpse into Vietnamese tradition, culture and crafts on the global stage.