The fourth in the Tales of Asia series takes us back to French Indochina in La Belle Epoque. We visit the former capital cities of Saigon (today’s Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi – the showpiece cities of the French colonial enterprise.
We take a closer look at the French philosophy of urban planning, as exemplified in the layout of Saigon, and explore what remains today of French architecture. Along the way, we take a glimpse into the lives of the French colonials in turn of the century Saigon, particularly along the fashionable thoroughfare of la Rue Catinat.
In Hanoi, we explore the deep-rooted Chinese influence on Vietnamese language, culture and urban planning; and the clash between this enduring influence and the “civilising” mentality and influence of the French. We journey through the Old Town with its charming 36 streets and shophouse architecture, and compare this with the monumental (and out-of-place) architecture of the French quarter.