By Grant Hall
There are plenty of reasons why I enjoy living in Phan Thiet, Vietnam, the small seaside city which sits some 200 kilometres to the east of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). It’s my wife’s hometown and I’ve lived there on-and-off since 2009 when a short holiday evolved into a long-term stay. I love the weather, the relaxed beach-side lifestyle, the delicious Vietnamese food and cheap beer. I also like the interesting buildings that can be found around town, through which you can see, touch, smell and almost feel the history of the town. Remnants of the ancient Cham civilisation, French occupation and the American military can all be found at various sites, some of which are still in use, and some of which now lie abandoned.
My new blog, Phan Thiet Buildings (www.phanthietbuildings.wordpress.com) and its associated Facebook Group, Interesting Buildings of Phan Thiet, highlight some of these structures and features examples of ancient Cham, French colonial, military, art-deco, modernist and religious architecture, plus some other interesting sites that remain around Phan Thiet today.
Due to the current rapid rate of development in Phan Thiet, many of the town’s more interesting and historically valuable buildings are being demolished to make way for bland new ones, diminishing the character of the town and erasing aspects of its history. This is a common problem across Vietnam, and the aim of Phan Thiet Buildings is to document the built heritage of Phan Thiet, raise awareness of the city’s interesting buildings and to promote the value of preserving heritage architecture.
I hope the blog will help me to connect with people interested in the history and built heritage of Phan Thiet and give me an avenue to learn more about the history of the city where I spend so much time. As I learn more about the history of the buildings and sites that I feature, I will be sure to post updates on the blog and on the Facebook page.
Buildings are important for cultural diplomacy purposes. I’ve learned a great deal about the history and culture of Phan Thiet by examining its buildings. Buildings can speak to us, telling us about past events, people and struggles whilst helping us to appreciate history, different architectural styles and the things that make a place “unique”. In other words, buildings can convey messages ‘where words fail’ to do so!
Using blogs and social media is one simple way that individuals and groups can raise local awareness of the value and importance of heritage architecture. I’ve been inspired to create this blog by other similar sites and I’ll be sure to write about the people and online groups that have inspired this blog in a forthcoming post.
So please take a look at Phan Thiet Buildings, join the associated Facebook group and tell your friends about it. If you share my interest or have any knowledge of Phan Thiet or its buildings, please get in touch with me or comment on the individual blog posts from within the site.
I hope you enjoy Phan Thiet Buildings as much as I’m enjoying putting it together!
Grant Hall, January 2017.
Related: Writings by Grant Hall about Vietnam.