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New books by foreigners capture the old and the new in HCM City

New books featuring HCM City's culture and lifestyle by foreigners have earned a warm response from local residents. 

Sài Gòn – Portrait of City, a photo book by French photographer Alexandre Garel, features many beautiful photos capturing old and modern buildings in the city. Photo courtesy of the publisher

Park tiên sinh sống giữa Sài Gòn (Mr Park Lives in Sai Gon, which was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1976) is written by South Korean businessman Park Ji Hoon, who has lived in HCM City for more than a decade. 

The book was released in Vietnamese and Korean by HCM City-based Trẻ (Youth) Publishing House in September, and has attracted both Vietnamese and Korean readers in the city. 

The book, written in a simple and lively style, features Park’s views, feelings and memories about the city and its people. The experiences that he has gained after working with local people are also included. 

Each story in the book includes beautiful photos by Park. 

Korean businessman Park Ji Hoon’s Park Tiên Sinh Sống Giữa Sài Gòn (Mr Park Lives in Sai Gon) features the writer’s views, feelings and experiences about HCM City and its people. Park has lived and worked in the city for 10 years. Photo courtesy of the publisher 

He told local media that he hopes his book helps Koreans who live and work in HCM City to learn more about the culture and lifestyle of its people. 

Park, who is an architect and a painter, moved to HCM City in 2007. He works for the magazine Xin Chào Việt Nam (Hello, Vietnam), a production in Korean that serves the Korean community in HCM City. 

In 2018, he wrote a book featuring his 10 years living in southern Vietnam that was released in South Korea.  

Photo book

Another work by a foreigner is Sài Gòn – Portrait of City, a photo book by French photographer Alexandre Garel. 

The 280-page book was recently released by the Hanoi-based Thế Giới Publishing House. It includes many beautiful photos of colonial and modern buildings in the city. Captions in both Vietnamese and English were written by historian Tim Doling, who has lived in the country for many years. 

Garel first arrived in HCM City in late 2011. 

He wrote in the book Sài Gòn – Portrait of a City:

“I fell in love with the city straight away. Over the next few years, I discovered the beauty of the city, with its small streets and alleyways known as hẻm, each one a labyrinth of life which has developed inside the old arteries originally traced by the French,” Garel said.

He saw that HCM City’s architectural heritage was disappearing and understood that his work about the city had real meaning and decided to make it a priority to capture images of the city's rivers, canals, old houses and daily life. 

“I love the photos in his book," said Tran Nghia Dung, a resident of Phu Nhuan District. “I think it will help readers, including locals, to discover more about Sai Gon.” 

Last year, Garel worked with author-architect Mel Schenk from the US on a book about Vietnamese architecture called Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture. 

The book includes three chapters featuring history, architecture and modernist architecture in southern Vietnam.  

Its highlighted chapter features modernist architecture in southern Vietnam, focusing on buildings between 1954 and 1975 by Vietnamese architects such as Nguyen Van Hoa, Vu Ba Dinh and Ngo Viet Thu. The book was released by the Thế Giới Publishing House. 

The three books are available in bookstores and on e-commerce websites such as and 

Book fairs in HCM City encourage the reading passion among young people and children. VNS Photo Anh Thu

Old books reprinted

Many university students and lecturers have said they enjoyed books on the history of South Vietnam by HCM City-based publishing houses. 

Xứ Nam Kỳ – La Cochinchine (French Cochinchina or southern Vietnam), featuring 465 photographs with captions, is valuable for those who love and study photography. 

The book was reprinted by the Hồng Đức Publishing House in co-operation with Xưa & Nay (Past & Present) magazine. 

It was written by Marcel Bernanose, who worked for the French authorities in Indochina. It was first released in 1921 in Hanoi. 

Cultural researcher Truong Ngoc Tuong, a resident of Tien Giang Province’s Cai Lay Town, owns one of the original books. 

The publishers, Hong Duc and Xưa & Nay, used Tuong’s copy to reprint the book.   

Xứ Nam Kỳ – La Cochinchine, a book that features 465 photographs, is valuable for those who love history and photography. Photo courtesy of the publisher

The photos in the book feature the history and culture of the south in the 1920s. Pictures of urban life and architecture in Sai Gon and provinces of the Mekong River Delta region in the 1920s, such as Ben Tre, Vinh Long, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu and Rach Gia, are also included. 

Featured photos are in black and white and show old streets, buildings and markets connected to the region’s history and development. 

Dr Nguyen Manh Hung, a historian, said: "The new edition of Xứ Nam Kỳ – La Cochinchine, with original French and English captions, and Vietnamese translation, offers general information about the history, geography, culture and lifestyle of various locations in the South." 

Source: Vietnam News

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