Observations

1. Mound Village
Vietnamese people build new villages for generations. After the great Mekong Delta flood at the beginning of the 21st century a new concept has been applied: the mound village. This residential cluster protects – like the mound villages in Groningen and Friesland – the population against rising waters. ‘We used to have good jobs, but less security. Now it’s the other way round.’

2. Seaward
Vietnam has ten times more coastline than the Netherlands. Half of the population lives close to the sea. The country is strategically located on the South China Sea (or East Sea), one of the busiest international sea lanes. However, Vietnam doesn’t play a significant role as a seafaring nation. This current situation differs from the past, when the Mekong Delta played a key role in maritime trade between East and West. ‘No single country in Southeast Asia can match the capabilities of maritime trade in Vietnam.’

3. Craftiness
Despite all pressures of modernity, the pastoral beauty of Mekong Delta life still remains. But changes in the Mekong River system threaten the natural balance – with potentially disastrous consequences for the delta citizens. Necessity is the mother of invention for these vulnerable local people. ‘There is a lot of fish, ducks and eggs after the rainy season. These profits are more than one rice crop.’

4. Shophouse
Ho Chi Minh City looks like Amsterdam in the Netherlands – at least when narrowing your eyes to look at the buildings. The combination of living and working is similar to the concept of the Dutch canal house. The houses were very narrow and deep due to high land prices along the waterways. Thus, the row house was the perfect solution to maximize the amount of houses that could reap the financial benefits of being situated on the water. ‘My house is a souvenir that will never be sold, because it represents the continuity of the family history.’

5. Pastoral and Progressive
At first glance, modern life seems miles away from the Mekong Delta. But appearances can be deceiving. Rapid urbanization takes place in the countryside around Ho Chi Minh City. Farmland and wetlands are being converted to new urban and industrial areas, which are in danger of drowning by an explosive population growth and massive flooding. What does that mean for the development of the Mekong Metropolis?