An attached house in a small, densely populated neighborhood, part of Saigon’s urban core. Actually, I’m not sure what the correct term is for this kind of residential unit. This home is part of a row of similar units, and there is another row directly on top of this one. Across a narrow lane, there are two more rows of units, one on top of the other. (See the preceding photo post to get the idea.) The families living in this neighborhood almost certainly own their homes, though calling these condos would be misleading at best. Words like apartment or flat suggest rentals, so I settled on attached house, for better or worse. There may be a Vietnamese word that describes this kind of housing, but I don’t know what it might be.
Why do people choose to build and live in a raw, undeveloped area like this, remote from the city center and almost completely lacking in amenities and services? Money. That is certainly my first guess. Land costs closer to the center of Da Nang are prohibitively high for many Vietnamese families. An area with lower land costs like this one makes home ownership affordable to people who would be hard-pressed to buy in more developed parts of the city. You can be sure the families that have built the homes pictured here expect their investments to appreciate significantly in the years to come. And this will almost certainly happen as more people move to the area and businesses serving the new residents follow in their wake.
Kampong Phluk village sits on the banks of Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater body in Southeast Asia. Water levels in the lake vary enormously between the dry season from roughly November to March and the rainy monsoon season from May to October. The Tonlé Sap River connects the lake to the Mekong River and water flows back and forth between the lake and the Mekong in a complex relationship determined by annual rains. The village is set on stilts to keep houses and other structures above the water line during the rainy flood season. I visited in late March when water levels are at their lowest. The woman on the stairs is bouncing back and forth – literally – between different levels of her house, apparently gathering the things needed to make lunch.
Almost everywhere I go in Denver I encounter beautiful urban landscapes with family homes at the center. Houses of the sort pictured here and the neighborhoods in which they exist in the US are simply not to be found in Chinese cities. Chinese urban landscapes are radically different visually.
For most Americans, I suspect photos of houses are hardly remarkable and not very exciting. But I am still seeing my new surroundings through the lens of China. Though my eye will probably become jaded in another few weeks, today I continue to find Denver’s urban landscapes fascinating.