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Hoan Kiem lake trade centre plans draw mixed opinions

Update: April, 05/2013 - 11:25

Next week:

Do you like train travel in Viet Nam?

The Ministry of Transport is considering upgrading the current railway system, built in the 1930s.

By 2020, it would take only 15-17 hours to travel between Ha Noi and HCM City, as opposed to the current 30.

The ministry also seeks to conduct research into the construction of a brand-new high-speed line. By 2030, according to the plan, trains could travel up to 200km per hour.

In the past, Viet Nam also planned a high-speed railway line linking the capital and HCM City, but the US$33 billion project did not come into fruition.

Have you traveled on trains in Viet Nam? Do you prefer traveling by rail to some other means? What are some of your favourite railway routes in the country? Are you satisfied with the services and prices? Besides upgrading the trains' speed, what are other ways we can improve railway tourism?

Please reply by email to: opinion@vnsmail.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, April 11.

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers for their opinions about the construction of a new trade centre at the corner of Tran Nguyen Han and Ly Thai To streets at the central historic site near Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword) Lake.

Many readers opposed the project, stating their preference for the area to be preserved without more modern buildings. A few are more open, suggesting careful construction so the overall landscape is not affected.

Yi En, from Europe, southern Binh Duong Province

Many Vietnamese cities are bit by bit losing the cohesive character of their urban historical morphology. The skyline of Hoan Kiem district is a stunning example on how heritage (even a skyline can be considered a cultural heritage) is being given up in favour of contemporary investments. One might ask what added value such a project brings to Ha Noi.

According to the local government, the project has been carefully planned and will not affect the area's landscape.

The municipal People's Committee also stated that the building would be no higher then 32 metres. But the project has been isolated from the surrounding environment, so one cannot evaluate its impact on the area.

The committee rejected claims in the local media that the building would be 16 stories high, stating it was only 8 stories. However, by looking at the design, I still can count 15 stories, so the total height will be at least 52 meters. If there is a renewed design of eight stories, why don't they show it clearly for the public to see?

In Glasgow (the UK), every new project has to go through a serious evaluation process in which next to the professional departments of the town, all the inhabitants are invited to participate in the evaluation. The project first has to be virtually implanted in a 3-D model of the town, and lines of view are checked.

Did the new building project ever undergo a line of view exam? I bet not. By doing so, one can be sure of the impacts of the project on the overall landscape.

Paul, Ha Noi

Trang Tien Plaza, Central Plaza, IndoChina Plaza, Lotte (Keangnam Tower) Vincom Shopping Centre Long Bien, etc. Aren't we overdoing these plazas in Ha Noi?

During the weekdays, these places are empty, staff sitting on plastic chairs in the doorway with their faces in mobiles. At weekends people just browse and most locals can't afford these western products at inflated prices.

I personally never shop in them. I visited Trang Tien plaza the first week it opened, the place was deserted. This week I popped in and nothing had changed – deserted. Who can afford products from top brand name shops?

Tourists don't come to Ha Noi to shop in these places, we shop in known brand shops when we get back home. We come to Ha Noi to buy native made goods, not Adidas, Dolce & Gabanna and Louis Vuitton.

I see another plaza opening in Hai Ba Trung with a ‘California Workout' gym. Hello! I see every month Westerners selling off their passes from other gyms around Ha Noi. This one will be another ‘white elephant'. Go to Central Plaza or Vincom Long Bien and see for yourself. White elephants.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

If Ha Noi wants to celebrate 1,000 years of history and attract tourists it will have to provide modern facilities. A modest eight-storey building near Hoan Kiem Lake will hardly match the area's visual appeal. There have been worries about more pressing problems such as traffic jams, pollution and crime.

Your streets are wide enough with plenty of French colonial and huge, imposing Government buildings. Keep as many green spaces as possible. With haste, construct your subway system. The sooner it is done, the better for everyone.

Canada tears down too many of its heritage buildings and builds suburbs into an urban sprawl that is not sustainable, paves over valuable farmland and relies too heavily on private transport. I wish it were more like Europe in some ways with a bicycle-friendly atmosphere. I prefer Ha Noi over Sai Gon for its many parks.

One new building will not be the end of Hoan Kiem Lake. It may become a fresh start. If it is well designed and energy efficient, it will attract interest, making the locals realise that much of the area is unremarkable, cluttered and crumbling. Now that I have moved out of the Old Quarter, I rarely venture back.

It is cramped, crowded and inefficient in movement. What happened to the walking streets proposal, and why not institute a strict one-way driving system? There are many other concerns. One modern multi-purpose strategically-placed building may be a beautiful beginning.

Le Trang, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I think it's a great idea to have a shopping centre around Hoan Kiem Lake because it's crowded with tourists and shoppers.

There is only one shopping mall at Trang Tien Street which is a high-class shopping centre for privileged people, while tourists and middle-class customers provide an enormous potential market.

In addition, workers from the new offices above the centre will also become potential customers.

However, to become an attractive destination for customers, the shopping centre should focus on its strengths. For example, relaxing places for customers and office employees with great views across the lake should be created. A cinema is also a good way to attract more people.

I love to spend my time in friendly shopping centres, where a day can pass by as if you are enjoying services like a spa or library.

Hai Tran, Vietnamese, France

Personally, I'd prefer the area surrounding the historic Hoan Kiem Lake to be left intact. Lying at the heart of the capital, the area is a green space for the public to go for a stroll and relax.

This place has long been my favourite spot in Ha Noi as I used to occasionally go there for a walk with friends at weekends. I think it's enough to have Trang Tien Plaza and the Sofitel and Hilton hotels in the area. It is already busy.

I don't want the area surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake to become even more bustling and noisy. If building trading centres is that important, we have other spaces for the purpose. Please spare the historic site.

I don't mind the construction of new cultural centres like L'espace or the Ha Noi Opera House because they look nice and have cultural value, but trade centres are absolutely unnecessary. Foreign tourists won't need more shopping centres there anyway. — VNS



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