Manager …

As General Manager of O&M Thailand, Ogilvy’s fourth largest agency in the world with over 400 people, Hugh pioneered his company into Vietnam. His report ‘Vietnam: from battleground to marketplace‘ was published worldwide.



Imagine a city which has not changes since the 1950s: no high rise office blocks, no neon shop signs, no billboards, hardly any cars, no pedestrian crossings, decrepit buildings, dirty roofs, rotten green and brown stained walls, crumbling pavements, rusty street-lights, clumsy cumbersome cables. Decay.

Imagine a crowded, condensed, chaotic Asian city of over 4 million people.

Combine these thoughts with a sense of sadness that you might expect in Eastern Europe. A feeling that things are not as much fun as they used to be.

This is Ho Chi Minh City.

It used to be called Saigon. And not much, apart from the name, has changed. Not structurally anyway.

True, there are some beautiful buildings that have been kept clean and intact. The imposing Roman Catholic Cathedral fronted by a virgin white statue of the Virgin Mary; the Dragon House, a memorial to Ho Chi Minh himself, built at the point in the port where he left Vietnam, we are told, ‘to go overseas and seek national salvation’; the occasional museum or library; a fine Post Office; even a solid, grey Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building not used for over 14 years.

There are some wide, attractive, tree-lined streets and the occasional park with proudly confident trees standing straight and strong.

But the rest is stale and depressing. Beautiful yellow Colonial buildings now rotten and nicotine-stained dirty. Tenement blocks, once white, now great and ignored. asbestos roofs, plywood walls, bamboo frames. Or a ramshackle boathouse on the river.

What Ho Chi Minh City needs is a scrub, a wash and a coat of paint. For this to happen, Ho Chi Minh City needs what the rest of Vietnam needs: money.

This is a recurring theme …

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