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Vo Di Nguyen Ancient Street


The street that is already in the body / Every old street is a dug blood vessel / The old street of lights is a star night… (Nguyen Hoi Thu)
A few times passing Kieu Bridge, I wonder where the birth house of Hong Phuc, where I was born, was near this bridge? Ask my mother, she also doesn’t remember because she gave birth to eight children, can’t remember all the birth houses in the past.

On that occasion, my father said that in the past, the Kieu bridge was called Cho Moi bridge by the elderly because it was located near Xa Tai market (now Phu Nhuan market) when it was newly built. At first, the bridge was built with a wooden plank, but after it was dry, the hammer could not cut it, and it was lined with clams that were also very durable. The planks for the bridge were removed by the French from an old bridge on Kinh Tau Hu, Cho Lon. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the bridge was replaced by iron ribs, boarded and named Paul Blanchy Bridge after the street name at that time. Because it is difficult to name, people still use the name of Kieu bridge to this day, because there is a hamlet growing palanquin, about the location of Tan Dinh market today. When I was young, the name Cho Moi or Xa Tai market was no longer called. This 200-year-old old market has only a few traces of the old days when standing from the outside looking at the market on the right, you can also see a corner of the old tiled roofs of rows of low-roofed houses, round arches, semi-circular doors are the entrance to the market. architecture before the French arrived. The most memorable road in a person’s life is the way to elementary school. Vo Di Nguy Street, now Phan Dinh Phung Street, is part of my way to school. The Kieu Bridge is where it begins. A section of Vo Di Nguy Street in the past. Documentary photos More than ten years ago, I knew an uncle over seventy years old, who was an elementary school teacher. His house is near Ong Tien pharmacy, the largest apothecary and drug dealer in Indochina during the French colonial period (now no trace) on Vo Di Nguy Street, opposite Phu Nhuan Market. Uncle said when he was a child, he heard that the owner of the Cie des Tabacs smokehouse in Saigon came to buy an empty piece of land with a grave near that road to build a house. When he had to excavate the graves on his land, he informed the Gia Dinh police chief to come witness according to the procedure. After excavating the stone tomb, people found that in the grave there were two coffins containing a few bones. The first, based on what remains, seems to contain the bones of a high-ranking official; the other of a woman, probably the wife of that great mandarin. In her coffin there are two rosary of pearls to wear on her head, with many beautiful pearls and gold inlays. There are also many pairs of gold earrings, many long gold rhombuses. Because the peaches were all treasures, the owner and the stork brought them all to the court clerk’s office, waiting to be brought back to the museum. Uncle said that before 1945, in the middle of the road, there were traces of the tramway running from the other side of Kieu bridge to Phu Nhuan intersection. It was about 1935 – 1936, this tram had only one carriage, stopping at Phu Nhuan market. But after only two years, the tramway was demolished to make way for buses and the tracks were removed after 1945. Kim Dung, a long-time resident of Phu Nhuan when she heard about this road, said that Doi Co alley (now Co Giang street) ran into Vo Di Nguy street, in the middle of the road there was a bridge called Cut Bridge. . Listening to adults recount that in 1945, on the canal flowing through it, sometimes there were many abandoned corpses, both Westerners and I had. Later, this canal was almost filled with garbage and houses were crowded. Near the small market next to Vo Di Nguy Street, there was a Northern man selling pho on a trolley, always saying pho but sounding like “Phot! Phew!”. Every night, he came to sell in her neighborhood, the children in the neighborhood craved pho but rarely had the opportunity to enjoy it because almost every family was poor. Phan Hung village in this alley has Vo Di Nguy temple, Bac Hai church and Hai Duc pagoda inside. At the beginning of the village is the house of singer Thanh Tuyen, a few blocks from the house of the genius Thanh Hoai. Many students nearly half a century ago when carrying their bags to Vo Tanh primary school often took a shortcut through the alley next to the Van Cam theater, sometimes sadly peering through the hole in the iron door when the cinematic swordplayed. fighting with actors Tran Tinh, Bruce Lee and Tran Quan Thai, Dich Long. Another memorable alley is Hang Gon alley number 270. This is a large alley, opposite Nguyen Trong Tuyen street now. Near the beginning of the alley before 1975, there was a Hiep Loi aluminum foundry, which cooked aluminum while casting and polishing the finished product, so the dust was full of neighbors, neighbors complained a lot. Along the alley there are many cottonwood trees. I walked often on this road when I started attending Vo Tanh Primary School (now Trung Nhat Primary School) in 1968. Next to the school at that time there was no longer the Tam Vong shadow that my parents mentioned, and there was no oven. butchering pigs when my brother went to school here in the 1950s was located near the school, prompting teachers to complain that the slaughterhouse was located on the school grounds. On the way to school with people selling snacks on both sides like greeting students, they presented many attractive dishes: fried sweet potatoes, sweet tamarind placed on fried rice paper, ice cream with green beans, fruit Toads soaked in sugar water split into cotton shape etc. During the week, I always ate once a week a candy cake of an old woman with white hair, wearing a brown shirt and patching her shoulders, and her hands were always shaking when she used a spoon to spread candy on the cake. Returning from school, I turned to the right of the school gate, followed a narrow alley less than a meter wide to get closer to Nguyen Minh Chieu (now Nguyen Trong Tuyen) street. At the end of the week, I don’t come back by the main road, stop at the newsstand to buy two weekly newspapers Children Bich Tra taught the first grade (the fifth grade now) distributed money, devoured the newspaper on Sunday to put it in the common bookcase on Monday morning. I wandered on Vo Di Nguy Street for a few years in elementary school, familiar with some shop names such as Tran Cuu photo shop, Manh Cung shoe store. The streets were not often crowded at that time, so the bustle of the road was very attractive, bustling shoppers, newsstands full of new newspapers, grocery stores selling stacks of deer brands, Cyclo machines were always fragrant. tho, sugar cane juice at the corner of Nguyen Minh Chieu street is sweet… Near Tet, Vo Di Nguy Street is the most fun street in Phu Nhuan. My brother will always drive to Tien Phat sewing house number 220 to buy pants and pants to sew for the brothers. The shop is quite large, selling fabrics and ready-to-wear clothes, and there is always a newspaper on the table with a rather ostentatious advertisement about this tailor: “A huge step forward in the ready-to-wear industry in Vietnam. Equipped with the most advanced electronic machinery in Southeast Asia”. There was a time when he wanted to visit Bao Toan tailor house at number 303, but hesitated, afraid to lose a lot of money because this house has four or five floors. Around mid-December, people have set up stalls selling sausages, jams, and shrimp cakes along the two sides of the road, running up to the market. The evening near Tet is cool, people walk like a festival in the middle of the street lights, especially from the 20th of December onwards. Before 1975, there were rarely traffic jams, so no one was upset when cars and people were crowded on the road because it was a sign that the New Year was coming. My youngest aunt, who was a student and later became a teacher at Vo Tanh School, said that Vo Di Nguy Street in the French colonial period had many bakeries, such as Vinh Thai bakery or René Robert bakery. Around 1960, along the street on the same side of the Phu Nhuan Village House (now the district post office) there was a sandwich shop stuffed with meat and chicken, sprayed with soy sauce and sour, both cheap and delicious for students. There were no bread carts at that time, but most were sold in shops. Aunt said, for more than twenty years of studying and teaching there, the most memorable thing is the taste of meat and chicken sandwich eaten in the early morning when going to school. As for me, the lingering flavor is still the snacks in front of the school gate, sold from poor men or women, everyone is thin, always talking softly to the students because they know elementary school children are shy. Cowardly, anyone who is difficult to bully them will be afraid and go to buy many other competitive gift shops in front of the school gate.