Update: 10:36 | 12/08/2019
“There is peace even in the storm,” said Vincent van Gogh. One place in Ho Chi Minh City symbolizes this statement. Amidst the chaos and noise of a bustling commercial hub, the peace and calm is to be found in a small street that has the widest metaphorical spaces - Nguyen Van Binh Book Street.
Situated in District 1, which is the most urbanized part of the city, this street is a sanctuary hidden in plain sight. Just behind the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and opposite the shiny glass building of Diamond Plaza, this street has been designated for bookshops and has become the city’s Mecca for booklovers.
People read books at Nguyen Thai Binh Book Street in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1, July 2019.
Somewhat fittingly, the city’s stately Post Office is just around the corner as well.
The street, more than 100 meters long, is lined by bookshops on both sides, and the icing on the cake is comfortable cafes in which one can read books in complete peace and quiet.
In fact, the Nguyen Van Binh Book Street can be seen as an outdoor library, both in terms of the wide selection of books and magazines and in the atmosphere of hushed silence that they are displayed in.
There are about seven to eight publishers here and a total of 21 different stores.
No matter what the genre, the street has a collection for prospective buyers. From newspapers, magazines to stationeries, action, comedy, drama and thrillers or books and manuals like the ‘For Dummies’ series - they are all here.
You can enjoy reading with a drink along Nguyen Van Binh Book Street.
The street adds considerably to its charm and attraction with many second-hand bookstalls. This is where it is possible to bargain with the store owners for a price that suits both parties. Apart from Vietnamese, there are books in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.
All the bookstall owners and staff seem to be very friendly as you stroll down the street. They greet people with warm smiles and are knowledgeable about their impressive collection of books. Browsing the books here, hours can pass without one noticing it.
Nguyen Duc, 23, a book vendor on the street, said the book street is also known for several cultural events. "Many exhibitions are held here," he said.
"This year, there was an exhibition to celebrate the 20th anniversary of student volunteers who help other people," he added.
Booklovers are always kept up to date with the latest releases too. Duc said that "every weekend, they present new books here."
However, being a bookstore owner here has its difficulties. The days are long and tiring.
Bookstores open at half-past eight in the morning and remain open until 9 p.m. "The bookstore owners are always busy," Duc said.
There are always people visiting the area, but at weekends and during festivals and other events, it becomes a livelier place. Perhaps, for many people, this is a great weekend getaway, where one can relax and enjoy a completely different atmosphere from the rest of the city.
A bus is exhibited on Nguyen Van Binh Book Street as a bookstore.
The street’s products and ambience attract people of all ages and from all walks of life. The majority of people that come tend to be mainly students and adults. Since most of the books are in Vietnamese, most of the people here are locals as well. Several book lovers choose to read the books in faces that adjoin the bookshop. There is a play-space for children, and there are teenagers and young adults who sit and read books on the benches outside.
The spaces available to have a drink and read a book at the same time also make the street an ideal place to get a respite from the chaos of the city. It is a meditative space that exerts that influence on people who visit it, too.