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Tea Leaves

Saving Vietnam's street life from prosperity

Some cities are designed for loneliness. Ho Chi Minh City is made for community

Each dawn, a man sells produce from his truck on the same street corner, where rich and poor neighbors intermingle. (All photos by Lien Hoang)

I never tire of seeing motorcycle drivers sleeping in Ho Chi Minh City, sprawled on their bikes beside the road, or vendors on bicycles hawking everything from goldfish to knife sharpening.

Street life in Vietnam recently got a glowing review in the San Francisco Chronicle, which gushed about "multifunctional Vietnamese alleys" where "all kinds of people are smashed together" in chance encounters. That, said the newspaper, is quite unlike what it calls its own "uptight" city, designed to keep people in their homes and cars rather than sharing public spaces.

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