The first metro line in Ho Chi Minh City has been under construction since 2012, and it was scheduled to be completed in 2018. After a number of delays and cost blowouts, Line 1 is tentatively scheduled to open in 2021.
Line 1 is 19.7 km long and will have 14 stations, from Ben Thanh in the city centre to the northeast corner of the city. Since the metro route was announced, property developers have been building near the future stations.
Here is a summary of the major projects that are planned or already built near each station.
Ho Chi Minh City Line 1 Metro Map
This maps shows every station on Line 1 and construction projects mentioned in this article.
[Map of Ho Chi Minh City Line 1 Metro Map.]
[Ben Thanh Market.]
Ben Thanh is the start of the Line 1 project, and it will eventually serve as the central station with three lines crossing here (Line 1/3A, Line 2, Line 4). All of the required platforms are being built now, and the central station will be four levels underground. In total there are 6 metro lines, 1 light rail, and 2 monorails officially planned for the metro system.
The station is in front of Ben Thanh Market at the location of what was Quach Thi Trang Square.
[Quach Thi Trang Square at Benh Thanh Market before the metro construction.]
The giant traffic roundabout is now the worksite for the central station, and when it’s finished it will be a pedestrian plaza. There hasn’t been any update of what the finished product will look like, so we wait for more details.
Outside the station area the biggest project is the Spirit of Saigon. These two towers represent dragons, and it will include a retail podium that will presumably be connected underground to the station plaza.
This project got as far as completing the basement in mid-2017 and then it stalled. In October 2019 it restarted, so maybe it will be finished before the metro given the amount of delays the metro has been through.
[Spirit of Saigon, District 1.]
On the east side of the future pedestrian plaza is the Vietnam Railways Building. This heritage site has had an uncertain future over the last few years and was even planned for demolition. The last report has it being turned into a metro administration building.
[Vietnam Railways Building, District 1.]
One the west side of the plaza is the 23/9 Park. Part of it is currently being used as a metro worksite, and there is a plan to re-landscape it into a modern central park. It would then be possible to walk from the station to the Pham Ngu Lau area via a pedestrian zone.
[Le Loi Street, District 1.]
Le Loi is the road between Ben Thanh Station and the Opera House Station. This is the only section in this report that isn’t a station. There is so much going on in, around, and under Le Loi that it needs a section in itself.
Line 1 will travel under Le Loi, and Line 4 will also eventually be under part of Le Loi via a deeper bored tunnel.
On top of the Line 1 railway will be an underground mall that will span the distance from Ben Thanh to Le Loi. This was proposed by the Japanese developers, who are familiar with underground malls at metro stations.
[Image via Preparatory Survey On Ben Thanh Central Station Project [PDF].]
The mall dimension would be everything under Le Loi, so about 44 metres wide and 400 metres long. There are no images of what it might look like, but looking to Japan for examples the Zest Underground Mall in Kyoto is of similar dimensions.
[Zest Underground Mall – Kyoto.]
The mall would be a corridor with shops on either side, and there would be access to other buildings on Le Loi.
There is already an underground mall at Takashimaya Saigon Centre, so that would make sense to connect the two. Saigon Centre is also planned to have another tower added to the block (Saigon Centre Phase 3).
[Saigon Centre Phase 3, Le Loi, District 1.]
Opposite Saigon Centre is the site of the Saigon Jewelry Center (SJC) Tower. This is one of the many stalled/abandoned construction projects in the city.
[SJC Tower, Le Loi, District 1.]
It would make sense to have this connected to the underground mall as well.
[Saigon Jewelry Center site and Le Loi St.]
If the underground mall is built then another site to watch will be the site on the corner of Le Loi and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia.
[Saigon Square, Le Loi, District 1.]
Originally this land was cleared to make way for the Saigon Gem Tower. That has long since been relegated to the list of never built projects, and the site is now home to the Saigon Square market. With the prospect of being fed underground pedestrian traffic, this block may have renewed interest in being developed.
[Saigon Gem Tower proposal by gemadept.com.vn.]
With the Opera House being the most prestigious location on Line 1, it’s no surprise that two 5-star hotels are planned on the same corner of the 5-star Rex Hotel.
The Mandarin Oriental Saigon will occupy the current Union Square building, and a metro entrance is also planned for that building.
[Mandarin Oriental Saigon.]
On the site of the former Satra Tax Plaza building will be the Okura Prestige Saigon. The website says that the hotel will open in 2022, but work has yet to commence on this site.
[The Okura Prestige Saigon.]
The Opera station is also on the Nguyen Hue Walking Street, where there a number of proposed and abandoned projects.
Thu Thiem in District 2 was planned to be the new financial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, but at the current rate the Ba Son area is shaping up to be the financial quarter.
Ba Son itself was a missed opportunity as it was an old port area with historic warehouses that could have been repurposed as a creative district. Since the warehouses were demolished the project has changed hands and plans. The largest planned building was the Sun Tower by Capitaland. The project looks to have restarted under a new owner and name.
[Sun Tower by Capitaland at Ba Son.]
Next to Ba Son station is the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge. Pedestrians will be able to exit the station and walk straight over the bridge to District 2.
[Thu Thiem 2 Bridge.]
On the other side of Ton Duc Thang near the area informally known as Japantown is The Nexus. This large block of riverfront land will feature two office towers and a residential tower. At the moment this project is also stalled for unknown reasons.
[The Nexus, District 1.]
Another project that’s in the pipeline is the redevelopment of the Bach Dang Wharf on the Saigon River. This area is from Ba Son station to the Thu Ngu Flagpole.
[A submitted concept of Bach Dang Port Park.]
If this and every other re-landscaping project goes ahead as planned then it would be possible to walk from the end of Pham Ngu Lau to Ba Son in an entirely pedestrianised zone.
[Van Thanh Station and Van Thanh Park.]
The area around Van Thanh may end up being one of the most desirable places to live along the metro line, being three stops from Ben Thanh and next to a park.
The main issue with Van Thanh has been the relocation of informal housing/slums along the waterways. There have been delays to land clearance due to relocation disputes, with some residents being asked to relocate to the furthest outreaches in the city. Some residents were asked to move to Binh Chanh District, which is basically half way to the Mekong Delta.
[Metro in the canal of Binh Thanh District.]
Once the waterways are rehabilitated and land is cleared, it will become apparent what space is available to be developed. What may happen is that a developer is given the right to develop land surrounding the canals as payment to clear the lands and clean the canals (a process known as BT – Build Transfer).
[Van Thanh Station.]
Opposite the station the area is already built up with houses so there is little prospect of big apartments. I could see this area becoming an Airbnb hotspot.
[Tan Cang Station and the Landmark 81 Tower.]
Tan Cang Station has already seen the biggest development project in the city with the Landmark 81 Tower and Central Park apartments.
That project finished in 2018, which was around the time that the metro was meant to be finished. The station is next to the entrance of the Saigon Bridge, and there is supposed to be a pedestrian crossing to connect the station to the Central Park area. The road system is a mess around here so it will need to be fixed up to make it more pedestrian friendly.
There is also a pedestrian bridge planned for the other side of the station, where a row of office towers are in a prime position.
There is still undeveloped land between the station and Landmark 81, so stay tuned for more information about that.
[Thao Dien station under construction.]
Once the metro crosses the river to District 2 the railway follows the path of the Hanoi Highway. From here it’s most apparent how the metro is driving development as the highway in D2 is now a canyon of apartment towers.
The Hanoi Highway is an enormous road with no way for pedestrians to cross, so each station will have a pedestrian overpass.
[Thao Dien station plan with its proposed pedestrian crossing.]
Since the metro began construction in 2012, Thao Dien has grown to become the coolest neighbourhood in Saigon. There are a number of international schools in the Thao Dien peninsula, alongside numerous expat-friendly bars and restaurants. The rise of Thao Dien was in part due to the metro, where a number of apartments have been built along the railway.
Next to Thao Dien Station is the Thao Dien Pearl apartments and mall. The original plan depicts the mall being attached to the station via a walkway. At the moment there are a row of old buildings in front of the station that block the way. These properties are sitting on a goldmine being in this prime position in Thao Dien.
[Thao Dien Pearl, District 2.]
[Construction near An Phu, District 2.]
An Phu has seen the most apartment developments of any metro station. The station is located next to the Vincom Mega Mall Thao Dien and Masteri Thao Dien. Investors who bought apartments here would have rightly assumed that the metro would have been finished by the time the property was handed over.
[Vincom Mega Mall and Masteri Thao Dien at An Phu Station, District 2.]
With no idea what the trains will look like yet, Masteri Thao Dien have taken it upon themselves to provide their own graphics of the metro at An Phu.
[An Phu Station as rendered by Masteri Thao Dien.]
[Rach Chiec Station, District 2.]
Rach Chiec is the third station in District 2, and so far the land opposite the Hanoi Highway remains undeveloped. The closest completed apartment is The Vista An Phu.
[The Vista An Phu, District 2.]
The station is near the spaghetti junction of Mai Chi Tho and the Hanoi Highway, and the Minh Dang Quang Pagoda (the biggest temple in Saigon). This area is one of the most pedestrian hostile locations along the metro, so hopefully the powers that be will consider another pedestrian crossing between the pagoda and The Vista An Phu.
[Minh Dang Quang Pagoda. Good luck trying to cross this road by foot.]
From District 2 the metro crosses into Thu Duc District at Phuoc Long Station. This station is positioned next to a narrow stretch of land between the Hanoi Highway and the Saigon River, opposite the Thanh Da Peninsula. There is currently an industrial area here that will become River City.
[River City, Phuoc Long A, Thu Duc District.]
Next to the River City project is the Truong Tho Port area on the Saigon River. This port was scheduled to be moved to a new inland container depot (ICD) in District 9 on the Dong Nai River. Once the port is moved this area might become the new Thao Dien.
Continuing along the Hanoi Highway is Binh Thai Station, sitting on the western extremities of District 9. The metro authority hasn’t released many details of what the stations or overpasses will look like, so the graphics departments of the property developers have had to take matters in their own hands. This render from the Metro Star project shows what Binh Thai might look like with a connected pedestrian overpass across the Hanoi Highway.
[Metro Star, 360 Xa lo Ha Noi District 9.]
The Lavita Charm apartment block shows a picture the metro going by in the background.
[Lavita Charm, Duong So 1, Phuoc Long A, Thu Duc District.]
There is no official word on what the actual trains will look like, so this Lavita Garden shows what the trains at Binh Thai Station might look like.
[Lavita Garden, 17 Duong So 3, Phuoc Long, Thu Duc District.]
The closest apartment project to Thu Duc Station is Saigon Gateway. I would expect more land to be develped near the station once the metro is operating.
[Saigon Gateway, Xa lo Ha Noi, Hiep Phu, District 9.]
Hi-Tech Park Station is named after the industrial park of the same name. At the entrance to the park is OneHub Saigon, and this will be connected to the station via a pedestrian walkway.
[Khu Cong Nghe Cao, Phuong Tan Phu, District 9.]
[Image via suoitien.com.]
The biggest beneficiary of Suoi Tien Station will be the Suoi Tien Cultural Theme Park. Billed as the world’s first Buddhist waterslide park, tourists and locals alike will have easy access to this fun park on the outskirts of the city.
[Suoi Tien Station, image via vietnamnet.vn.]
Originally the metro was planned to terminate at Suoi Tien, but it has since been extended another stop to Mien Dong. This is the New Eastern Bus Station, and it has been purpose-built to integrate the bus station with the metro. Eventually when line 3A is built and becomes the extension of Line 1, Line 3A will terminate at Mien Tay (the western bus terminal), thus bookending this line with regional bus terminals.
[New Mien Dong Station, via tuoitrenews.vn.]
Being the last (or first) station on the line, the area around Mien Dong could become a mini city in itself. It will be the eastern gateway to the city. One building has already claimed this title by naming itself The East Gate.
[The East Gate (image), 57-33 Duong Tan Lap 2, Dong Hoa, Binh Duong.]
Next to that is a project named Bcons Suoi Tien, though it is closer to the Mien Dong Station than Suoi Tien.
[Bcons Suoi Tien (image), 43 Tan Lap, Dong Hoa, Di An, Binh Duong.]
Mien Dong Station is in Binh Duong Province, just across the boundary that separates Ho Chi Minh City from Binh Duong. This makes the metro a true Greater Ho Chi Minh City Railway. There are seven provinces surrounding Ho Chi Minh City that make up the Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area.
There has been a plan to extend the metro further from here, but I will leave this report for what is known. My proposed expanded HCMC metro system puts railways into major urban areas in provinces surrounding Ho Chi Minh City.
[Ho Chi Minh City Metro Concept Map. Download the full size here.]