Playing Old Saigon Monopoly

The idea was simple: get some people interested in Saigon’s past around a board game set in that world, and watch them go. Photos by Francis Xavier


By the end of the game, I’m pretty sure everyone hated me. Oh, jokes were made, quai puns laughed at, barters arranged in lieu of crazy fines, but I was the one holding most of the cards.


We were playing 1880 Saigon Monopoly, a game modeled on the world of colonial Saigon, and hour four was creeping in. Architects Thien Huong (Tran Binh Architects) and Archie Pizzini (HTA+pizzini Architects) had already gone home. Historian Tim Doling (, tour guide Stuart Palmer ( and the game’s creators, D and T, were still on hand, yawning.


There’s one rule when it comes to playing board games with friends: don’t take the game more seriously than they do.


Puns x Commentary


Learn from my bad example — the purpose of a game is to have fun, not to accrue properties like a cold-blooded accountant. And, when possible, to make jokes whenever the opportunity comes up:


“You can’t charge rent, the state that street’s in at the moment. The Duxton doesn’t have any guests” — Tim, talking about Rue Charner / present-day Nguyen Hue


“I want you to all to know that this is going towards steeple repairs” — D, on collecting 10 piastres from each player, for maintenance on the Notre-Dame Cathedral


Around Hour 2, it becomes a running joke how Stuart keeps getting sent to jail for public drunkenness, avoiding rent fines he can’t afford in the process. He isn’t a landowner, and somehow our capitalist microcosm has stigmatised him.


— “I’m just a douchebag in this city. I’m just walking around, getting drunk and disorderlies, going to jail” — Stuart


— “You’re the first backpacker” — D


The ne’er-do-wells tramp around town, as the balance of power shifts between Tim and myself.


“Safe as houses — funny saying!” — Stuart, avoiding my four houses on Rue Pellerin / present-day Pasteur


“This is why all those historical houses are getting knocked down, because no one’s staying there” — D, on skipping Tim’s 1,400 piastre-a-night hotel on Rue Catinat — US$651,280 with inflation


The repartee continues, all through D’s insolvency, as Stuart is strangely still in the game. He’s been keeping afloat off intermittent fees paid on his three quais — the old Saigon version of the railroads, just with more depravity-seeking sailors we theorise. This becomes a theme.


“You could sell your body to science” — I volunteer, as D is faced with a ruinous rent fee


“Come and work on the quai!” — says Stuart, with pimp-like zeal

Ed Weinberg


For info or to purchase 1880 Saigon Monopoly, write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We played the game at 1960s-style café La Tamia (38/05 Tran Khac Chan, Q1, HCMC). No egos were bruised in the playing of this game


Last modified onWednesday, 04 March 2015 21:06

1 comment

  • leonia18
    leonia18 Wednesday, 04 March 2015 06:26 Comment Link

    Test, just a test

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