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A wet weekend in Saigon

September 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Saigon was wet when we got in on Saturday afternoon. The monsoon held the city in a vice and a wall of water enveloped everything till about 7PM. Which was probably just as well. The darkness and the water warped the view from the hotel windows and obscured what is probably one of the most architecturally mundane cities in Asia. Even the tourist agencies do not try to augment its charms in any way. There are probably a handful of buildings you could ever put on your list (unless you count the countless pagodas and pagodas are your thing).

Among these is the Notre Dame Cathedral. One wonders if this was a pre-requisite for every French colony. However this has neither the elegance of the one in Paris nor the splendor of the one in Montreal. This is simply plain, robust and worth checking off in your travel book. The crowd outside is usually more interesting, especially over the weekend. Couples especially make epic and fearless crossings while all around them scooters and cars zip by oblivious to things in their path!

There is also the post-office where people congregate under the watchful eye of Ho Chi Minh to view some old maps and look at all sorts of paraphernalia linked to the old post and telegraph services. I don't think you will ever see such a post-office anywhere else - with people lounging around as if they are all waiting for the last train out from Siberia in some second class waiting room.

And there are the few museums - the City Museum, the Reunification Palace and the American War Museum - the last a gallery of horrors and atrocities that cannot but make you cringe. Though somewhat representative of the Vietnamese side of things, there are indisputable facts that will not be brushed aside and points of view that leave you undecided. A must visit but not for the faint hearted. They even have a children's playpen there so as not to expose the impressionably young to the exhibits.

The City Museum has no such gut-wrenching exhibits however. A sedate, demure colonial building that was obviously once the home of some French grandee, the most interesting thing there is the balustrade ... and the underground tunneled pathways.

But I personally feel that these are not the reasons one visits Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City if you prefer). If you want history, atmosphere, colonial architecture and culture in Vietnam, you would be better served going to Hanoi and ... well, north at any rate. That's not to say there is no reason to visit this southern city at all. It has at least 3 things going for it. First, it's a big urban Metropolis and has a fairly active night scene. Secondly, it's got a great food scene and serves not only the myriad Vietnamese cuisines that exist but a whole lot of other Asian ones as well. Lastly, it has a casual, friendly vibe that puts you at ease almost at once. And so, it's great for street photographers and foodies.

And the X70 really delivered here. It proved to be fast, inconspicuous, flexible and reliable in a whole host of situations: indoors, in low light, on overcast days, close-up and wide.

Reflections on an overcast day

Taking a break from the eternal ride, ride, forever ride ...

Preoccupation of the print-seller

Les Masseuses sont perces

Vestibule atelier

The best way to get into Vietnamese cuisine

Chic restaurant

The fruit seller

Restored: Through this gate a tank made its rude entrance to end the war in 1975

The pick up

The elevator shaft & stairwell

Young flaneur


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