Saigon — on the crossroads between traditions and modernity
Roaming the streets of Saigon
You may have read in my previous post that during February 2016 I had the chance to visit Vietnam for the first time. I spent 2 weeks in Vietnam’s economic capital Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Min City.
My first week there coincided with TET, the lunar new year festival. Read more about this at:
For my second week in Saigon, I moved closer to downtown Saigon so that could conveniently explore the city center.
Saigon is super-busy, noisy and smelly, but lively and a feast for the eyes (and for the camera). The city has lots of heritage architecture.
Some beautiful French colonial buildings among them.
The city center is also quite green with some nice tree-lined boulevards.
Vietnam has probably one of Asia’s most exciting cuisine. But for this aspect, there are lots of blogs out there which explore Vietnam’s rich food culture.
Vietnam — Coffee on a whole new level
One thing about Vietnam’s food culture whichI need to point out is: The coffee. Simply the BEST !
As an Austrian I come from a country with a great coffee culture and a variety of excellent tasting coffees.
However, my encounter with Vietnamese coffee has changed my views and preferences in terms coffee tastes.
The Vietnamese have the very best coffee in the world. PERIOD.
And I cannot henceforth imagine a life without Vietnamese coffee. Fortunately, Vietnamese coffee is slowly taking over the world and becoming increasingly available outside Vietnam also. So I should be good for years to come, even if I can’t come to Vietnam to stock up on new supplies.
While on the topic of coffee: There are coffee houses everywhere in Vietnam and the people of Vietnam indulge in this quite a bit.
I usually do not bring home much in terms of souvenirs from my trips and always try to travel lite as possible. But from Vietnam, I flew home with 3 or 4 kg of coffee.
Chinatown here I come…
First I explored VietNam’s largest traditional market: Bin Tay . However, overly busy, dark allayed markets with smelly stalls with goods for which I have absolutely no use I have seen more than enough in 30 years in South East Asia. So I left this place rather quickly and rather wandered about the streets.
Here are some impressions of Saigon’s Chinatown:
Binh Than District — traditional Saigon
My apartment was in Binh Than, a district bordering the first. There is pretty much no particular place in Binh Than district which a visitor to Saigon would want to see.
However, Binh Than is a rather old and very typical district of Saigon. So I was able to indulge in my favorite pastime when I am in a foreign city. Wandering about and see how the locals go about their activities. And immerse me in peoples’ daily life.
For this Binh Than was perfect and I enjoyed my extended strolls very much. In the following I would like to present you with some sights and impressions of a typical inner-city neighborhood of Saigon.
I had my 15–30 / 2.8 Tamron and the venerable Sigma 50 / 1.4 Art with me. Proly not the best choice… Coz’ Saigon is not a place where a ultra-wide angle lens is of much use.
A 24–70 is what I would recommend. But as always I had my G12 with me so I had the 24–70 focal length range covered also.
I ended up switching my full-frame Sony camera into APS-C mode often turning my 15–30 into 24–40 ish lens. I used the Sigma 50 also quite a lot. I love its bokeh and how it handles — a stellar performer.
It was also here in Saigon where I had the idea to make my own camera bag. I had a small Loewe camera shoulder bag with me. But it simply did not feel right. I never got comfortable with it.
On one of trips in the ‘hood I found a very nice looking suede bag which I could not resist buying. I thought to myself: ‘What a pity that it cannot be used as camera bag…’ Or can it ?
Devoting some thought on this issue I realized what sets a camera bag apart from a ‘normal’ bag that it has reinforced walls and compartments to protect the gear.
How hard could it be to get those done back home in Bali. So I bought some dampening / softening material, some suede and got it tailored to my needs.
Now I have a unpretentious and inconspicuous camera bag. I like its looks also.
Inconspicuous is important for me because with a branded common camera bag it’s a little bit like running around with a bag that has written on it: Expensive photo gear inside… steal me…
Not the best idea when moving around crowded inner-city environments.
Though it’s not a bag I would take on a gig such as wedding, it should suffice for wandering the streets of a city. Size wise it can comfortably hold pocket camera such as my G12, one DSLR body and 2 or even 3 lenses.
It also has small side compartments which can accommodate accessories n stuff like memory cards, filters, reserve batteries and all those other things I need when doing ‘casual’ photography.
Some more flowers if I may
And although I already showed you lots of flower photos in my first Viet Nam post here are some more. Those are all Orchids, a flower very common and coveted in Vietnam.
To the great country of Viet Nam and all the wonderful people I met there: Thank you so much for the wonderful time… I’ll be back soon.
If you want to see more of Viet Nam, you can see the photographs my wife took during her first visit to Viet Nam, back in 2007.
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