Thursday, December 04, 2008


Our groggy hosts were much more energetic today, bookending my day with a "bob's your uncle" before breakfast and upon my return from our walking tour of the city. We quickly got the hanging of crossing the streets with the appropriate sense of self-preservation. Before the morning was out, I was even guiding an older women through a roundabout. That ended any plans to cheast along abreast of the locals.
Saigon's streets throb with the corpuscular flow of scooters, which rule the streeets by their sheer numbers, despite the BMWs, Lexus hybrids, SUV's and other grand sedans that jostle for space relative to their apparent social status. (Yes, the SUV and BMW drivers act like they own the road here too.)
Whenever I pointed the camera, I obsessed with the conical straw hats and scooters and Nadine managed to keep me in tow throughout the day. I did, however, break my promise not to shoot while crossing the street - only once. I can hear our mothers now.
The street vendors set down along any stretch of curb they could to ply their trade or sell their wares. The cyclo drivers are prepared with notebooks of past endorsements from customers who came from all over the world. The "Oh, Canada, I know well" routine and the patter of vendors of fruit, art and coconut milk add to the sense of urgent capitalist thrust as the city looks to move ahead. Economic growth in Saigon was at about a clip of 11% this year - despite the recession and the city is eager to make more of itself. Sidewalks are being resurfaced and new hotels are grabbing swaths of skyline to brandish their international names to the skies and scare the touts at street level with the Real McCoy versions of the pirated or bootlegged brands. Communism and war rep aside, this is still a market of 84 million people. While visiting a museum, I saw wedding photogrpahers using it as a backdrop for a rather glitzy shoot. The brand names are in significant numbers and the stores are replete with the latest HD flatscreens.
We hit the War Remnants Museum and, like its counterpart in Hiroshima, it would shake your heart.
Our first day was a long one, all on 4 hours sleep no less. We quickly tired of the traffic, noise and pollution which forces many scooter drivers to mask their mouths to fend off the fumes. I find that it detracts terribly from the classic Vietnam image of a woman riding along in an ao doi dressing on a bike or scooter.
It might sound a bit negative but we are heading off to Dalat to get away from the big city first thing tomorrow.