I have become quite a fan of using Instagram to record daily observations and follow friends and other interesting photographers. I resisted joining at first, dismissing it as yet another social media platform that will eat into my work day. However after Instagram was acquired by Facebook for one billion dollars I joined up just to see what a one billion dollar non monetized site looks like. (Dear Facebook, I have a bunch of sites that aren’t making any money that I can sell to you as well). After uploading a few photos I let it be, but it has since become a daily habit.
While my phone isn’t a replacement for my camera, I like having a pocket camera to take quick pictures or to remind me to look something up later on. For Instagram I only publish one photo a day and if you are on Instagram you can find me at nomadicnotes.
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon locals still call it) with a one day old Samsung Galaxy SII which I had picked up in Bangkok. I figured I would use this photo essay as a means to get to know my phone a little better. I prefer using no filter when ever possible, but on a grey rainy season day in Saigon a filter comes in handy to put some colour into the photos.
Here then are 30 pictures of my 30 days in Ho Chi Minh City.
After a transit day involving airport snacks and airline food the first order of business after checking in and dumping my bags was to find a bowl of Pho. I had been dreaming of this bowl for weeks, and it didn’t disappoint.
My second order of business was to find a short term apartment rental and settle into daily life. I found a room in this luminous green building hiding behind all those wires.
As well as Pho, the other Vietnamese specialty I had been dreaming of was Vietnamese coffee. Locally grown coffee is dripped through a filter that sits on top of a glass. The white layer at the bottom is sweetened condensed milk. Sweet, sweetened condensed milk.
It’s hot work walking around Ho Chi Minh City, so I’m happy to rehydrate whenever possible with a fresh coconut. 8000 VND = 40 cents USD. Better than a can of coke.
2 September is National Day in Vietnam, celebrating the declaration of independence from France in 1945. 2 September also happens to be the date Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, so this date is kind of a big deal in Vietnam. There is a statue of Uncle Ho outside the Ho Chi Minh City Hall.
It’s rainy season here so cheap ponchos are for sale everywhere.
This amusing T-shirt sums up the rules on how to cross the street. I have never seen so many bikes as there are in Saigon and there is definitely an art form to crossing the street.
Here is a classic example of Saigon motorcycle mayhem. At this intersection you can see bikes turning into oncoming traffic. Everyone rides at an ambling pace here, so the oncoming bikes just go around the turning bike.
One of my favourite things to do in Asia is wander around food markets. I never cook but I like seeing food on display.
I can’t be a true Instagrammer without taking a picture of my food, so here is a delicious bowl of Bun Thit Nuong (thin rice noodles, pork and salad). One bowl and fresh OJ was 35000 VND ($1.70). I went back here several times it was that good. The juice lady would always smile when she saw me, and would start making my OJ without asking (and with no sugar). The blue tint is not from a filter but from the sky light.
If you can’t get to a market, the market will get to you. Here are two lovely ladies patrolling the streets of Saigon with their mangosteen machines.
The changing face of Ho Chi Minh City. This is the Bitexco Financial Tower and it is the tallest building in HCMC. It has a helipad on the 50th floor, just in case you need one.
A reminder of Saigon’s colonial past at the Notre Dame Cathedral.
More market photos. I can’t help myself.
A little Buddhist shrine that I pass in the lane way that leads to my apartment.
I guess I should do some sight seeing by now. This is the Reunification Palace, which used to be known as the Presidential Palace before the fall of Saigon. This is where the North Vietnamese tanks busted through the gates to claim Saigon and end the war.
To the untrained eye this just looks like a bunch of rice. A rice connoisseur will know which one to get.
Ho Chi Minh City has a population of over seven million people, yet you can still find the odd chicken wandering around. One chicken here is asking a question he doesn’t want to know the answer to.
I like the name of this place as it sums up HCMC well. It is a great city to be an online entrepreneur as the internet is fast and there are cafes everywhere.
The durian lady visited my lane way. I could smell the fruit a mile away.
Commerce is still carried out on the back of a motorbike here.
A US chinook helicopter at the war remnants museum. Everyone who comes to Saigon should visit this museum.
A specialty coffee shop with jars of coffee.
A was walking down the street with my camera around my neck and these guys wanted their photo taken of them hard at work, so I was happy to oblige. I also took an instagram shot as well.
A xe-om (motor-taxi) rider having a siesta on his bike. These guys are at one with their machines, as you will see when you ride with one in the traffic. I wish I had the ability to sleep like this.
More market food. This time some multi-coloured sticky rice.
Some fruit venders having a pho break.
A buddhist shop with all sorts of flashing decorative items.
You see many dogs riding with their owners here as well.
My visa is up and it’s time to go. It was a wonderful month in Ho Chi Minh City.
Lillie Marshall says
LOVE these photos, James!!!
James Clark says
Caanan @ No Vacation Required says
Great photos James!
Kh Viet says
I from Vietnam, all this is my life. Thanks James for beautiful photos.
James Clark says
You’re welcome. I loved my stay there.
Well done…truly a mini incite into a vibrant culture. Alain New Mexico USA
James Clark says
I like the photos of the food the most. I spent approximately 53 days in Vietnam this summer and I recognise most of the places in your photos. Vietnam is so colorful. Would love to get back there again 🙂
James Clark says
Yes the food was a highlight for me as well. It’s a wonderful place to travel to.
Fantastic, i’ve just got back from two and a half weeks in HCM, Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An. Incredible food, culture, scenery and the loveliest folk. What a country 🙂 Can’t wait for a 2nd trip back.
James Clark says
Hi Daniel, yes it is an amazing country, especially the food!
i’m gonna write something for my Australian friends to plan their trip to Saigon. But before that I think introducing yours could be enough haha. Well done James! (Thank you!)