Saigon City

Posted on November 9, 2012


After a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, Beijing seems positively organised – but Saigon is a great place to spend a long weekend.

With only a few days I didn’t make it up north to Hanoi or a full tour of the Mekong Delta, but just getting out on the Saigon River made such a difference.

The whole city has a kind of faded art-deco feel about it.  Millions of motorbikes, a French vibe to the food (Banh Mi is French bread with pate, roast pork and cilantro…) and immensely friendly people.

Then there’s the war.

I was told before coming that it would be a one-sided propaganda assault – but we’re so used to all of the American films about Nam I guess it’s only fair that the Vietnamese get to tell their side, in their way.

And their way can be brutal.

There’s lots of imagery of what Agent Orange has done in the War Remnants Museum and constant reminders of war crimes.  And it struck me as odd that this may be one time in history where the story that most of us know is the one told by the losers.

Looking at the defences and man traps laid on by the VC in Cu Chi, crawling down their tunnels and firing an AK47, I was left with a strong sense of the brutality on both sides.

But my lasting impression will be of the quite brilliant war photography exhibition called Requiem.

The exhibition actually features over 100 photographers but, time and again, it’s Larry Burrows, Henri Huet and Kyoichi Sawada that stand out.  Their photos are exceptional, as it seems was the access they had – and their outcome.  All three were killed in action.

Lucky for me the city has such a positive feel about it.  I don’t know where else could get away with so strange a juxtaposition between two such opposite worlds.

Posted in: Photos, Vietnam