Saigon. Swarms of motorbikes flowing through a city like never-ending schools of fish in an oppressively hot and humid mess, I tried to avoid at all costs. I bought a motorcycle and was in the midst of it. Heat, humidity, little forward movement. Stifling.
I searched for some redeeming facet, something to appreciate. The traffic was continuous, oppressive. But the sun goes down, the districts start to empty out and the heat dissipates. I began to ride at night and discover a side to Saigon I could slowly start to love. The crazy congestion in District 1 gives way and soon I’m cruising down long empty boulevards over bridges and along rivers. I could finally drift through the city in 4th gear without cursing in my helmet or worrying about passing out from heat exhaustion.
A photo essay exploring Saigon after dark. Ho Chi Minh City. A city whose modern history is closely entwined with my country.
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Driving through District 1 I came across this convent, so eerie almost threatening, light by the sodium vapor street lamps. Visually striking, beautiful. Rats scurried back and forth in front. I set my tripod up across the 5–6 lane Đức Thắng street and run across in time for the 10-second timer.
Young Vietnamese sit on the steps of the French Colonial style Saigon Opera House (built in 1897). It’s a common theme around Saigon to see couples and friends gathered on bridges and other public places sitting on the ground eating and drinking. Something I saw every night around the city.
On my first night ride I drove to District 7 away from the heart of Saigon. The Ong Lon Bridge captured my eye and thus began my journey of shooting the city after dark.
The morning of 30 April 1975. One of the final confrontations on the last morning of the Vietnam/American War. PAVN (North Vietnamese Army) on the East side of the Saigon Bridge and the ARVN (South Vietnamese Military) on its Western end, the last line of land defense protecting the city. The bridge is rigged with 4,000 pounds of explosives. 10:24 am, the order is given to capitulate. 10:30 am, the PAVN tanks cross the Saigon Bridge entering Saigon. The bridge I stand on now. The war is finally over.
A New Saigon — Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh stands proudly in front of the Ho Chi Minh City Hall (1908).
The new Ho Chi Minh City, a thriving, ever-expanding metropolis.
The new Thu Thiem Bridge is sometimes also called “Lover’s Bridge. Couples come here and hang out at night with great views of the new, ever-expanding Ho Chi Minh City skyline.
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City
“Why does everyone call it ‘Saigon’ and not its proper name ‘Ho Chi Minh City’?” I ask my friend, Mai, a local here. “Because for most people it was a better city back then.” Saigon was renamed “Ho Chi Minh City” in 1976 after the Vietnam/American War.