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.

(Click on a pic­ture to enlarge it and use the arrow keys to browse the rest of the gallery.)

Goodnight Saigon

 

St. Paul's Convent Saigon Ho Chi Minh City

St. Paul’s Con­vent — Saigon

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.

 

Saigon Opera House - Ho Chi Minh City Municipal Theatre

Saigon Opera House

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.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral Saigon

Notre Dame Cathe­dral — Saigon

 

 

Empty tree-lined Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

Emp­ty tree-lined Nguyen Binh Khiem Street

 

Ong Lon Bridge Saigon - District 7

Ong Lon Bridge, Dis­trict 7- Saigon

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.

Saigon Bridge, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon Bridge — Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City

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 City Hall - Saigon City Hall

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh stands proud­ly in front of the Ho Chi Minh City Hall (1908).

 

The new Ho Chi Minh City Skyline

The new Ho Chi Minh City Skyline

 

The new Ho Chi Minh City Skyline

The New Ho Chi Minh City Skyline

The new Ho Chi Minh City, a thriv­ing, ever-expand­ing metropolis.

Light Trees in front of Hoang Phuc. A new Saigon

Light Trees in front of Hoang Phuc. A new Saigon

 

Thu Thiem (Lovers) Bridge, Ho Chi Minh City Skyline

Thu Thiem (Lovers) Bridge, Ho Chi Minh City Skyline

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.

Good­night Saigon.

Phu My Bridge, Ho Chi Minh City - Saigon

Phu My Bridge, Ho Chi Minh City

 

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