It is a Sunday morning. Standing on the pavement waiting for the others arriving. A quick glance at the store sign. It states they are opening at 7 am. I am early. It is only 6.50 am.
We are meeting up at Zoom Cafe, corner of De Tham and Tran Hung Dao Street. An impromptu photo walk is today’s goal.
I already parked my bike at the 24/7 underground parking lot at the Central Park of Saigon (according to Google maps). Locals refer to it as the 23/9 Park, named after the anniversary of Ho Chi Minh’s independence speech.
During the 5 minute walk, I observed the regular flow of tourists arriving and leaving. I politely refused one street vendor and had to briefly cross the street from another. He wanted to sell marihuana (I even had to look up the word to write it correctly). Only by crossing the street he gave up his sales pitch. His pitch was more like a mantra, “You! You! Marihuana! Marihuana! You! You! Marihuana! Marihuana!”
Next, I walked past a guy with a Santa hat and a face matching its colour. Seated at a table outside one of the many bars. I guess someone partied through the night. It is the backpacker area after all.
Jarek is the first of the others to show up, he is early as well. Together we watch the staff arrive and set up chairs and tables. Zoom Cafe has a set breakfast menu consisting of toast, eggs and coffee for VND 59,000. Nothing to scoff at. We duly order one each once they are open.
Ian arrives next, on the dot as usual, and the conversation turns to gear talk. Shortly after, Mike arrives. After a long breakfast conversation about “why you should get a Fuji X-T2,” we set off on our walk. Alex was busy shooting elsewhere and joined us after for the refresher drinks at Zoom. They do really large smoothies.
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Photo walks are great. To me, they equal practising Zen. You have to be present. In the moment.
We spread out. Our first destination is a busy market street nearby, the Co Giang Street. Four photographers walking the same street and thus ends the similarities. We pause at different sections. Everyone has a different way of seeing. It is not a “spray and pray” approach. Each one of us working at ease and with a slow, deliberate pace. We are walking after all. Observing the moment and the flow of life. Strolling along, sometimes catching up with each other, pointing out sights.
The trip takes us through some narrow alleyways and we are entering a new world inside. The alleyways don’t have much sunlight coming through. Lit by the fluorescent lights emerging from all the stores and homes. We even pass a pool table with some very impressive players.
Once out on one of the main streets, we walk along the pavement before heading into another alley. The entrance is hardly noticeable amongst all the stores. If you don’t know about it, you will miss it. Ian gets greeted by some of the shop owners. They have known each other for years.
The last photographic stop is a pagoda, Chùa Thiên Hậu, near Vo Van Kiet Street. After that, we head back to start, at Zoom Cafe, for refreshers.
Big “Thank you!” to Ian to lead us to such diverse places in the middle of town. Ian also runs photography tours around Vietnam, check them out here.
Here is the slideshow of the selected images from the walk, enjoy!