If I were blindfolded in Hong Kong and whisked to Ho Chi Minh City I may think I was still in Hong Kong or some incredible mix of different cities that make up one city. For this city has the mix of skyline, rivers and parks, beautiful buildings, friendly people, and open sidewalks to meander down. Today was only my first day wandering with the camera and I have some weeks more.
What I saw today reminded me of a mix of cities I have been to. So different than Hanoi and the old quarter. HCMC with its urban sprawl yet quiet streets where tourists were not seen reminds me of some kind of strange space and time travel where I could be whisked between countries and privy to some strange conveyance of machinery and fantasy that would allow me to view all the different HCMC’s there are.
Today being my first day and not really knowing what to expect since I got in at night, I was astounded at the beauty of the city. There are wide central avenues, river walk areas, quiet little parks where a person and his smart phone can sit and take notes. There are the bustling blocks plied with tourists on the hunt for perhaps restaurants and good deals on clothing or souvenirs. There are the little places where the local people hang out and there you see steaming bowls of Bun Cha and Pho.
Then it rains. But the rain is brief. Its like some God decided to wet the earth and then offer the delight of a brief interlude. To prove out my novice hypothesis of many different cities all encompassed in the one, I offer a few photographs of the many.
You may ask and its fair to ask, what does the city mean? What central meaning does it convey to the new vagabond with a camera and time on his hands? It tells me as it rains as I sit over a Vietnamese coffee with milk that there is much to see. Many roads to wander in this city of cities. There is not a single Ho Chi Minh City like there is not a single Hanoi or Hong Kong or Tokyo. Each one with its neighborhoods is a poem of diversity written by the hand of geography and climate and sometimes humor. For you have to have humor to be a vagabond. You have to take the rain that comes in the afternoons in rainy season and understand that’s why there are coffee shops. You have to learn how to gently say “No” to the rickshaw and cab and scooter drivers that ply their trade. I learned that you really don’t want their service because you will see an hour of a city that they think you want to see. There is a city out there beyond the ken of the cycloped and GrabBike. A city that moves in so many different directions. Its like an organic thing that breathes and throbs and likes and dislikes.
Yes, its a city of many cities like every city. Everyone moves to their beat and feels the rhythm of the rain. You can tell when it will rain. Suddenly the wind grows a bit, the sky clouds over and you know that it shall rain and then it shall pass.
This is the nature of the wondrous and sublime city of many cities I find myself in. The city of model sailing ships and majestic skyscrapers. The local Pho shops and markets and the quiet of the home stay.
Will I stay in wonder of this city as my days grow to weeks? I think so. One never learns the mystery of a Hanoi. The city won’t let you see it. It hides behind the rain and thunder and no matter how many steps you walk, it recedes from your view like a shadow as the sun crosses over.
I walked today and it was good. It was a journey of the finding and losing. An old retired guy testing his wings in a new place. If you have a desire to see the entire photo album of the travels of a single day in a wondrous place, here is the link to the album.