How the Cities met the Mike – Observations and ideas

There is some difference I’ve thought to being a city wanderer. I love walking and wandering all day long in cities. They are like living, breathing organisms invested in colors, sights, smells, people. Children that run down the side street and I can hear their hello fading as they go much faster than me. Older people that smile and wave. Young people hurrying past for the afternoon coffee shop appointment. But the city remains even as they go. The gritty, sometimes dirty, often uplifting city with its concrete towers and bustling intersections. No matter where I’ve roamed in the last five months, the cities have been the thing that have gotten me. Taking pictures of city life or what they call street photography is that instantaneous gratification of the lives of things. Not just people though. To me, how people use and are used by things. Light rails and buses, cabs and motorbikes. Hurrying and at ease.

I’ve noticed that in the larger cities there is more manic action. Hanoi has this spirit of things which stretch across the Old Quarter. Its like a frenzied painting of colors, voices, street food, street people all vying for attention. Tokyo seems to have such a wide extreme of activity. Some sedate like at the Emperors Palace and then you have a place like Ginza or Shibuya or Akihabara. A force of urban nature. Then perhaps you get to Ho Chi Minh City. As I’ve said before, its a city of many cities even with its myriad districts. Each has its boundaries but cities really don’t respect the maps of a district. Human agency blares across those carefully drawn lines and people live.

Here in Da Lat I am fortunate to have all of it. There are busier streets with horns honking and voices blaring and the market selling day and night. Then there are the quiet side streets where thinking can be done and wonder achieved.

A quieter and more sedate view of usually bustling Vietnam. A smaller street where the life slows down and smaller businesses thrive and you can slow down and perhaps thrive a bit.

I love to walk outdoors and see the force of nature but I have to admit wandering in cities and doing that urban photography is a thing I truly love. Its like a crazy quilt of varied patterns and materials in Vietnam. I can walk for hours in any of the cities and feel that I’ve hardly scratched the surface. I can get tired and desire some water or an iced coffee or perhaps ice cream and speculate that these two old legs will carry me to a point in 40 some days where I’ve seen something. Will I ever be able to say I have seen Da Lat? No. But tour buses and cabs and motorbike tours cannot either. Those are carefully crafted left and right turns made to give you maximum views of what they feel are the tourist attractions. What about those side streets and the patchwork quilts of life there?

Not really touched so I must go forward. Because walking in a city is like being a part of that city for just a bit. Its highs and lows become yours and its industry becomes your passion.

Then the time is up and I will travel forward to Cambodia and other cities to question and walk and laugh and cry at. Cities are mystical and social and cultural things the extend beyond the boundaries. Culture and social life and values do not have districts or boundaries.

And that’s a good thing I think!

Author: Michael Perry

I've been blogging for over 20 years and now am living in Southeast Asia. The blog is about my slow vagabonding wherever I want to go. My home base is in Cambodia but I'm rarely there.