Twisty allays of homes lead to Giac Vien Pagoda in District 11 of the Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a quiet, atmospheric retreat from street’s hustles and bustles and ubiquitus motor bikes. One can see some colonial influence in the coutyard-style architecture with Buddhist colors of bright yellow and dark red, sometimes with trims of beautiful blue. A few locals were sitting in one of the two side corridors chatting, and a monk was sleeping on a big, heavy woodboard in the mainhall. Not a touristic destination at all.
More interesting for me is the walk around to see what people do on a Sunday morning. This looks a bit a suburben community. Houses are normally two to three storeys, very narrow in the front, with first floor doors wide open. Floors are tiled up. They must be cool to lie or sit on on a hot summer day. There are always niches for local god worshipping. Often I also saw meat, rice, vegi, and even money notes arranged together with incense on a small table. Sunday may be a day for ancestor worship as well. People were out for all kinds of household errands or just enjoying a lazy morning to let time pass by. Many also used the first floor as workshops for their small businesses.
People are not very outgoing, sometimes looking at me with questioning or just blank eyes. Most of them were nice and friendly but keeping a distance - a bit like Chinese. Younger women loved to smile more. Kids were happily running around. I was asking myself how much remaining influence the Vietnam War has on people’s attitude toward life and I couldn’t tell without the chance to talk much. I could see a diligent strive for a better life, but that’s familiar to me as a nation coming out of communist regime and a people finally given the chance to prosper through hardwork.
I like the city more now that I’ve seen more than just the luxurious hotels, souvenour shops and major landmarks all of which are clustered in District 1. I still cannot cross a street at ease though. When travelling, I tend to forget quickly the unpleasant experience and remember only the nice things, therefore love most places I’ve been to which present distinct characters. I’m not sure whether I subconciously try to beautify what I see and ignore the ugly side in my mind. With my cameras, I’ve always avoided the ugly side.