The juxtaposition of past and present makes Ho Chi Minh City a veritable wealth of images for the photography enthusiast. While the city has it’s fair share of super tall buildings, it still manages to keep its old-world charm. The economic hub of Vietnam has an energy like nowhere else.
Whether it’s the lighting, or a certain expression of a subject’s face it’s all about the timing. There are a few online resources that you can use to help improve your photography. To get accurate timings for the placement of the sun, use www.photopills.com as it gives you an accurate reading of each light phase throughout the day. A great resource for various technique can be found at: photography.tutsplus.com.
Even with this stunning backdrop, it can be hard to take images that stand out above the crowd. We’ve compiled a list of places around town that are some of the most photogenic spots in the city.
Photos by Vinh Dao.
The hustle and bustle of Saigon streets is legendary and it makes for great photos. However, the alleyways, also known as hems, can give you a glimpse into the every day life of the city. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the series of hems that are between Nguyen Trai and Le Thi Rieng, just west of the Cach Mang Thang Tam roundabout. Things just move a bit slower and the best way to experience this area is on foot.
Kowloon of Saigon
While nothing can compare to the famous walled city inside Hong Kong, the set of block apartments that run from Co Bac to Co Giang on Nguyen Thai Hoc is its sibling in spirit, if not in size. Entering the block through one of the many alleys that run Nguyen Thai Hoc, you are greeted with walkways that run 2 to 3 meters wide at most. Factor in motorbikes, clothes washing, the occasional outdoor kitchen and you are going to be zigzagging your way through the block. This is one of the times where taking photos in the harsh midday sunlight is actually rewarding. With the buildings almost touching each other, sunlight cascadea in slivers of light which make for amazingly atmospheric images.
Notre Dame Cathedral
It’s seems a bit cliché to put this one in but it’s a favourite of mine. There always seems to be something going on there. Want some bustling traffic shots? Get a tripod and wait until dusk. How about a street vendor dishing up some tasty and photogenic goods? Sorted. Even better if you show up in the morning on weekends. The church has always been a popular backdrop for wedding photographers and it’s peak season on the weekends. At one time, you can see dozens of couples decked out in traditional wedding gear, jostling with each other to capture that special moment in time.
Tao Dan Park
This urban space covers 10 hectares and has plenty of opportunities for that perfect Saigon photo. Get there early enough and you can catch Saigonese starting out their day with some calisthenics, tai chi and rousing badminton matches. It’s also a good time to check out the bird café. Saigonese have been bringing their birds here for decades. The birds get to learn new songs from their peers and the men, it’s almost all men, get to chit chat over a coffee. Also make sure to check out Hung King Temple with it’s lovely reflecting pool with lotus flowers.
Saigon’s ever-changing skyline is one of those must-have photos in your archive. Make sure to head to the Tu Thiem side of the Saigon River to get a spectacular shot of District 1 and all of its skyscraper glory. Even better if you happen to catch the skyline during golden hour. It’s a bit of a trek to get there and with all the new construction, a bit difficult to nagivate the roads. It’s best to take a side road just before the toll road heading to District 1 on Mai Chi Tho. You know you are there when you hit the river. For the best vantage point, head to Cau Ong Cay. Shooting sunsets are a “hurry up and wait” exercise. It’s best to show up a bit early to stake out your spot and set up your camera. Once you are all ready to go, grab a softie or a beer at one of the local vendors and bask in the view. Oh. and don’t forget to bring a tripod.