When Saigon stood still – A time capsule.
There was a time when the most bustling streets in the busiest districts in Saigon fell dead silent. Street lights illuminated roads that were once occupied by streams of traffic hurling back and forth. The usual chattering from one neighbor to another, from a shop vendor to a student hurrying to class, from an office worker to their colleague as they headed out for lunch… hung in the air as if uttered but never finished.
Even though this wasn’t the first time for the city to go into lockdown, the impacts were felt strongly among over eight million people as weeks slowly stretched to months. However, in true Saigonese style, both the city and its inhabitants stood in front of COVID-19 as a united force, determined to make this fourth surge their last one.
This article acts as an electronic time capsule of moments where Saigon stilled itself momentarily until the time comes again for the city to roar back to life.
ATTRACTIONS WITHOUT TOURISTS
With the absence of people utilizing every corner possible to document their journey with the statue of Mother Mary at the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, the area played host to brave pigeons venturing across the courtyard, taunting us with their freedom. The same situation could be seen unraveling in front of the Saigon Central Post Office, though less severe as the place remained open throughout the pandemic to cater to people’s postal needs.
The Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon. Photo by Thuy Linh.
Empty benches at Saigon Central Post Office. Photo by Thuy Linh.
HIDDEN SLEEPING BEAUTIES – ALLEYWAYS AND PARKS
Though alleyways were not uncommon in the city, most used to come alive starting late afternoon when adults would relieve themselves of work-related stress by observing neighbor kids playing with their own. Benches in parks would be occupied by a variety of people, from a middle-aged man smoking his last cigarette of the day to a couple secretly professing their love under their breath, fearing that one sound could cause them their special moment in time. Now, it seemed as if alleyways and parks had gone into hibernation, and with them, the vibrant lifestyle once reigned before the pandemic.
An alleyway in Vietnam. Photo by Phuong Danh.
A quiet alleyway. Photo by Nhu Y
An empty bench in a park. Photo by Thuy Linh
TRAFFIC JAMS – A BITTERSWEET WISH
Once upon a time, we wished for a traffic jam. Busy streets that used to haunt those who had to commute were now almost empty, with the occasional exception of a few vehicles. Perhaps we yearned to get lost in the crowd, perhaps we mourned for the simple moments of relief when the stream of people finally budged.
Vehicles can be seen occasionally on streets that were once very busy. Photo by Phuong Danh
Empty lanes. Photo by Phuong Danh
This moment, frozen in time and preserved perhaps forever on the Internet, was more than a measure to prevent the spread. It was a time for the city to wind down and for us to realize that some moments were as precious as they were easy to go unnoticed.
But despair not, we have already come up with what you can do to stay productive and mentally healthy throughout these trying times. You might also find yourself yearning for a virtual tour, for which we have already provided a guide that you might find most useful. If you are interested in more content like this, visit our blog or check out our tour packages to prepare for when Saigon picks up the pace once more.
Written by Linh Lê
Image Source: SGHP-ers