01 HONG KONG, VIETNAM, SINGAPORE – A Panorama A Day (Pt. I/II)
(Click HERE to view Pt. II/II of A Panorama A Day or HERE to go back to Vietnam+ 2015 photo albums)
VICTORIA HARBOUR, Hong Kong. Day 1. After a disastrous first few hours with my luggage check in at my hostel, I was finally able to get some exploration time. This was taken on the Avenue of the Stars, looking towards Hong Kong Island around noon before meeting up with my friends. It was a very beautiful but humid day.
REPULSE BAY, Hong Kong. Day 2. I really wanted to experience something different for my third time in Hong Kong (not accounting for layovers), so I asked my friends to take me to the beach. We ended up going to Repulse Beach on the south side of HK Island, where the affluent beach goers occasionally enjoy a weekend trip. We even bumped into the notorious HK star, Edison Chen!
I don’t know how I got this lucky with the weather. Stepping onto the water…
QUARRY BAY, Hong Kong. Day 3. I did an architecture firm hop on my last day in Hong Kong. This is the lunch floor area in one of the buildings that I visited, which was located on their 40 or 50th floor. The view was absolutely incredible. How can you even call this a lunch space?!
Trying to capture the scale and the view, from Victoria harbor to inside of the building. Definitely trying to make use of the panorama mode here.
GRANDMA’S HOUSE, Saigon, VN. Day 4. Finally arrived in Vietnam in the early morning. One of the things that surprised me the most was how much the digital infrastructure has changed in Saigon, yet the buildings themselves have remained unchanged since my parent’s childhood (1940s-50s). The last time I visited was in 2007, when Facebook had just started, when I didn’t even own a cellphone and had to resort to internet cafes to get access to the rest of the world. Fast forward eight years to 2015 and everyone now has a smartphone with handheld internet, Uber for taxis and mopeds, and the ability to FaceTime thousands of miles anywhere in the world in the palm of your hands!
NEIGHBORHOOD TEMPLE, Saigon, VN. Day 5. One of the reasons why I came on this trip with my mom was to spend some quality time with her since living away from home for the past two years. While we were in Saigon, there were days when we went on side trips, going on market runs and doing everyday tasks like she used to in Vietnam. There are a few occasional days in the year however when we spend several hours (and sometimes days) in advance preparing what to buy to visit a temple to pray. Today was one of those days, where we went to a family one near our neighborhood to light incense for my maternal ancestors.
CALIFORNIA FITNESS, Saigon, VN. Day 6. Prior to my trip, I had scheduled some time to go to the gym in order to offset all the delicious and high carbohydrate food in Asia. Fortunately my former roommate in Canada was visiting from the States and took me the “Goodlife Fitness” in Saigon. As it turns out, California Fitness is the premium fitness club over there. Each of their clubs’ interiors are designed differently but still exude their brand’s hip and flashy nightclub theme. Although I only ended up going once during my two week stay in Vietnam, it was nonetheless a unique experience for someone like me who never fathomed would one day get to go and even find a Goodlife-like gym in Saigon.
FAMILY TEMPLE, Saigon, VN. Day 7. Today was another temple day, but with my relatives on both sides of the family. The temple is unique in that it is one of the oldest and well-preserved Chinese temples in Saigon, dating back to the early 1900s during French Indochina, about fifty years before WWII and the Vietnam War. After a three-hour Buddhist ritual, the service women that maintain the temple cooked us several vegetarian dishes for lunch.
DISTRICT ONE, Saigon, VN. Day 8. After a few days in Saigon, I finally got to explore the downtown core of District 1 and some of the city’s iconic sites. This one here was taken inside Saigon’s most famous market, Ben Thanh. Be prepared to get ripped off as a foreigner and/or as a local resident. Better tip: don’t shop here!
Inside the former South Vietnamese President’s living room at the Reunification Palace, in which the interior and architecture blends Vietnamese, Chinese and Communist elements of the 1970s. On a side note, the end of the Vietnam War was marked by the capture of this palace on April 1975, with a very famous photograph of a Communist tank barging through its front gates. With South Vietnam falling under Communist rule, North and South Vietnam was finally reunited as one country after 80 years of French rule and American influence. In terms of my family’s time frame, my mom, my dad and my brother were 22, 32, and 1 month old, respectively, putting things into perspective tremendously.
This is the Ho Chi Minh City Post Office, situated right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon. It is one of the very few buildings throughout Vietnam that is designed by renowned French architect Gustav Eiffel, circa 1890s. Art Nouveau interior with a French colonial exterior.
The highest observational point in Saigon is located on the 49th floor of the Bitexco Tower. The building’s design somewhat resembles a pointier version of Burj Al Arab Hotel due to the helicopter pad element (though some say it has never been used).
Another view, looking south-east, with various scales and types of buildings. The teal bridge in the center of the photo is yet another one of Eiffel’s projects, which fits with the theme of the city planning that heavily draws from the French (i.e. boulevards of Paris).
View looking north-east across the Mekong River where new development will most likely happen, similar to that of Shanghai’s Pudong/Puxi dichotomy. Looking down below you will also see Saigon’s largest pedestrian street (Nguyen Hue Street) that opened earlier this year, which spans 64m wide and runs 670m to the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. In the evenings, life ushers onto this strip/elongated city square and has allowed it to become one of Saigon’s biggest attractions.