Young Saigon

Open to the world

Featured in

  • Published 20170428
  • ISBN: 9781925498356
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

IN THE BUILDING opposite mine here in Ho Chi Minh City, still commonly called Saigon, an old man in the top-floor apartment tends his rooftop garden. He climbs there via a ladder every morning, shirtless and holding a plastic watering can, and spends a half hour amid green potted plants. I watch him shamelessly, a 31-year-old Australian Jimmy Stewart in a Vietnamese Rear Window. How old would he be? Old enough to have been in the war. He moves slowly, and pays no attention to me or anything else beyond his tended patch of green – in fact, he appears to be encouraging a wall of creepers to all but block out his view of the street.

But where he turns away, I want to look outward, to the street and the city. We’re close to a bus stop, and when I look away from him and down I can see, besides street stalls, motorbikes and general bustle, a steady trickle of well-dressed young people walking along dragging wheelie suitcases. If they’re heading towards the bus stop they’re typically diddling on their phones, and I imagine them calling up their confirmation itineraries. If they’re heading away from the bus stop, into the warren of narrow Saigonese alleyways, I can usually see airline baggage ties fluttering on their luggage. Where are they going, or where have they been? Study? Work? Tourism? They walk briskly, exuding a sense of purpose.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

More from author

When Chifley met Nehru

EssayIN A LONDON hotel, two prime ministers sit down to breakfast. One is tall, lean, white-haired and speaks in a raspy, unmistakably working-class Australian...

More from this edition

Modern science, modern life

GR OnlineLIKE MANY CHILDREN born in the 1980s, I grew up playing outside, catching lizards and feeding tadpoles. My parents were Polish immigrants to Australia...

Worlds beyond

ReportageTHE BLUE WHALE is only a metre or two away from me, and its huge right eyeball is level with mine. I have never...

Kale as old as time

GR OnlineCRATES OF SUPER-RIPE tomatoes are stacked high, softening in the sunshine. The red fruits are passed through timeworn contraptions, a crew of hands circling...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.