Young Saigon

Open to the world

Featured in

  • Published 20170502
  • 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

Crossing lines

MemoirTHE DAY AFTER the news filled with Hilary Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis, I found the Al-Salaam restaurant closed. I looked up and down my local...

More from this edition

Fossil Fuels

FictionTHE NIGHT BEFORE Jules went up to Townsville for his Nan’s eightieth, we cut each other’s hair. In all the time we’d been together,...

Sanctuary in the city

GR OnlineEARLY IN THE evening of the 2016 presidential election, the streets of New York City sprang into messy, loud and joyful celebration. Packed sports...

Off the plan

ReportageIT’S EARLY 2017, and the first lists of the most unaffordable housing in the world have dropped. Oh boy. I’ve been waiting for this...

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