Cholon in Saigon

Today was a very lazy day spent around District 5 of Ho Chi Minh City, known as Cholon. The area has a large amount of Chinese imigrants, thus giving it the monikor of Saigon’s Chinatown. It’s also well known for the various Buddhist pagodas that are in the region, and we spent quite some time exploring them.

In the morning, we found a couple of moto drivers and hired them for the day to take us around for the few hours we had until the first of our flights. The first pagoda we saw a large, very ornate, Chinese style structure with characters, carvings and gilded gold everywhere. It’s supposed to be the most active of all the pagodas in the area. It wasn’t really anything impressive, just looked like a regular pagoda (they all start to look the same after a while anyway).

After the first one, we made our way to the Cholon Market. Given a market is a market is a market after a while in Asia, you get to be a bit jaded but this one was pretty interesting. We go there around noon-time and all the vendors were taking their lunches in little seats in front of their stores. It was really quaint. Plus, the market itself sold all sorts of crazy goods, from silks, to odd looking fungi, to bowls, to dishes, to etc, and more etc. Pretty eclectic set of goods. The building the market was in was so run down it was a sight in and of itself. The escalators to go up were completly non-functional and the base where the belt would have looped was cracked open and unhinged.

Later in the day we saw one more pagoda, the oldest in Saigon. The building was made totally of wood and it lent to a very dark and quiet interior that contrasted with the loud horns of the motos outside. I liked this pagoda quite a bit as it was a lot less tacky and felt like it preserved the reverance of a religious site well.

Following that pagoda, we took off back to the hotel to pick up Ami’s bags and I dropped her off at the airport. I’ve spent the rest of the evening (there are 9 hours between her flight and mine) walking around this backpackers area and spent some time writing. Now, time to get some dinner and find some other hours to kill until my flight. It’s sad to see this vacation now over, but I’ll be glad to go back to the norm of life and luckily I have a trip to the states coming up soon, so I’ll be happy to have that come up soon as well.