Saigon or "London on steroids" / by Neil Alexander

Motorbike madness, Saigon by Neil Alexander

One of the biggest challenges I found on this trip was to try and maintain some sense of focus. Often the sights, sounds and smells were so prolific and intense, and the desire to try and photograph "it all" left me completely at a loss compositionally speaking. The "Big" Chinese market in Saigon was a prime example. It's a wholesale market for quite literally anything and everything. I've never seen so much shrink wrap in my life and the place is immense - it just keeps on going on and on and on. Had it been back home, it would be a market inspectors wet dream - every stall is overflowing with bundles of shrink wrap - stacked up to the roof behind the stall, all over the floor at the front of the stall, in the alleyways, sometimes to the point that you can't actually tell where you should be walking. And there are masses of people; trading, chatting, bundling up more shrink wrap, cooking, playing chess, smoking...

The "Big Market", Saigon by Neil Alexander

So once again the photographic opportunities abounded. But where to start... In an ideal world, I'd have made a full recce of the location before even removing a camera from it's bag, but it never pans out like that. We had a schedule to keep. Clearly tourists rarely, if ever visit this location as I felt as though I had two heads or a huge neon sign over my head saying "Tourist alert". Fortunately as pretty much everything here is sold by the dozen, the traders weren't all that interested in trying to sell to us, which made things a little easier. Even still it was hot, very humid and extremely noisy. After the initial bewilderment had passed I began to settle into my stride, though for me this took too long and I definitely feel that I missed images as a result. Generally the best plan of attack is to start wide to get your overview shots, and then go in closer and begin to focus on the details, but when in a situation such as this where the location is just so big, two bodies, one with a wide and one with a longer zoom are a big advantage and allowed me to begin to get my mental focus without the palaver of constantly worrying about changing glass.

The "Big Market", Saigon by Neil Alexander"

The market pretty much set the tone for the rest of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh city as it's been referred to since 1976. The city is set on the banks of the Saigon river, just a stone's throw from the South China Sea and since '76 has been the capital of Vietnam. The population is estimated at around 10 million and at least 50% own a motorbike which can make for quite a crazy rush hour. Apathetic is one word that most definitely could not be used to describe Saigon.