106° 39’ 7’’E  10° 49’ 8’’N

Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

 

 

Everything started a 30th April 1975. I was 9 and the news on TV showed the falling of Saigon by the Vietcong. The war in Vietnam came definitively to an end. The most spectacular image about these far away events was that of the terrace, the roof of the USA Embassy with people clambering up a ladder dangling in the air where the last US Navy helicopters were leaving from. America was running away from Vietnam after 15 years of war. It was the strong image of a whole generation lulled by drugs -more or less light- and by the music of the Rolling Stones. It was the same years in which America presented on the screens The Three days of the condor, it was my infancy, which I spent in Paris in the middle of the 70s.

In the years thereafter, everywhere in France and also in my school, Vietnamese children appeared, the famous boat people that left their country by thousands. Being a former colony of France, this was the first country requested for their exile.

I had to wait until I was 20 to set foot in Vietnam. It was the 6th July 1995. Now Saigon was Ho Chi Minh City but this doesn’t matter. Vietnam was looking for foreign currencies, and, having lost the URSS economic support, was opening its doors to the tourism. I stayed there for two months, wandering everywhere it was possible, from the South, the delta of the River Mekong, to the North, the border with Laos, from the Siam Gulf to the China Sea. For the first time in my life I left the damp warm climate of the Tropic, the endless rains and floods of the wet Monsoon, the repeated fevers, the weariness of the climate, the wild animals that follow you into your hotel rooms, eating for breakfast some coarse salt in the palm to continue my way.

It was, into my young head, a voyage in the time, that of the mysterious Indochina, that of our grandparents who came and build a secluded spot of Paradise very often a utopia in this part of the world so far away, that of the adventure novels like Graham Greene’s ones, and also that of the sensual beauty of the almond-eyed Tonkinese women described by the legionary on leave. It was the Vietnam of my dreams as a child that was running in front of my eyes.

Ten years after I receive a letter from the General Consulate of France inviting me to Ho Chi Minh City to make a workshop of photography at the Art School of the town. There I am, changing my role from the one of a witness to the one of an actor, always desired and looked for. No sooner said than done here I am again in this town that changed, during these years, into a modern and chaotic metropolis of 8 million inhabitants. Knowing that I was coming there, it started raining heavily, the wet monsoon, faithful fellow traveller of long time ago, will follow me during my whole staying, making it wilder, sometime touching. You live Asia together with water.

It was 2nd September 2005, I was 39 and since a long time I wasn’t a little boy anymore. Vietnam was grown ripe, as I was, and it wasn’t looking back with a touch of melancholy anymore, but it was looking forward, to a well deserved future of little dragon.

 

Nicolas Pascarel

www.fotoasia.org