The rhythm of life in the city’s alleyways

street-vendorThough the shadow of the dark night still almost entirely covers the asleep city, somewhere along Hồ Chí Minh City (HCMC)’s alleys the rhythm of street life begins to rise softly.

It’s time for the working class to initiate the daily struggle to earn a living and maybe the hope of a brighter future.

This moment, though unnoticed by most city residents too busy hustling their day away, is a remarkable feature of city life.

Time bygone, daily activities unfold as usual despite a rapidly changing world.

Lying in bed on a leisurely day, many refuse to listen to the sounds coming through the window, only to find themselves later regretting having lost the chance to enjoy the song of life coming from the alley.

The start of a new day is marked by the sound of the bamboo brooms of the garbage collectors stirring up the calm quiet early morning and causing suddenly awaken dogs to bark by reflex.

In the serenity, a grey gecko smacks his tongue as if longing for a short night ending, reminiscent of an alarm clock set to wake up the dreamy sun.

Then, in the distance come the hesitantly roaring motorbikes’ engines of the night-shift workers heading home.

Followed by the crackling sound of unlocking metal doors and gates are the mutual greetings of the elders on their way to their morning excercises.

High above the top of cascade roofs, the first sun ray engraves its glorious gold color.

Among the tree branches, the hard working sparrows begin their noisy quarreling, stealing lazy stray cats away from their dreams.

In the distance, the echo of church bells floats over the misty air reminding us all of the passing of time.

The buzzing sound of bees on the flower treillis at the front gate awakens memories of beautiful childhood, a time for gathering flowers and chasing butterflies…

Suddenly, the morning news from a neighbor’s TV warning about approaching tropical low pressure draw us away from nostalgia and back to real life.

The street becomes noisier and noisier with the sound of the vendors.

A bread seller on an old motorbike drives around the quarter while its loud speaker repeats “bánh mì Sài Gòn”, meaning Sài Gòn’s bread.

The speakers of vendors from the other end of the alley, repeat “bánh chưng bánh giò” – sticky rice cakes and glutinous rice dough.

It is just as traders of traditional breakfast fares repeat their obligatory parade through the alley with an unchanged timetable.

When the yelling of children on their way to school and the greeting of neighbors on their way to work begins, it is time for a new run of the routine circle.

All throughout the rest of the day, the street resounds with vehicle’s engines and passers-by.

At noon, the alley falls in its siesta.

On the tin roofs, dry leaves tremble in the hot afternoon air.

The rusted ceiling fan shreaks of a sharp noise that makes time elapse tiredly.

The invitation from a sweet soup vendor and the melody of an ice cream cart sinks in the dense silent.

As the the sun hides behind the highest buildings, the alley revives its lively tunes.

At their throtle, housewives chat away about the same old topics, the rising market prices, the most recent sales or maybe a new hair saloon…

By the time children come back from school, the alley is full of noise and laughter.

So here now come the vendors with refreshing mid-afternoon delicacies.

Their rising voices announce ice cream, sweet tofu soup, cold soybean milk…

As the lights and sounds begin to fade away and melt amidst the big city symphony, the panicking horns of minivans and buses and the deafening sirens of police cars and ambulances take center stage.

Perhaps, all the sounds inhabiting the quarter and bringing livelihood to the cozy urban microcosm belong to the song of the alley.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life loaded with ambitious plans, lets stop for a moment to listen to the song of real life as this special moment makes the alley a worthwhile place to live.






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