Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Saigon Citadel Walk - Terminalia, Festival of Psychogeography

Following on from the previous post: Saigon Citadel Walk - Planning, 25 January 2019.

On the morning of Saturday 23rd February, I travelled to District 1 of Saigon accompanied by Nina, Yiu Lai Lei to mark the occasion of the Terminalia Festival 2019.

This one-day Festival of Psychogeography has been held every year on the 23rd of February since 2011 and brings together individuals and groups who mark the Festival of Terminus, the Roman god of boundaries and landmarks.

To participate in the festival Nina and I chose the location of the old citadel of Saigon, which I had plotted from evidence gathered from old maps. As is often the case, different maps indicate slightly different configurations added to which is the fact that there were more than one citadel. I had chosen the first and largest as the focus for our walk. The larger incarnation of the citadel presented more opportunities for exploring the city and I also felt it was the most attractive in terms of design, however dubious the actual precise details of the design may be.

Map of District 1 showing location of the original citadel

Nina and I began our walk at the junction of Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton and walked north-east to Hai Ba Trung which is approximately where the centre point of the south-eastern facing wall of the citadel would have been.

The corner directly opposite the Vincom Centre on Dong Khoi

Start Point: Junction of Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton

Light vehicles and cyclo riders are banned from this street

Beautiful typography on this retro building facade

Flexible modular blocks allow the tree roots to rise without cracking the pavement

This face of the citadel wall would have continued until Ton Duc Thang and then turned a 90 degree angle to run directly north-west.

The East Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Le Thanh Ton and Ton Duc Thang

Reinforced concrete slab masquerading as an ancient architectural wall plaque

Street sign: two typefaces plus graffiti

Carmelite Monastery of Saigon

Potted tree dancing in the wind

Hem 45, not particularly inviting

Christmas bells hiding away until next year

A sign indicating the location of a street-side motorcycle repairman

Inverted motorcycle helmet becomes an artefact

This north-east facing wall would have crossed what is now Le Duan and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai before reaching Nguyen Dinh Chieu and the citadel wall's most northerly point. It then turned 90 degrees to head south west.

The North Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Ton Duc Thang and Nguyen Dinh Chieu

Gold and cream wall with bottle green accent

Navigating the fractured pavement

The bewildering spaghetti of cables

Misaligned pastel coloured pavement patterns

Reaching the western corner of the citadel (with local cooperation)

The north-west facing wall ran across what is now Hai Ba trunk (again) and Pham Ngoc Thach before reaching Nam Ky Khoi Nghai and the most westerly corner.

The West Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Nguyen Dinh Chieu and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia

New year celebratory gateways still in place after the Tet holiday

2019, Year of the Pig

Flaking stucco reveals pastel green sublayer, works well with the small sculpture

Supreme People's Court

The path of the south-west facing wall ran across what is now Vo Van Tan, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (again), Le Duan (with the Reunification Palace on the right) and continued until it reached the most southerly corner at the junction with Le Thanh Ton.

One street before the South Corner (Ly Tu Trong) we found a small park dedicated to Quach Thi Trang, a student protester who was killed by the Police during demonstrations against the South Vietnamese Government in August 1963. The wall around the park featured decorative spheres that closely resembled cannon balls. Could we have stumbled across remnants of the defensive power of the old citadel?

Cannon balls used as decoration? 

The South Corner of the Citadel Wall, junction of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Le Thanh Ton

From here the walk took us back along Le Thanh Ton (with the People's Committee Hall on the left) to the junction of Dong Khoi, where we started.

The People's Committee Hall

Colours collected with the 'City Palette' App at intervals during the walk 

Our walk allowed us to gain a better feel for the city, and instilled in us a sense of how large the original citadel must have been and how much of the central area of the city it occupied.

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