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[Photos] A Day in the Life of Saigon’s Apartment Dwellers

When I arrived here ten years ago, I lived in the Eden Building, until it was destroyed to put in yet another shopping mall. Escalators and lifts in this mall are at a standstill. The corridors are now inhabited by a receptionist who no longer welcomes anyone. Cleaners are busy cleaning already-clean tiles, while guards stand ready to open the door for a customer who never comes. 

There is nothing left of my old Eden Building, other than gradually fading memories. Like the voices of my former neighbors, especially the grandmother who refused to leave. “They can destroy, I’m staying,” she said. They were set on demolishing it under our feet — whether people were still inside or not, construction had to start. Grandma was not worried at all and stuck to her routine amidst the noise. 

There are still buildings like Eden in the city center; photographing them brings bring back wonderful memories of my old place. Mine became a shopping mall. Meanwhile, others saw their apartment being turned into a café. 

In some districts, buildings were just abandoned; their tile floors were left to age quietly, weathered by dirt and dust. The walls, sweaty from the warm rains, connect a maze of staircases that all look alike. Branches grow in brick cracks, as if a jungle were waking up under the concrete and rusty roofs. Under the giant cobwebs of electric wires, cats copulate and fight, their stealthy silhouettes wandering and their voices escaping out the ajar door. 

Take a walk through these unique places through the photos below:

The narrow stairs of 26 Ly Tu Trong.

An empty swing at 14 Ton That Dam.

A schoolgirl ascending the stairs of 9 Thai Van Lung.

The facade of a school behind 26 Ly Tu Trong.

A cat playing in the corridor at 14 Ton That Dam.

A resident playing mobile games on his phone at 14 Ton That Dam.

A dress drying in a corridor at 42 Nguyen Hue.

Looking into the courtyard of 14 Ton That Dam.

A resident hanging atop a staircase at 26 Ly Tu Trong.

A resident lying down after lunch at 14 Ton That Dam.

The entry stairs at 14 Ton That Dam.

Electricity meters at 26 Ly Tu Trong.

Clothes drying in the breeze at 14 Ton That Dam.

An indoor picnic at 26 Ly Tu Trong.

A balcony on the top floor of 26 Ly Tu Trong.

An old tile roof at 52 Le Thanh Ton.

A customer naps while a waitress works at a cafe inside 14 Ton That Dam.

Find more of Anh Mat’s work on his Instagram page or his website.

Correction as of April 18: This photo essay was originally attributed to Mathias Ly. The name has been changed to Anh Mat according to the photographer’s wishes.


Related Articles:

[Video] Trading Places: The Story of 42 Nguyen Hue

[Photos] Inside Saigon’s Gritty ‘Vertical Villages’

The End of Ton That Dam’s Chợ Cũ


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