Photo du Jour: A Balloon Salesman in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Facing a sea of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, a helium balloon salesman riding a bicycle waits to enter.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

16 thoughts on “Photo du Jour: A Balloon Salesman in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      1. Tricia – let’s make the story even BETTER. Enter the photo… and win! Seriously – you should. It is an amazing photo. Great colour, timing and setting.

      2. no, as I am nowhere near close to com material. I am a novice! However when I compile my inspiration posts, I do look at the Nat Geo travel reader galleries and photo comp entries for images… Maybe you could do a quick search on their next comp and about reader galleries? What fun that would be, to see your photo on that site. Let me know how you get on!

    1. Thanks for your encouragement – I’m humbled! :) The pic on your site does a great job of capturing the frenetic pace of the Vietnamese urban environments! So fun to see it through different eyes.

    1. Thanks, Andrew! The brigade of balloon sellers was out in full-force in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve in Saigon. It was fun seeing the faces of the kids riding motorbikes with their parents past the salesmen- longing to just snip one of the balloon’s ribbons :)

  1. They all used to sell “true” balloon (traditional shape ,1 color) before :( about 10 years ago, balloons were one of the best presents that parents might buy for their children – now they have much more choices – all in a higher technical form, even the balloons come in so many attractive shapes-mickey – kitty – superman… like-parents buy-that’s life- However , I do miss my-out of fashion-balloon so well > – < !

    1. Hello Yinyin, it’s fun to hear how the balloon designs have evolved. Certainly, there are so many colorful ones available in the weeks before Tet! I agree with you that traditional designs are quite charming.

      1. Too many things have been changed , many of my childhood treats, toys,living-habit just fade away – days by days – little by little – the mid-autumn festival (september) ‘s lantern for example.

        If you come and visit Saigon in this time of the year ,you may find a lantern street with thousand of twinkle lanterns in district 5.In my memory, all of the street was filled with the traditional lanterns which were made from crystal red papers, bamboo sticks ,hand-drawing decoration and of course, you have to put a candle into the middle of the lantern for some light.

        The festival this year, 30% of what I see were those “high-tech-toys” which have sound, colorful automatic lights and plastic covers- came in various attractive shapes. The warm feeling from looking at happy faces of children with their new toys is not strong enough to erase my fear :( Hope that I may see more of those “old” lanterns next year !

        p/s: OMG, sorry for my babblings > – <

      2. Yinyin, it’s sad to hear that many traditions are fading away. I guess that is why I enjoy traveling so much – savoring the cultural differences and similarities that make people special, around the world.

        I suppose you are getting ready for the Tet holidays now? When I was in Vietnam in 2009, I was very excited to see people preparing for this celebration, and then actually celebrating with their families and friends. A kind family in Ha Noi invited me to their home on the second or third day of Tet. It was really fun to learn about the different aspects of the celebration with them. Do you and your family have special customs that you follow to celebrate Tet?

        Here’s hoping that more of the ‘old’ lanterns that you described will return. They sound lovely, and reminiscent of the ones I saw in Hoi An and Ha Noi.

  2. I love exploring new places,too ^ ^ special in the field of traditonal food and toys ^ – ^ I like Hội An city so well -old theme of life’s color ,peaceful feeling….even though the price for a trip there is just a little bit “somewhere over the rainbow” :P

    ^ – ^ Oh you spent a Tết holidays in Hà Nội ? have you tried some “bánh chưng”-square sticky rice cake with meat and bean fiiling, and “bánh dày”-round sticky rice cake yet? Tết Holiday of Sài Gòn is somehow different from Hà Nội, we rarely decorate our home with peach blossom (those in pink) but Apricot blossom (those in yellow), moreover , we often buy a little kumquat tree (often in a shape of a christmas tree) , kumquat in Chinese sounds similar to the word which means luck.

    For the traditional fruits of Tết,like almost Vietnamese ,my parent will buy these 4 kinds of fruit so that when we combine their names , we will have a good and lucky “spell” sounds like “cầu vừa đủ xài” – means :”hope that everything is just enough to spend” – I will try to explain more in the list below, hope it may help ^ – ^

    1/ In Vietnamese: trái mãng cầu —> we take the last word : cầu
    In English : the soursop (or custard apple is also acceptable)—-> cầu = pray/hope/wish

    2/ In Vietnamese: trái dừa —-> sounds like “vừa”
    In English: coconut —-> vừa means just

    3/ In vietnamese: trái đu đủ—->we take the last word: đủ
    In English : papaya —-> đủ means enough

    4/ In Vietnamese: trái xoài —> sounds like xài
    In English : mango —-> xài means spend/use

    1+2+3+4 = cầu vừa đủ xài = hope that every thing is just enough to spend (don’t need too much, too many , just enough is fine ) ^ – ^ however , many of people in Saigon may buy only 2 big watermelons for the fruit display during Tết.

    we also have lucky money,visit some pagodas in the new year’s eve , they say that if you can be the very first one who enter the pagoda with the very first incense , you may have good luck for every single days in the following year ^ – ^ The hometown of my grandparent was Hainan Island-China ,that’s why my family also prepare some sweet soya noodles and a kind of rice cake with many mushrooms and tofu on the top.

    My place in Tết is trully different in comparison to the dynamic Sài gòn in the other “working days” , many “temporary citizens” come back to their hometowns visiting their families. My city now may come back to its original apperance,)seems to be bigger) – quite streets, the air is fresher (somehow cooler), slow passing life , smiling faces…it’s my Tết ^ – ^

    1. Yinyin, wow, thank you for taking the time to share the details of Tet’s traditions with me! I was very interested to learn more about the customs.

      I did try some treats when I was invited into the home of the family in Hanoi during Tet celebrations. They also gave me a paper ornament representing the water buffalo, and told me about the ‘lucky money’ tradition. I have visions of people on motorbikes carrying beautiful blossomed trees home too. I remember seeing some kumquat trees too.

      Your mention of tropical fruits makes me long for the wonderful food we ate in Southeast Asia!

      Are you no longer living in Saigon now, and where will you spend Tet this year?

Join the conversation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: