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Saigon Designer Envisages Classic Vietnamese Transportations With Some Pizzaz

What if your motorbike had rocket propulsion?

That is what one illustration by Thái Minh Triết considers in his series of images that add a little modern color to classic Vietnamese transportation methods. The playful additions to the old photos allow viewers to imagine a time when Saigon's joyous energy will return to fill the streets. 

The former Saigoneer artist shared that he created the six pieces when thinking about "the past of Vietnam, the foundation, the generations, the culture…searching about the old Vietnam."

While he now works in Saigon as a fashion designer, these works hark back to Triết's childhood days in his hometown of Vinh Long and previous eras in Saigon. It is impossible to look at them and not imagine bygone days when Cub bikes filled the streets and cyclos could operate in any district. 

'The Heli-Gossip': "I love the three ladies on the ba gác; we could go everywhere and see a group of ladies gossiping about something or someone. Want to know what’s up to the world? Ask them. The helicopter hat idea is from my favorite Doraemon treasure."

Triết explains: "I miss jumping into the river to avoid the heat, making toys from water hyacinth, nighttime ghost stories, coconut rat hunting…Many times I was running faster than Usain Bolt because of bees. There was no Google, just some kids + nature + imagination = the FUN...Nobody had a cellphone at that time; if you wanted to hang out with friends you had to call their landline phone, set up a location and time, and show up on time…Those real moments were kept in your memories and you didn't need any of the tagged photos to remind you of them."

Using photos he has collected over the years that he feels a connection with, Triết spent between one and two days making each piece simply for fun, with some inspiration from favorite sci-fi material including Doraemon, Dragon Ball and Gao Ranger. 

While mentioning his sympathy for the many challenges faced by people during the current COVID-19 lockdown and the difficulties of receiving bad news from loved ones while being unable to return to his hometown despite his mom's requests, Triết admits that working on art has been a lot easier during the lockdown. Of his process during this time, he offered the advice: "I recommend you just turn off the internet and let ideas come to you."

Take a look at the rest of the collection below while thinking about Triết's message that: "This is a hard time for everyone...Hard times teach us the value of joy."

Triết says this depicts a "common Mekong Delta scene with a family, ducks, the umbrella, nón lá. If you grew up seeing these boats your head will immediately play the cach-cach-cach-cach sound of the boat's engine."

A classic scene of snacks for sale, familiar to anyone who was on the streets between 2pm and 5pm.

A 1960s bus launched into the future.

The alluring expression of the woman in "Sneaky Eyes" reminds Triết of his first love. And anyone from the 1990s will remember being on an overloaded bike with no helmet

'The Lover': Triết says it is a dad, a husband, or a boyfriend with a rose on his way to see his love in Saigon, 1966.