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From Saigon to Đà Lạt: A Tourist's Journey Through Vietnam in 1963

Old archives of images from 1960s Saigon are easy to come by, but how often does one get to have a peek into the past version of Đà Lạt.

Sans the ubiquity of camera phones today, photography was once an expensive hobby that few could afford. For most of the 1960s and 1970s, visual records of Saigon and Vietnam were created nearly exclusively by foreign travelers and American servicemen on their film cameras. This is one of the reasons why many albums of old Saigon photos are just limited to downtown Saigon, while those taken outside the city were often in the vicinity of US Army bases.

A view of the Saigon River taken from the Caravelle Hotel.

This set of film photos showcases a typical tourist’s trail in Vietnam in the 1960s: photos taken from the balcony at Caravelle, a detour to the Saigon Zoo, and local city streets chock-full of bicycles. Nothing much is known about the author, C. E. Hablutzel, apart from the fact that they were a prolific travel photographer who visited many countries across the world from 1960 to 1965.

Đà Lạt Market.

Hablutzel’s Vietnam itinerary included Saigon, Lái Thiêu, Thủ Dầu Một and even a rare trip to Đà Lạt, offering some vistas of the sleepy resort town during a time before today's rampant concretization. If the Saigon shots are filled with people and urban rhythms, Đà Lạt photos are awash in different shades of green, from luxuriant hills to checkerboards of vegetable gardens being grown in the open air without the greenhouses of today.

Have a closer look below:

A funeral procession on Lê Lợi.

Morning market on Bến Chương Dương (Võ Văn Kiệt Boulevard).

Hablutzel's tour guide at Lăng Ông Bà Chiểu.

Tomb of Lê Văn Duyệt.

A bird's-eye view of Saigon.

In front of the Saigon Opera House.

Vietnam from above.

The intersection of Nguyễn Biểu and Phan Văn Trị.

The temple in the Saigon Zoo.

The Bến Nghé Canal near Ông Lãnh Bridge.

River communities near Ông Lãnh Bridge.

Bến Nghé Canal.

Local kids playing in the canal. View from Bông Bridge.

Durian vendors on Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Boulevard.

Vendor selling mangosteens on the street in Lái Thiêu.

Garden in Lái Thiêu.

A pottery workshop in Thủ Dầu Một.

Đà Lạt Market.

Pathways near Prenn Waterfall.

Ankroet Lake.

An elephant serving tourists.

Prenn Waterfall.

Fresh fruits at Đà Lạt Market.

Cam Ly Waterfall.

Gougah Waterfall.

Liên Khương Waterfall.

Crop fields stretching across hilly areas.

No greenhouses to be seen.

Vegetable fields in suburban Đà Lạt.

A boy in Đà Lạt fishing on the bank of Hồ Xuân Hương, with the Palace Hotel in the distance.

[Photos by C. E. Hablutzel via Flickr user manhhai]

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