Little Saigon

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  • Smiling Vietnamese lady
  • I was at the Victoria Street Lunar Festival in my neighborhood of Richmond, Melbourne, which is sometimes affectionately called ‘Little Saigon.’ Victoria Street was closed to traffic for the day and stalls had been set up just as they are every year for this vibrant street festival. There was a carnival atmosphere in the air as locals and visitors slowly wandered up and down the transformed street.

    As I made my way down the street, weaving my way through the crowds, I spotted a woman wearing a conical hat sitting at the Chùa Phước Tường Buddhist temple food stall. She had a bright happy smile and was speaking in Vietnamese, enticing people to stop and buy food. The scene didn’t look like Richmond anymore, instead it looked more like Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, or Hanoi. For a brief moment I felt like I was in Vietnam again, replaying my adventures of 2012 and 2013.

    The festival is a colorful affair, an early celebration of the coming Chinese New Year (which is actually next month). Among the activities were energetic Chinese Lion Dances, very loud firecrackers, and traditional folk music and dancing on stage.

    As I walked back up the street I looked over to see if the smiling lady was still there; she was. This time I went over and asked if I could take her picture. She nodded and smiled at me, just as she had for the thousands of people who must have walked passed her that day. I thanked her and walked away as she laughed with another lady.

    It was something of a throw away shot really. I didn’t set it up, I just pointed the camera and pressed the shutter. But as I look through the pictures from the day, this is the one that stands out. It doesn’t capture the atmosphere of the entire Victoria Street Festival, I know, but I think perhaps it captures the joy of the day.

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