Olympic torch passes through Saigon
Erin: On our last day in Vietnam, Seth and I noticed some heavy security in the center of downtown Saigon and thought maybe a diplomat or celebrity was arriving at/leaving the fancy hotel across the street. When we stopped by the tourist office for some information about transportation to the airport and inquired about the fuss, they told us that the Olympic torch relay was going to pass right by the office around 6 pm. We had been following the incidents in other cities via BBC and CNN and were excited to witness the relay in person, so we camped out for a few hours and watched the crowd gather. The tourist police apparently thought Seth was one sketchy dude because different officers kept asking him to move farther away from the route. Finally, we found a "safe" spot about eight or nine rows of people back from the road.
It was amazing to see how pro-China the crowd was. I've never witnessed a rally or public event in a communist country before, and the absence of any kind of dissent or protest was a bit eerie. There were tons of people waving Chinese flags and the crowd would frequently break into spontaneous chants of "China! China! China!" This photo only shows a small portion of the flags we could see from where we were standing. What a difference from the videos we saw of the torch passing through Paris and the last minute re-routing in San Francisco! As TV cameras filmed the most enthusiastic crowd members, I could picture the next morning's headlines.
Just after dusk, the police vehicles doing crowd control intensified and we could hear cheers coming from down the road to our right. The runner passed us very quickly amid a flurry of excitement and I was only able to snap a couple shots by standing on my tippy toes. Although it's pretty blurry, this one (www.flickr.com/photos/sethmazow/2540474212/) was the best of the lot.
Soon after, the crowd started to disperse back into the streets, forming a river of motorbikes (www.flickr.com/photos/sethmazow/2539650035/). As Seth and I walked to our last dinner in Vietnam, we had to dodge more than a few motorbike drivers who decided that the sidewalk provided the most efficient route home.