Smog. And Sunday impressions. And blue sky. And more smog.
Sometimes (depending on one’s interpretation, “sometimes” can mean “all the time”) it’s nice to just do nothing on a Sunday, hop on a motorbike, and take a leisurely ride through the 21-million metropolitan region of Sài Gòn. Especially when the air quality, according to the IQAir app, is 41 and thus in the green zone of “Good”, which is rather the exception here. Usually, the air quality is somewhere between orange “Unhealthy for sensitive people” and red “Unhealthy,” with regular excursions into purple “Very unhealthy” and sometimes even brown aka “Hazardous. But not today – the air is clear, the sky is blue, and the view from the balcony extends to the Núi Chứa Chan mountain ≈75 kilometers away. On smoggy days, the view rarely stretches more than a little beyond the other bank of the Saigon River, which flows more or less in front of my apartment, approximately 1.5 – 2 kilometers.
So my partner and I put on our masks (which everyone did before Covid, and everyone still does, because it’s a matter of decency and health), jumped on our bike, and rode off. First to Chuck’s Burger to enjoy a delicious double cheeseburger with pulled pork naughty fries – and then into the sun and fresh air through the neighborhood to make the roads and street food stands unsafe. A sunny day, for once. And heavy, ooof 🏽 Until tomorrow, when – fittingly for Monday – hazy smog will probably haunt us again.
From Bình Thạnh via District 1 to Thủ Thiêm in District 2
Random impressions with smoke, because something is always on fire
Did you know that Hà Nội, the capital of Việt Nam, has the second worst air quality in Southeast Asia after Pasarkemis in Indonesia, according to an annual survey conducted by IQAir in 2022? Although the southern metropolis of Sài Gòn is larger in size and population and is considered the industrial powerhouse of Việt Nam, its air quality is slightly better due to the constant pleasant winds from the sea, which blow all the murky, brownish air towards the countryside and Cambodia. At least on some days.
From District 2 via Thủ Thiêm back to Bình Thạnh
Temple, water, and kites in the late afternoon
Looks so cozy, sunny, and beautiful, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is that most days there is an unhealthy haze over the city in the mornings and evenings, and on some days it lasts all day from smogrise to smogset. It’s easy to mistake the morning haze on the horizon for wintry fog – but it’s not fog. For the most part. It is literally air heavy enough to be cut, caused by hundreds of illegal trash burners and industrial chimneys, thousands of charcoal grills, and millions upon millions of motorbikes, cars, and trucks without a catalytic converter to comply with environmental regulations. This is what everyday life (and Sundays) often looks like:
Hazy balcony views
Hero image: Screenshot of The Metropole Thủ Thiêm | Lắp Kính Quá Đẹp, Giai Đoạn 2 và Giai Đoạn 3 Tiến Độ Quá Nhanh on YouTube.