The past year has seen many people across the world grapple with a very specific type of loss; the sadness of a trip not taken, the mourning of exploring new cultures, the yearning for experiences beyond the anomie of the supermarket. As that strong desire for, and impulse to, wander the world fell prey to the pandemic in a turbulent 2020, we seemed at one point to be surging toward an anticipatory dystopia. Who were we without travel? What do we have to look forward to when there is no international holiday booked for summer?

Over the course of the past 12 months, we’ve been commissioning artists, painters and illustrators from different cities all over the world to paint a picture of what they see out their windows – either real or imaginary. Most artists have been confined to these cities during the global lockdowns, and all have a close connection to the place they have illustrated. Each artist has a “GRAZIA At Home City Guide” perched on their window sill, insider guides to the cities you need to visit and recollections of moments past in these nooks of the world; how they drank in the palaces, how they wandered through the parks and how they ate and ate and ate. There’s recommendations too – local dishes, phrases and lessons – so you can start imagining your own itinerary from the comfort of your own home. Today, we’re headed to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

The Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is an amalgamation of culture – Asian, European and American – and it’s because of this diversity that the city is the biggest in Vietnam.

“More than 100 years ago, it was a city in the woods,” illustrator Phuc Pham says. “When I was young, I lived in the suburbs of the city and the city looked like the countryside – I could enjoy the countryside and city life at the same time. Now everything is bigger and taller.”

In turn, the city is a hotspot for the best food in Vietnam, particularly for popular dishes such as Cơm tấm sườn (grilled ribs and broken rice) and trà sữa (milk tea). And if Pham is not exploring new restaurants and walking amid the crowded streets, a swim and yoga is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the Vietnamese cosmopolitan.

The widespread city is infamous for its hot and humid weather, something that for Pham is a fond memory and an annoyance all the same. But according to Pham it is why he loves Ho Chi Minh City.

“Weather in Ho Chi Minh City is very unpredictable. Sometimes it rains very hard, sometimes it is very sunny. Sometimes the weather will tire you out and make you hate it, but at times it will cheer you up,” Pham lovingly recalls. “Whenever I travel away from my home country or my city, I always remember the city’s weather and understand why I love it.”

The scent of rain both relaxes Pham and energises him.

While Vietnam experienced a far more relaxed quarantine than much of the world, it instilled a sense of importance when it comes to family for the illustrator. And when we’re able to travel again, he hopes family is top of mind.

“I usually travel with my friends but 2020 taught me to respect my family a lot,” Pham says. “Because of that, please save time to travel with our family more.”

And with that notion in mind, the Vietnamese say, “Đi cà phê hông?” as to invite family and friends for a coffee.

Follow Phuc Pham @pham.quang.phuc

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