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Saigon at work, in a chilling cold night

By Thanh Nguyen   December 14, 2016 | 05:54 pm GMT+7

It's business as usual for street vendors, motorbike taxi drivers and a skinny Santa Claus when shivering winds blow in.

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Xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers gather for a bonfire on Ba Thang Hai Street in District 10. “It’s too cold,” one of them says. A tropical low has brought rains and winds and cooled the whole city down to 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit) the past three nights. For most residents of the city, that is just too cold. Photos by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

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A young Santa Claus stops to take photos with a pedestrian on Nguyen Hue in District 1, for VND20,000 or less than a dollar. The street looks almost empty at 10 p.m.

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Three workers of Saigon Water Corporation are at work on Le Hong Phong Street, District 10 at 11 p.m. One of them says it’s their daily job, fixing pipeline problems on major streets from late at night until the morning. “It’s fine. We’ve prepared coats and cigarettes for the cold.”

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Ngoc, a 60-year-old cyclo driver from the Mekong Delta’s Ben Tre Province, waits for customers on Tran Hung Dao Street in District 1 at midnight. “I have fewer customers these past few days as it’s cold and it keeps raining,” he says. Ngoc has skipped dinner after getting robbed earlier.

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A food vendor outside Ben Thanh Market at 1 a.m.

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Tran Thi Thanh, 65, shivers next to her food baskets on Pham Ngu Lao Street in the city downtown. The woman from the central province of Binh Dinh has been selling food on the city streets for 20 years, working between 4 p.m. to 4 a.m., earning $180 every month. “I have to run around a lot every day trying not to get caught,” she says, referring to a ban on street vendors.

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Nguyen Van Sang smokes to keep himself warm at a corner in District 3. The Saigon native works as a motorbike taxi driver.

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A vendor at a flower market in District 10 sleeps in a hammock at 1 a.m. Vendors say they really want to close early to sleep at home, but they still need to work.

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Porters at the flower market. “Moving things around keep you warm,” a man says.

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Pho Thieu Dan, 59, a scrap metal collector, rests at a bus stop in District 1 at 2 a.m. “Someone gave me this raincoat, or I couldn’t have survived this cold.”

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Nguyen Van Chanh, 45, sells rice snacks in District 1. He has been doing this job for more than 10 years to keep his children in Binh Dinh in school. “They will have a better life than me,” he says.

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