Hanoi - 11 years on
Bac Ha Markets
Xin Chào Hà Nội
Last week I got back home from a very exciting photography workshop with a bunch of really talented people. Not only was it an experience of a lifetime but I learned so much from my teachers and talented fellow participants from all around the world. People came around as far as Canada, United States, Argentina, and of-course Australia. With all our 6 days workshop spun across the exotic countryside of North Vietnam and starting and ending with that very romantic Paris of Asia - Hanoi! Or as the locals call it Hà Nội. Having been in Hanoi back in 2006 - this wasn't going to be a new destination for me.
I was already besotted with this romantic city back then - the exotic food, their genuine love for simple things, fresh baguettes on street corners, the charming french overtones in their culture, the Vietnamese coffee... it goes on and on. But in 2017 I saw the city with a deeper feeling. It is even more beautiful than I had known it to be. It reminded me of Marguerite Duras' book - "The Lover", the boats up and down Mekong delta, the smell of Hau sua (autumn flower), the romantic old quarter, the nationalism, the Vietnamese flag, the grilled Bun cha (chargrilled pork noodles)...and the smile and hospitality.
Time is a circle here. People smile, smoke, share their meals and they even play songs to strangers like me.
I got out of the hotel one night around 10:30pm. I wanted to see the old quarter by night. I got another espresso and trotted the friendly streets. Befriended smokers playing guitar on the footpath and was asked to join in and smoke. By this stage it was 11:30 pm - I chimed in. Hanoi wasn't just serving up another night it was living and breathing and intoxicating every passer by. I sat down with their smoking songs. They were catchy, soulful. And when one ended after a short pause they chorused mot hai ba...(one, two, three...) and went for the next one even louder. Time stood still. It was way past midnight when I got back to my room.
It is still ok to have a coffee and fall asleep quietly. People still smile but now they have smart phones too. All you have to do is eat, drink and soak in the culture and take the occasional photos. And we did just that except with a bunch of totally fun-loving people that took the experience to a whole new level. It is a blessing to be among old friends and make new ones that have an equally weird ethos to photography. Im not alone! :) Thank you so much guys for such a priceless experience.
Eric has an innate way of attracting people that are humble and genuine. It is perhaps something he himself lives by and hence attracts the same energy in other individuals. Like I have always said from the getgo - I'm truly indebted for his love and guidance in my photographic journey. Thank you, 정말 고맙습니다 Eric Kim. Thank you Ha Chu Viet and Neil for your guidance and humour and sharing your stories. And a very special thank you to Cindy for organising everything that went so smoothly and Hien our driver who took around the fascinating country side of North Vietnam. Driving through the muddy terrain of the fog soaked villages. Meandering fearlessly from Lao Cai to Sapa on windy roads with a visibility of 3 meters or less. My heart skipped a few beats, my ears were blocked now and then from the high altitude drive but he always wore a smile and offered me many free smokes and tea.
Xin Càm Ơn!
Xin càm òn to the amazing Cindy who works behind the scenes and makes amazing things come together just like magic. A prolific multi-tasker with a heart of gold. Cindy's humbleness is touching. She never likes to take credit for anything. Thank you Cindy for making this such an effortless workshop. Thank you for the such a memorable trip.