Enough water buffalo for now (there will be more).
After a long, hard, hot, 3-hour trek up, down, and across the hills, valleys, and rice patties in the Sa Pa region in northern Viet Nam, we stopped at a small store for some cold drinks and snacks. We were with our trusty guide, Thao, and Lei Wa, a nice lady from the Red Dao minority who followed us from the start to finish of our trek (more on her later).
After spending some time looking out at the country-side that we had just crossed, two boys came out of the back of the store and started playing pool. I don’t often shoot with a long lens, but given how strenuous our hikes were, I was carrying just one Oly with a 12mm-100mm f/4 (full-frame equivalent of 24mm-200mm) zoom. When I saw the boys playing pool, I didn’t want to perturb the situation, so I used the zoom and bright background to get this image.
*If you don’t recognized the title of this post, it is a song from The Music Man – look it up.
It seemed like every town had a big Sunday market, and Bac Ha had one of the largest we visited. People would travel from their remote houses in the surrounding hills to sell their produce, poultry, livestock, clothing, and housewares. There was everything imaginable. I found the areas where people were selling their water buffalo to be the most fascinating and dynamic. Mostly men, but a few women would also be there in their traditional outfits.
Have you ever been to a market where you could buy everything from clothing, to produce, to fish and meat, to knives, to water buffalo? This was the standard array (and more) at the Sunday markets in northern Viet Nam. This lady was in her traditional tribe clothing, which they make themselves. Using umbrellas to shade themselves is also common practice. I will need to ask our guide, Trinh Dinh Thao, which tribe she was from.
Three of our days in Viet Nam were spent on long treks (hikes) up, down, and across the hillsides and valleys, among the rice fields, farm lands, and homes of the minority groups in the northern-most areas of the country. This was the only way to really meet the people, encounter them at work in the fields, and see share some rice wine in their homes.
Since I’m not much of a landscape photographer, and only passably in shape as a hiker, when we would get to the top of a picturesque valley, I rarely succeeded in taking an adequate representation of the specific terrain we had just crossed. I can only tell you, that each time, it felt like we were on the top of the world. In full transparency, these two images, were taken when we hopped out of our van on the road between Bac Ha (our first night’s stop in the north) to Topas (our second nights stop in the north). You will just have to believe me when I say that we hiked several valleys just like this one.
A simple study of one area of Hanoi as seen from the train tracks before they cross the Red River going north. Looking down I show you four views of Hanoi life that I discovered in my short stay there.
There are still many of these older men riding their Cyclo’s looking for tourists to shuttle around the city. I guess they are still an effective means of making a little money, but I saw many more that were empty than full. Hanoi is really small enough to explore each neighborhood by foot. Perhaps it is convenient to take a short taxi ride to a different area and then by foot again. It is the photographer’s way, even in the heat.
One night, our group wanted to go to a local Bun Cha restaurant. It was just a few blocks from the hotel, really only a 15 minute walk. Our tour guide company wanted to pick us up in a taxi, escort us to the restaurant, and escort us back home. Perhaps it was just to make some extra money. We happily walked both ways (and the Bun Cha was delicious).
About this image
This image was taken near the Hanoi’s Old Quarter bordering Hoàn Kiếm Lake, which is where I saw most of these cyclos. I was taken to photograph this because of the large gesture of the blue, red, and white shrouding over the front of these buildings. My guess is that it is covering some construction in progress. There were two figures in the door way, having a conversation. I have a series of shots, with different things going on in the scene, but my commitment to tell a story and connect the dots with layers of juxtapositions, I chose this moment with the expressionless cyclo driver passing by the modern mannequins in the background.
Busy Hanoi Tribes of Vietnam Within The Frame Photographic Adventures September 2019
These small “restaurants” are typical in Hanoi, actually most of Viet Nam I would suspect. On my first day out, it was these colorful restaurant stalls, flowered shirts, and the constant movement of motorbikes, that caught my attention.