Category Archives: Vietnam

Nets in Halang Bay

Amid the vast floating towns of Halang Bay, everyone seems to be casting nets. In some cases these are part of the floating homes themselves. At night, the lights go on, the nets go down via a winch, and the fish wander into the nets and are caught. Fishing boats, like the one shown in the photo, are tied off to the homes and operate in a bit more open water in much the same way.

Nets in Halang Bay © Harold Davis

Nets in Halang Bay © Harold Davis

Earlier today, Eric and I hired a small boat to take us around the floating villages. This was fascinating. The boatman even took us into his own floating home. There will be many more images to follow!

Cat Ba Island Sunset

The day started slowly. The drive from Hanoi to Halang City seemed interminable. We passed endless rows of the gritty Vietnamese version of strip malls, factories, and Soviet-era coal-fired power plants, all in an overcast haze compounded by the emissions of millions of motorcycles and diesel trucks. There didn’t seem to be a single green park, or anything untouched by development-in-a-hurry on the whole four hour drive.

Cat Ba Island Sunset © Harold Davis

Cat Ba Island Sunset © Harold Davis

Once in Halang City, the pace picked up and things got beautiful in a hurry. We loaded our bags over the drop on a jetty to a small speedboat, and crowded in. We were off across Halang Bay, and through the maze of karst rock formations to Cat Ba Island. Once settled into our hotel on Cat Ba, we took another boat (there’s an iPhone shot of Eric and myself on this boat at the bottom of this story), followed by a sort of ship-to-shore water taxi to Monkey Island. In my mind, the most striking thing I saw on this leg of the trip were the floating communities we encountered on the way back—cities of ocean dwellers in their own boats, tied together for a while then ready to go off on their own.

Commercial Fishing Pier at Night, Cat Ba Island, Vietnam © Harold Davis

Commercial Fishing Pier at Night, Cat Ba Island, Vietnam © Harold Davis

After dinner, when it was dark, Eric and I photographed the commercial fishing pier area on Cat Ba, looking for an impressionistic effect. All in all, a very fun day!

Harold and Eric at Sea © Harold Davis

Harold and Eric at Sea © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape

Lady in a Local Market

Driving the long route back towards Hanoi from Meo Vac there was a vibrant market going on in a dusty hinterland Vietnamese mountain town. Eric and I asked our guide and driver to stop our car, and wandered the market with our cameras. Evidently, this was not a place on the beaten track. We were as much curiosities as curious, photographic subjects as photographers. Several market goers wanted to take selfies with me, and Eric gathered a small crowd as his tattoos were much observed and admired.

Lady in a Local Market © Harold Davis

Lady in a Local Market © Harold Davis

As is well known, the camera is an instrument of flirtation, and I flirted shamelessly with a bank of women “of a certain age” standing along one wall dressed in their tribal colors. This mischievous lady enjoyed what I was doing a great deal, finally getting a little bashful with me, then asking to see the photos of her—and enjoying them very vociferously with gestures, since we spoke no language other than photography in common.

Mountains near Meo Vac

The mountains near Meo Vac are in an area untraveled until recently that abuts the Chinese-Vietnam border. These mountains are unusual and spectacular, with high and narrow roads. A permit is still required to visit the area, and there is no public transportation.

Mountains near Meo Vac © Harold Davis

Mountains near Meo Vac © Harold Davis

I have many impressions of this dream-like landscape, and will be posting more images as I can. Right now, our driver and our guide have been plying me with a clear, home-made corn liquor that is very potent, and a spicey dish made from goat, so one image is all I can manage before I head to bed and get ready for more adventures tomorrow!

Also posted in Landscape

Flower Hmong Girl

We drove along the mountains roads in the northern tribal country of Vietnam. Whenever there was a particularly nice vista of distant mountains and terraced rice farming, we’d stop for a photo (of these photos, more later!).

Flower Hmong Girl © Harold Davis

Flower Hmong Girl © Harold Davis

Often, Eric and I would set up our tripods for the landscape images. We met many local people while doing this, mostly Hmong (the Flower Hmongs are one the three tribes of Hmong peoples). Most Hmong, like this handsome young woman, were very friendly with smiles, and mostly glad to have their photos taken and interested to see the results on the LCD. Maybe we were a welcome break from the harsh realities of life as a farmer in a steeply terraced environment.

Rice Paddies with Reflected Tree

Rice Paddies with Tree Reflection, Vietnam © Harold Davis

Rice Paddies with Reflected Tree, Vietnam © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Monochrome

Hmong Street Vendor

Sapa is a hill town in the mountainous north of Vietnam fairly near the Chinese border. It’s been known as a resort since the French founded a military sanitarium here around 1900 as a relief from the tropical heat of most of the Vietnamese country. The rugged area around Sapa is home to a number of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities, including the Hmong peoples.

Hmong Street Vendor © Harold Davis

Hmong Street Vendor © Harold Davis

While I expected Sapa to be somewhat touristic, I didn’t expect the crazy cultural dissonance we’ve found. There’s more construction going on here than anywhere I’ve seen recently, up to and including the west side of Manhattan. There’s a street party going on right now that could be Times Square. From one side the noise of the partying on the streets meets loud Karaoke coming from the other.

Meanwhile, the tribal Hmong people are reduced to a kind of side show of street vendors (like the beautiful “black” Hmong shown in the photo) and persistent hawking of ersatz crafts by Hmong young and old.

It’s hard to see the construction boom here as anything other than a bubble fueled by easy money, and it is hard to see all this as ending well for the Hmong and other ethnic Vietnamese minorities.

More photos to follow!

Thap Rua

Thap Rua—Turtle Tower—is a structure in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, an island of peace in the bustle of downtown Hanoi. The Turtle Tower is linked to an ancient legend of a magical sword, a powerful Dragon who helped defeat Chinese invaders, and the protective Golden Turtle God.

Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) © Harold Davis

Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome

Imminent Death by Motorcycle

Hanoi is a fascinating city—vibrant, prosperous, and ramshackle all at once. Stepping outside means risking imminent death by motorcycle. The only way to cross a street is to head across at a steady pace, hoping that the vehicular calculations of relative velocity versus future positioning in time and space match your own. There is no stopping, and this is no game of (or for) chickens. Crossing the street in Hanoi is a fun sport in a way, at least once the death-by-motorcycle defying parameters are internalized and accepted.

Outer Crossing © Harold Davis

Outer Crossing © Harold Davis

Above: The Long Bien Bridge “walk way”; Below: View from the back of our hotel in the Old Quarter.

Rear Window © Harold Davis

Rear Window © Harold Davis

Long Bien Bridge

The Long Bien Bridge stretches across the Red River from Hanoi, Vietnam. It is a cantilevered iron structure designed in the studio of Gustav Eiffel. Strategically important because it connects the port of Haiphong with Hanoi, it was extensively bombed during the US-Vietnamese war.

© Harold Davis

Long Bien Bridge © Harold Davis

Exploring Hanoi with my friend Eric, we decided to try to walk across the Long Bien Bridge, which today is used as a train bridge, with two side walkways that are the domain of the ever-present motor cycles. Crossing the bridge didn’t seem very safe for a mere pedestrian, but it was fun photographing the “distant light” through the train portion of the bridge.

Also posted in Photography

Vietnamese Dongs (VNDs)

I’m very excited about an upcoming photo trip to Vietnam. In preparation for my trip, I stopped by my bank and got some walking around money. The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong, or VND. The photo below shows 1,600,000 VNDs. This is a little less than $70 at current exchange rates.

Vietnamese Dongs (VNDs) © Harold Davis

Vietnamese Dongs (VNDs) © Harold Davis

Below, the revered Ho Chi Minh as shown on a 200,000 VND banknote. Ho once stated something we would do well to heed in these times, “Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.”

Ho Chi Minh © Harold Davis

Ho Chi Minh © Harold Davis