Through my eyes: Faces of Hanoi

TGIF! Let’s go back to Vietnam for today…

We were walking through an utterly chaotic marketplace (think motorbikes, squealing children and rampant chickens all battling it out on the streets), and noticed these guys set up in the middle of it all. Cooking, eating and smoking, while I was fearing for my safety (motorbikes don’t really care whether they ride on the road or the footpath), they couldn’t have been more relaxed… They seemed to be having as much fun watching the chaos unfold around them as I was.

I really didn’t see much graffiti or street art in Vietnam, so this caught my eye straight away. It was around lunch time, and there was a decent crowd gathered around the little plastic stools and baskets filled with herbs and assorted sauces. We stopped for a banh mi – how could we not?!

While the night market was being set up by the hard working Vietnamese women (simultaneously swatting away cheeky children), the men called happy hour and gathered on corners for beers and a gossip session. Coming from a culture where the work is divided relatively evenly between the sexes, this was a big reminder to me that not all women are fortunate enough to not be expected to work, raise a family, cook, clean, and do whatever else needs to be done…

This photo is not an uncommon sight on the streets of Hanoi. For the most part, it’s the women run the street food stalls, and when they’re not serving up something delicious, they’re either chatting animatedly with their companions, or staring off into space.  It’s hot, humid, and there are more motorbikes on the roads than you’d think possible, stirring up all sorts of dust and pollution. These women work hard in conditions that aren’t always comfortable. They’re pretty amazing 🙂img_7109


Through my eyes: Faces of Hoi An (part 2)

This lady was set up in the little shade those trees provided, selling cold drinks. The heat of the sun was extraordinary that day, and it wasn’t just me feeling it – we walked by just as she took a cold drink for herself.

These guys were leaving school for the day; they were among the last out of the blue gates, making their way down the street. On either side of the school gates were street food stalls set up, and groups of the older children congregated there for something to eat, while the younger ones seemed to just head straight off home.

This lady was among the fray in the market. With sections for seafood, meat, herbs, spices, noodles, eggs, and whatever else was left to throw together, describing it as chaotic would be an understatement. But this lady just sat there, quietly tending to her baskets of fish…

We’d seen this dog wondering around for a few days, easily recognisable by its beautiful face and little white socks. This particular day, it was the beautiful turquoise colour of the shop front that caught my eye first, and then I noticed these guys just sitting together, watching the world go by.

If this wasn’t the most beautiful little face I saw in Hoi An, then I just don’t know! We were wandering around the marketplace just on closing time, and made our way up the stairs and onto the balcony over looking the street below. We saw a little rooftop courtyard where this little girl was playing, alone. Singing and dancing and giggling and moving rocks and leaves around on the floor into patterns. I took a photo from where I was standing on the stairs on the way back down when she saw me, ran over and smiled. Children are amazing; they don’t see colour or race, they just see someone to smile and wave at 🙂

Through my eyes: Faces of Hoi An (part 1)

The people in Hoi An are some of the loveliest I’ve ever met. Though there was often a language barrier to overcome, they still made an effort to understand and be understood. They were happy to joke and barter with us in the market place, explain the different teas and coffees on offer at the tea houses, and apologised when they didn’t understand our questions – not that it could possibly be their fault that we had come to their country unable to speak their language!

Some of my favourites photos from the trip were of the people; so much so that this is a two-parter. Let me start to introduce you to some of the faces and souls that make up Hoi An…


This older woman was slowly pacing around the market place, utterly oblivious to everything going on around her. Including the speeding motor bikes, almost stopping my heart several times.

We watched this beautiful lady from the porch seats of the Hoi An Roastery coffee shop. She was sitting there with a dreamy look in her eyes, until the family dog came out to investigate. Look to the balcony above her head and you’ll see it; apparently pup was unhappy with the goings on outside, and made it known very loudly. Not long after this photo was taken, the lady left her post and soon later appeared on the balcony, at which point pup was unceremoniously thrown inside.

I was actually trying to take a photo of the stunning building that houses the Sakura Restaurant and divides the street, but this lady was shooting for a photobomb. When husband pointed that out, I told her to smile and I’d take her photo instead, and smile she did 🙂

We had the most amazing cao lau here! The lady on the left in the polka dot top is Bee and she runs the show like an absolute boss. Watching her make food, greet and seat guests, collect money and tidy up was  street choreography at its best. Later that night, I drew up the scene in watercolour, and showed her the next night when we went back for dinner; the squeal of excitement she let out and the way her eyes lit up as she grabbed my notebook from me to show her friend was pure magic, and one of those moments I’ll never forget.

And this lady we visited for donuts. She just calmly cooked her donuts in the tiny little vat of boiling oil in the middle of her cart, amidst the mayhem of the night, and looked like nothing could possibly disturb her zen…