Starting 2016 in Vietnam
Like a lot of people, I love to travel. Travelling allows you to experience different cultures up close and learn about the daily life of people around the world by living it firsthand. My wife Caroline and I were yearning for an adventure so we found some time to fly east and spend three and a half weeks exploring the country of Vietnam. While there I also began my newest photographic adventure, taking one portrait everyday for the entire year. This new project, Shooting Humans, provided an amazing excuse to dig a little deeper and meet the locals who call this country home.
We started our journey in southern Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City, or as the locals still call it, Saigon. It's a large, modern city but it still maintains a certain charm and tradition. It's also full of motorbikes, and scarce on stoplights, so to explore Saigon (and other cities in Vietnam) you have to learn to calmly walk into a sea of moving motorbikes and trust that they will zip around you.
The capital city of Hanoi is in the north of the country and is quite different in many respects. It is also a large city with some modern structures, but the Old Quarter feels more like what I traditionally imagined Vietnam to look like - narrow streets lined by shops and food stalls.
This kind man was my first portrait of my newest 365 project, Shooting Humans. I noticed him working in front of his shop and I immediately wanted to take his portrait. I kindly asked if it was ok to take a photo and he nodded yes. I have a feeling he anticipated that I would take one photo and move on but I kept on shooting as he went about his work. You can see all of the photos from the project here.
I love capturing geometric shapes and became enamoured with Vietnam's modern, large scale bridges.
A highlight of the trip was definitely the amazing landscapes in Hạ Long Bay, an area full of thousands of islands with limestone cliffs, and a few floating fishing villages where some locals live year round.
The people of Vietnam are very industrious. On the island of Cam Kim near the historical city of Hoi An, locals worked on building and repairing old boats.
Rice paddies are everywhere in this country. Vietnam is the second largest producer of the grain in the world, and the people spend long, hard days working in the fields. Women do not want to get darker from the sun, so you will typically see them covered from head to toe even on a hot day.
While the Vietnamese work hard, it's not uncommon to see people (mostly men) sitting around watching the world go by.
The coastal city of Da Nang. Vietnam has over 3,400km of coastline.
Caroline and I had a brief stop over in the beach city of Nha Trang, which was an interesting change of pace. This tourist was taking in the views from her hotel balcony.
Motorbikes are a key part of many people's daily lives in Vietnam. Whether it's a family of 5, a dog in a hat and glasses that appears to be driving, or a local merchant taking calls and picking up chickens freshly killed at the local market, there is always something new to see.
The city of Dalat is certainly one of the more unique cities in Vietnam due to it's position in the Central Highlands which allows for a relatively cool temperature and the name, "City of Eternal Spring." Here we had a birds eye view to watching the hustle and bustle of the daily market getting ready to shut down in time for the night market to open.
Caroline and I travelled using many different modes of transportation but our favourite was motorcycle. Travelling through small dirt roads, well off the beaten path allowed for some great photo opportunities, like these school children heading home on their bicycles.
Beyond unique vistas of the back roads were the experiences along the way. We learned about the local industries and we were able to get amazing insights into how the Vietnamese people live. Here a worker collects dragon fruit - the country's leading fruit export.
As we continued to make our way back down south we had to make a stop in Vietnam's beach town of Mũi Né. Here we checked out the white sand dunes.
I love this image because of what it represents. A ordinary man on the beach, happy about life, not trying to sell anything, just enjoying being alive. After a short but insightful trip, I feel as though I can confidently say that Vietnam is a beautiful place with incredible landscapes that are inhabited by some the warmest, most welcoming people. I hope to visit again soon.