The Long Bien wholesale market, located next to the Long Bien bridge, is one big hustle and bustle. Trucks full of fresh produce coming from outside of the city start with their deliveries around midnight, after which shop and restaurant owners come to pick and choose the fruit and veggies they'll serve the next day. It's a noisey yet colorful chaos, worth spending a few hours in the middle of the night.
A while ago I briefly visited the Central Mosque in Ho Chi Minh City. Suliman, a very welcoming Egyptian, showed me around. I was quite astonished when I learnt that this is just one of in total seventeen mosques the city features. Its location is quite peculiar, perched up against the Sheraton and Caravelle hotels. Somehow I never connected Islam with Vietnam, but I should have realised there is an old link through the presence of the partly Islamic Cham people living in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Hanoi is changing. This is very apparent in the city's western districts of Cau Giay and Tu Liem. Having been there twice this past weekend, I tried to capture urban life out west. It begs for more. Yes, this place is photogenic in its own right.
For the long May Day weekend break we traveled to Mui Ne, a fishing village cum beach town roughly halfway between Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City. It's famed for its dunes, an uncommon sight in Vietnam, and strong winds which attract many a surfer. While we didn't actually see any of the latter, we did encounter crowds of local daytrippers enjoying a few beers, some snacks and of course the ever present karaoke machine on the beach.
We spent Tết 2017 in Cambodia, visiting the bustling capital Phnom Penh, tropical island Koh Rong Samloem and the colonial-era seaside resort town Kep. All in all three very different places, albeit with a few things in common: friendly folks, fine food and full-fledged fun!
Last night I took a stab at concert photography. I went to a gig in Hanoi's Rec Room, one of the city's few alternative music venues. It's a cool club with a real underground vibe, located on the 19th floor of an old apartment building (with rooftop terrace!). I caught three local bands (Bloodshed, Windrunner and Morning Waits) and the quite phenomenal Danish blackened hardcore band Hexis.
In between loads of work, we made a 24-hour trip to Ky Son with a bunch of friends. Ky Son is a village about an hour's drive from Hanoi. The countryside provided some much needed clean(er) air and green scenery, a nice change from the bustling city.
During this year's autumn break we traveled to North Sulawesi, one of Indonesia's slightly off-the-beaten track destinations. North Sulawesi is all about nature in its most diverse offering: from rainforests to coral reefs, from active volcanoes to deserted islands, from tracking endangered primates to snorkeling with sea turtles,... It's all there. Needless to say all four of us enjoyed it tremendously.
Last weekend (an extended one thanks to Vietnam's National Day being on Friday 2nd September) we made a short trip to Luang Prabang in Laos. From Hanoi it's a perfect weekend getaway. The town itself is small enough to discover on foot or bicycle, but at the same time there are quite a few sights in the area.
My name is Wouter. I'm a Belgian living and working in Vietnam. This blog, Xin Chào Bỉ, is a personal photographic narrative of life in Vietnam and beyond. Expect cliches and surprises, smiles and tears, concrete and forests. Hopefully you'll enjoy looking around here as much as I did clicking the shutter.
All images and words © Wouter Vanhees. All rights reserved.