During the school breaks we love to explore the magnificent region of Southeast Asia. This autumn break we traveled to Lombok, Indonesia, just east of Bali. It feels a bit more off-the-beaten-path, but is still very easy to go around. We stayed in different parts of the island, which allowed us to hike the jungly parts at the base of Mount Rinjani in the north, snorkel around the so-called Secret Gili islands in the southwest and enjoy the laidback southeast where surfers reign the waves. If time permitted, we would have loved to stay longer and see more of the island. But alas, duty calls...
Ninh Binh, also dubbed the 'Halong Bay on Land', recently became more famous because of the movie 'Kong: Skull Island' which was partly filmed there. At a convenient two hour drive from Hanoi, this region is a perfect weekend getaway. It looks a bit rough around the edges but in reality it's a lot of fun. In fact, it's very easy to explore on foot, by bicycle or by boat and numerous small homestays and a few more upmarket hotels are available for staying overnight. We spent a weekend there and had a great time!
Sometimes you need an outsider's eye to see. These photos were taken over the last weekend while roaming around with visiting friends. It allowed us to discover new parts of Hanoi, and to look at the city from another perspective.
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.
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.