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Brian Park: Vietnam

The Artful Mis-en-Scene

I took a personal trip to Vietnam as an offshoot from a visit to Korea where my family is from. Since I had been to Korea a few times I thought it was time for me to visit Southeast Asia for the first time. I had no idea what to expect other than what I’d seen in popular culture and movies. Over the course of two weeks I started my journey in the north and slowly worked my way south with an open book to meet fellow travelers and explore areas on the go. I had no set itinerary. I’m glad I had chosen Hanoi as my starting city since it was from there my eyes were peeled wide open from the start by going to the waters of Halong Bay and hills of Sapa that were just right outside of Hanoi. As I headed south I made stops at Hue, Hoi An, then Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) in the furthest south. I found what interested me most was discovering rural areas, indigenous cultures, the cities and their imperial/colonial roots. As a result, I cut short the more modern city of Ho Chi Minh by a day and returned to see more of Hanoi. Here are some of my favorite images from the trip.



Ha Long Bay. Apart from the colors the other unforgettable visual of Ha Long Bay are the silhouettes of the topography and many boat, especially during sunset and dusk.



Street food vendor, Hoi An. Most anywhere in Asia food is hardly ever out of short reach. Quick and easy bites such as these grilled skewers (“nuong”) are also cheap.



Lantern shop, Hoi An. Hoi An, also known as the “Lantern City” is a much smaller city behind Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. It is colorful and charming and comes alive at night when lanterns are lit. No motorized transport is allowed in the Old Town center so I spent much of my time exploring this town by foot.



Banh Mi cart, Ho Chi Minh City. One of many banh mi street food vendors in every Vietnamese city. Banh Mi is the Vietnamese baguette sandwich which stems from its French colonial roots. They were so yummy and cheap that I must’ve eaten at least one or two a day.



Motorists nightfall, Ho Chi Minh City. Most of the traffic in Vietnam is caused by scooter or motorbike. Although the photo seems serene with the twilight I can already hear all the crazy revving and motor sounds.



Mekong Delta. West of Ho Chi Minh is a large network of waterways that eventually lead out to the sea. By boat I was able to see the rich biological area of swampland, paddy fields, orchards and the geographic communities that stem from it.



Motorists, Ho Chi Minh City. Again, the commonality of motor transport in Vietnam for both men and women. It seems helmet laws are not enforced.



Elderly woman, Hanoi. To this day I’ve never figured out what all the numbers and text on walls all over Hanoi are about. In this photo I just love the juxtaposition of the peaceful elderly grandmother against the wild/modern graphic wall.



Ha Long Bay. Anyone who visits Vietnam must visit Ha Long Bay with at least an overnight cruise to see the jutting limestone karsts out of emerald water. Just as there are street vendors in the city here in this photo is a water vendor offering food and supplies out of their boat.



Hanoi streets. Hanoi is bustling and hectic as it’s larger partnering city Ho Cho Min although the streets are smaller. I prefer Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh as it seems less metropolitan and the French colonial roots are more visible. There is also in turn a better sense of the community.



Hmong villager. North of Hanoi is the town of Sapa and the Hmong people. Their dress is colorful with woven patterns.



All around Sapa are the rice fields. My group and I were led here by foot.



Part of my Sapa excursion was to stay overnight in the hills. Here the Hmong are preparing dinner cooked over a fire pit in a village home.



Street artisan vendor, Hoi An. Upon first glance what looks to be red peppers for sale are in fact painted figurines. I just quickly snapped this as I was walking through the old town but only later did I realize how the artisan was probably unaware of her own colorful mise-en-scene with the blue wall, red figurines, and orange sandals.