Sunday, 24 January 2010

My morning commute

I took the camera with me to document my bicycle ride to work. I pulled some pretty gnarly one-handed cycling/snapping moves, and took most of these while actually in motion, so forgive the quality of them.

Leaving home, I ride down a street filled with shops selling electrical doodads:

Including electrical doodads for your altar:

A street vendor selling oranges:

And then I cross the railway tracks:

The railway ding-dings are operated manually by a lady who lives next to the tracks. She pulls across those gates that you can see there to stop the traffic, but all the rest of the time, it's a free for all.

This is a pretty standard view for most of the journey:

This is also a pretty standard view on the streets of Hanoi, which are constantly under construction of some kind:

When things like those tubes start appearing on your street, it means you're about to experience some pretty intense 24-hour roadworks. Good luck to the people of this neighbourhood.

While I photograph tubes, a passing traffic policeman does Blue Steel:

And then it's off down the big straight stretch of road through the Citadel, which is a huge military complex:

This is all you can really see of what's inside. You get the general idea:

There are lots of soldiers, but this is the only photo I managed to take before I got the "no cameras" signal:

But I was excited to get this shot of the very fetching dusky peach uniforms of the traffic police:

A man in a little watch repairer's box, and men drinking tea

The day I took these photos was the first of the lunar month, meaning there were lots more people selling temple trappings, like this incense on wheels:

(I make sure to keep up with the lunar dates as there are certain days when Buddhist practitioners go vegetarian. The vegetarian restaurants get insanely packed on these days and should be avoided by the everyday vegetarian.)

I then head off around Truc Bach lake. This house is actually on an island:

Temporary serenity!

The chooks in Hanoi have amazing road-sense, and hang about wherever they choose. These ones have just parked their bike to have a morning coffee by the lake:

Waiters playing the ubiquitous game which crosses shuttle-cock with hacky-sack. Nathan has predictably dubbed it cock-sack:

Workers fishing god-knows-what from the lake:

I then turn onto Yen Phu, which is a hectic street with no differentiation between the space used for the road, the footpath or for selling things.

You can get drive-by offerings to be burnt for your ancestors:

Fruit to eat, or to put on the altar:

The flower markets are right nearby, so every morning you can see these beautiful bright colours making their way down the road through the greyness. At the moment, inexplicably, almost all the flowers are yellow:

When a bus comes, you get out of its way. They don't actually even stop when passengers get on and off, they just slow down a bit:

A road-side stall serving up pho for breakfast:

A bicycle-powered fruit stand, selling long watermelons and green oranges:

The international sign for buy-my-strawberries-you-big-nosed-looky-loo:

Setting up for a day selling deep-fried banana and sweet potato:

I then take a picturesque detour:

And cycle through the grounds of the Sheraton:

Which is a little patch of tourist fantasy Hanoi:

An illusion which is maintained perfectly until you stray one metre from the hotel:

My work is in Tay Ho, which is a relatively peaceful - and expensive - area, populated largely with expats:

There are parts of the neighbourhood that feel a world away from the city. These are little boats used to collect floating green vegetables:

And then I arrive at the office:


And get to work:

Saturday, 9 January 2010

On the subject of weddings in Vietnam

This was one of the first photos I took in Hanoi:

And boy was I excited when we went to the Botanic Gardens and saw that these dresses are used in wedding photo shoots:

The brides bring multiple costume changes in suitcases, as well as hair and make-up teams:

When it's cold, they're actually wearing jeans and sneakers under those dresses, but you'd never know:

The photo shoots take place many weeks before the actual wedding, so the photos can be displayed at the ceremony. It really all is for show.

Imagine my excitement, then, when we got invited to an actual wedding. We'd met the groom-to-be (the colleague of a friend) only once before. Never mind that!

The wedding was held on a Monday, so I went during my lunch-break at work.

The fruits of their wedding photo shoot were duly displayed at the venue. Their photographer has excellent PhotoShop skills. This photo was probably taken on a median strip:

Guests give money as a gift. We spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a special fancy envelope to put the money in (there are are whole streets of special fancy wedding invitation shops, so surely there are special fancy money envelopes, right?) only to discover that you use crappy airmail envelopes.

Look at that crappy envelope going into that special fancy heart-shaped, ruched money-box!

The names of the bride and groom were displayed on the stage in glittered, polystyrene letters (I know exactly the street in Hanoi where you can get these made if, you know, you would like some), and the tables were laden with food:

Every table had its own chicken. Every chicken was having a little sleep, while, umm, snacking on a carrot:

With all guests seated, the eight-course meal was swiftly underway. Then The Happy Couple appeared for a grand entrance, accompanied by a Miniature Happy Couple!

They were greeted by miniature jazz-ballet angels!

The bridal party gathered on the stage, where, promptly, the balloon columns were spectacularly exploded by being pulled through a kind of spiked basketball-hoop!

And then there were fireworks!

And a golden shower!

Then they immediately exchanged rings and cut the cake!

And then they poured red champagne over a pyramid of champagne saucers containing dry ice!

This all happened in impossibly quick succession, and was all over in about 60 seconds!

Then, while we continued with our lunch, we were entertained by the miniature bride, groom and angels, who performed several numbers using Britney Spears-style microphones and featuring multiple costume changes:

We finished our lunch, and, about 45 minutes after arriving, it was over. Everyone left and went back to work.

It was one of the more memorable lunch-breaks I've taken.