These little Buddhist altars are in nearly every home and business in Vietnam. The one in this photo is in a bank. The color came out the way it did because the bank was closed and the lights were off, which led the night guard to eye me something fierce while I was taking this photo.
It seems much of my life in Hanoi revolves around cafés. In this case, I was on my way to a café (any café) on the south side of West Lake when I decided to explore an unknown road. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon this alley. The yellow wall to the left is the front of a temple. At the end of the alley is West Lake.
I mentioned in the last post that West Lake provides some scenic views. As a result, it is one of the two most popular places in Hanoi for couples (the other being Hoan Kiem Lake). From what I can gather, sitting on a bench (or motorbike) and staring at water is a common thing to do on a date in Hanoi.
You see a lot of these guys wading into the murky waters of West Lake. Personally, I’m not sure I’d want to eat any fish caught from this lake. It’s one of the most polluted lakes that I’ve seen. I frequently see dead fish floating in its water. But, like most things in Hanoi, in spite of its shortcomings West Lake can provide some charming views. Hopefully, when we get some blue skies, I can capture some of these views.
Vietnam is a country of young people. The median age in 2012 is 27.8 and approximately 80 percent of the population is under the age of 40. That said, one cannot help noticing the number of elderly women walking the streets selling food, gum, or other sorts of knick-knacks. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that this woman hasn’t led an easy life.
As I said in the previous post, there is so much going on all around you in Hanoi that it’s pretty hard not to find interesting shots. I like to drive around on my motorbike looking for people and things to shoot and then, time permitting, pull up at a roadside café to sit down and drink my Vietnamese coffee while taking the occasional photo of passing traffic. That’s exactly what I was doing this late afternoon when I noticed this woman to my left smiling and talking with her friend – presumably about me since they kept looking at me. Using body language, I asked her if it was alright to take her photo and she said yes. I like this pic a lot, though it would have been slightly better if the woman in red hadn’t stood up just as I was pressing the shutter-release button.
I’ll be honest with you: I certainly do not love Hanoi. There’s simply too much about it that is vexing – the traffic and reckless drivers being at the top of the list. Without really making an effort, I can spot on a daily basis dozens of motorbikers talking on the phone or sending text messages, whipping full-speed from a side street into traffic, driving down the middle of the road against traffic or – in the case of this couple – driving down the road while looking in an entirely different direction. Indeed, the original intent of this shot was to capture such recklessness. Yet the photo actually turned out rather charming. This is the funny thing about Hanoi – the constant activity, noise, and confusion can be overwhelming, but if one is able to single out moments and briefly focus on them, it is hard for the city to not grow on you in small pieces.
It’s just a shame I couldn’t get sharp focus or this pic would have been a real winner.