Staying a couple of days in Hanoi was an exhilarating experience. Photographing and exploring the old rural Vietnam was one of the main reasons for the trip to the northern region of the country.
Vietnam is a place of bewilderment; there is no need to travel long from the big conglomerates to see unspoiled rural life. Just about fifty kilometers away from Hanoi, on the banks of the Cau River, the ancient village of Lang Gom Tho Ha offers a trip back in time. Real country life still happens here; perhaps the fact that the Cau River surrounds it romantically almost entirely and the only way to get to this neck of the woods is by ferry is the only way to comprehend why.
The village used to be famous for its pottery, but the art was gradually abandoned starting in the eighties and it is now better known for the production of rice paper.
An astonishing, surreal feeling besieged me as the precarious boat approached the wharf, the sloppy hamlet perched over the river looking incredibly harmonious and placid. There were no tourists and just a few locals on the ferry.
The narrow and deep alleyways around the main road set the “mise en scène” of the charming village. The houses are colorful and the doors leading into them are always open. They have front porches or patios, and then the living quarters behind. The perception that everybody is welcomed into somebody else’s house for whatever reason was later confirmed when an old couple invited our group into their residence for tea while we where peeking over the patio, and who could resist such an invitation and opportunity? Our guide translated; we had an unthinkable chat with people that were interested in knowing about us as much as we were curious about them.
The more I wandered, the more doors opened. I enjoyed taking photos of the old houses and especially interacting with and observing the residents in their daily routine, a routine that has nothing to do with what I am used to in the Western world.
As I returned to the wharf, the scene was totally different than when I had arrived at the village earlier. At this time, kids were beating the sweltering afternoon heat and having fun by the river; the ferry was packed with locals coming back home. It was time for me to travel back to Hanoi, get some rest, and be ready for more discoveries the following day.
That’s all for now, more coming soon. As always, feel free to comment and ask any photo-related questions.
For print and license information, just click the images. If you are interested in travel photography, consider joining me on the upcoming photo trip to Iceland; check it out here.