GalleryI’d been to Hanoi before, but this time I came specifically with photography in mind. My main interest was to capture some candid street photography, I’d also seen some photos of the train line that runs directly through the heart of the city, literally on people’s doorsteps, so I had a bit an idea of what to expect in chaotic Hanoi.
My flight was the same day as my pre-ordered Sony A7R ii arrived in the shop, so I had a mad rush to make my flight and hadn’t taken a shot until it hit the streets of Hanoi (I had my trusty Lumix DMC G6 in my bag too). To say I was excited about new camera would be an understatement – now my most prized possession!
My friend had arranged a guide for me and I’d asked for an early start to make the most of the morning light, I was pleasantly surprised to have a sweet young couple as my guides for the day – Huy Sun and Min Bin. They volunteer as tour guides in return for brushing up on their English skills. Huy Sun is also a keen photographer so he said he would take some shots of me throughout the day. Both deeply proud of their city and determined to show me the hidden sites, foods and great coffee of Hanoi. They delivered big time on all fronts.
When I said I had a bit of an idea of what to expect in Hanoi, that was blown out of the water after about 5 minutes. We made our way from St Joseph cathedral to Ho Hoan Kiem Park and my eyes couldn’t keep up with the energy on display from people of all ages – every form of exercise in s relatively small areas around the lake perimeter was being performing: running, cycling, football, badminton, tai chi, salsa dancing, aerobics & my favorite of all Laughing Yoga! Who knew Laughing Yoga was even an activity! I saw so much life my mind was already made up that I’d be joining for the next 3 mornings – it was a photographers dream.
The streets of Hanoi have so much character, charm and history, I also kept noticing locals smoking huge tobacco pipes and I asked my guides to see if I could get a picture of someone smoking – we found an old man smoking and he invited me to join for a rice wine, by this time it was all of 10am and this guy had clearly started they day on a merry note! Although we couldn’t speak the same language we were both laughing at each other and through my translators he told me his son had been living in London for the past 20 years and was around my age, he also said how much he loved tourists visiting Hanoi – the rice wine was strong and I got some cool shots of him smoking. I also got an unexpected bonus when he turned and kissed me on the cheek as my guide pointed his camera towards us – so I have a nice candid shot of myself to show off now.
From there we passed by a distinctive old lady with black teeth and blue eyes, another candid portrait taken before making our way along the train lines. This was an are of great interest to me with the tracks no more than a meter either side of people’s homes. I stopped along of the way chatting to some local people, including a young mother who asked for me to take her photo so she could see herself. The following day I decided to go back when the train passed through (which happens twice a day) and get some more shots – a couple of my favorites are the grandfather and his grandson and a photo which was nominated for B+W Magazine Photo of The Year: A mother bathing her baby by the tracks. Gritty realities of life. You can see the results in my Hanoi gallery.
I may have only spend a few days in Hanoi, but I met the most loving a friendly guides possible on my first day, saw jaw dropping scenes and at times some fairly raw aspects of life. All in all I think it’s pretty hard for anywhere I’ve been to compete with Hanoi for energy levels (especially at the crack of dawn), street life & memorable characters.