Today another very early start. I was picked up in a mini-bus at 5.00am. Me, a retired guy from Florida who takes photographs professionally, and young UK couple living in Sydney. And our charming guide and host, Etienne. He has lived here for about 5 years and has been running the tour for 6 months. This is the Hoi An Photo Tour.
We bumped over tracks to the riverside and boarded a little ferry boat just as the sun was starting to rise - except it was cloudy today so no actual sun, but a moody light with a sky that looked full of rain. The jetty on the other side was packed with motorbikes and bicycles waiting for the trip across to the town side where many of the villagers work in construction at this time of year. On the way Etienne reviewed our cameras, our style of photographing and gave some basics of the art. For me, it was so exciting to be shown how to use my lovely little camera by manually setting aperture etc. A whole new world has opened up.
Etienne told us that to take photos of people in Viet Nam, all you have to do is smile a lot, say hello, have some little exchange. Tell them where you come from. He said they get a buzz from talking with the foreigners. He knows many of the village characters and they are not shy about being the target of the lens. The little children were a little shy, though the boys on bikes were like cheeky boys everywhere and made a bit of a pest of themselves. We wandered around, seeing the fish processing area, the communal ancestor pagoda, a fish sauce factory, stopping for coffee with a local family, visiting a woman who bakes small cakes and has done this every day for 25 years (we sampled her cakes too). Etienne joked with the local drunk, a man he says smells of rice wine every morning but always has a laugh about something. I managed to take some portraits I am really happy with. I'm usually shy about taking pics of people but this was different, the people so open and friendly and so happy to be shown their photos. The guys with the fancy cameras and lenses took some amazing portraits I think.
Have a look at Etienne's Gallery here. Today was not a fishing day as it is the wrong time of year, but there was lots to see just strolling around this unspoilt village.
The trip ended with us picking up bicycles and riding for about 20 min back into the Old Town. That was great for me - I had been feeling slightly nervous about getting on a bike, and it was such a joy cruising along the tracks with little traffic. We rode past padi fields with geese and water buffalo and then alongside of the market, finishing up at an art gallery in town for tea.
And after all that, I was back at my hotel in time to enjoy my breakfast - those banana pancakes I have been looking forward to. Whoo hoo.