Friday, May 28, 2010

Red Dao painting.

I bought this painting of a Red Doa  to remind me of a wonderful visit to Sa Pa. Truly the highlight of a wonderful trip through Vietnam.

I've been back for a few weeks now, and as I'm still blogging about it, it would seem a good part of my mind is still there. 
If your into hand crafts, and looking for somewhere to visit. You should put Vietnam on the top of your list.

I have been working at the potter' wheel, and almost have a kiln load of little bowls to fire. So Monday should see a bisque fire followed by a glaze fire, and hopefully some new work by Friday.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Boats on the Saigon river.

I was fascinated by the Saigon river.
A working river with an endless procession of beautiful boats/ships.

Though It's an achievement just to get to the shore of the Saigon river. You have to cross six lanes of non stop traffic. For your first attempt I suggest you wait until some locals cross, just associate yourself with them on the crossing. Perhaps even close your eyes, walk in a straight steady line and prey. You will make it? It's just a matter of courage. Once over, the view of such a broad and busy working river makes the near death experience worth it. I think?
No, all joking aside, it's a wonderful experience. So different to our small a drought affected rivers in Australia.
At night the banks are crowded with locals. I assume escaping the balmy night heat.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sa Pa (rural).

Sa Pa is so different from anything else I saw in Vietnam.

I went on two walking tours with local Black H'mong guides. Fascinating people, such a unique and rich culture. They make their clothes from hemp and use the local indigo plants to dye it a rich "indigo" blue, almost black.
Unfortunately I only spent two days in Sa Pa. I was not expecting it to be so interesting; both the people and scenery. the surrounding mountains really are quite amazing. I arrived at about 8am with the mountains shrouded by fog. Just before mid day the fog started to part, unveiling the massive mountains before me. I was blown away, I had no idea.  
Later that day I was taken for a walk through the closest village, Cat Cat. The following day I went on a 7 hour walk down mountains and around them, through villages and farms. It was an exciting day. I had the most wonderful Black H'mong guides: Cool and Me (not ME, the guides name was "Me"). Cool made me a lovely little horse out of straw as she walked along, I treasure it as probably the best souvenir of my trip to Vietnam.


Bat Trang pottery market.

Some photos of the local pottery market at Bat Trang.
The last image is the only hand thrown pottery I could find.
There is an overwhelming selection of white translucent slip cast ceramics to choose from. Some of it the most beautiful white (not grey or too blue) translucent porcelain I have seen.

A walk around Bat Trang Village is a rewarding experience too. You can do it with a tour or of course by yourself. I suggest both.

Bat Trang. Pots and straw packing.

Always a little hesitant about sticking a lens in the face of someone I do not know, but this person seemed quite happy about it.
He was unloading pots near the entrance to Bat Trang, ceramic village. 
It would seem quite inappropriate to use straw for packing ceramics, but it seems quite common in Bat Trang. And I guess if it did not work, they would have found a more appropriate method. Especially given they've been doing it for many many many centuries.


Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm back in Australia, I think.

I finally got back home late on Tuesday.
It took about 30 hours to get from Ha Noi (Vietnam) to Central Victoria (Australia). Somewhat my fault, I had six hours at Saigon Airport. I had a seperate flight from Ha Noi to Saigon, so in case there was a delay I took the earlier flight to Saigon. It was a long wait.

I think this photo best represents my state of mind.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bat Trang, Vietnam.

Some photos from Bat Trang.

I'm amazed by the traffic in Vietnam. How the trucks pass each other some times amazes me. They all seem to drive by sonar. A constant clammer of horns seems to let everyone know where they are; most of the motorbikes don't even have mirrors, and I guess they don't need them. Bat Trang was fascinating, a series of narrow roads linking what must be hundreds of small to large factories making a diverse range of ceramics.
Truly heaven for a potter.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cat Cat villiage.

Cat Cat Village was my first guided tour of a Black H'mong Village.
It was overwhelming. The scenery, mountains, rice fields, people. Just
one of those would have been enough to make for a rewarding trip, but
Cat Cat had all and more.

My new apartment.

Not exactly "work safe".
Building in Vietnam is an interesting sight. People walking on planks, stories up. Wooden beems holding tonnes of concrete up etc.


How they make music videos in Vietnam.

Imagine standing on a box miming, in the middle of Hanoi, with all its millions of people, motorbikes etc. singing.
That box looks a little unstable too...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sa Pa, and now back in Hanoi.

I got back to Hanoi Yesterday. Slept for nearly 12 hours last night, I
was tired, exhausted even.
I had the best time in Sa Pa. So so different. I'd seen photos, but
to actually be amongst it was such an experience. Still hard to accept
that it was real, part of me thinks it was a stage set for some exotic
I'm suffering some bad sunburn to the back of my neck. Cool (H'mong
tour guides name, probably spelt kuhl? Must research) and "Me" ( the
other tour guides name( ie: not ME)) both had umbrellas, how I wish I
had had one. Though the tough Aussie in me would have been massively
I'm back into routine. Sitting in Highlands Coffee, with a tall cafe latte.
It's a little weird now. When I step out of the hotel I feel like I've
been here forever, but can't wait to get back home. I'm missing my studio.
Sent from my iPod

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I have seen some incredible sights today.
A five hour trek around Sa Pa. 3 villages and countless rice fields
and little bamboo houses.
I finished it off with a half hour motorbike ride and some hair
raising near misses with buffalo, fallen rocks, trucks and other
motorbikes. Now I'm about to get changed and take a long bus ride down
to the train station and back to Hanoi overnight.
Charlie, I'm too exhausted to even bother seeing if there are any typos
in this post.

Sent from my iPod

A walk through a Black H'mong villiage.

I was taken on a tour through a Black H'mong village Yesterday, by a Black H'mong guide. He explained the five minority groups of Sa Pa and that the Black H'mong were of Chinese decent and had come to the region 200 years ago. Looking for resources, they are nomadic, though there housing seems to be becoming quite permanent.
My guide was wearing blue jeans T-shirt and brown leather slip on shoes. He seemed to be quite "Western" I find it quite interesting the dilemma of the world becoming homogenized, it would be nice to have such a distinct sense of identity to culture and place. If you come to Sa Pa, you must get a guide, I learnt so much and was taken through houses and shown indigo dying etc. He did talk a lot about how they married in their teen years, A LOT. 
Today I'm on another tour for about 4-6 hours (dependant on how fast I walk) I'll get to visit the homes of Black H'mong, Giay and maybe some Red Dao. Back to Hanoi on a sleeper train at the end of the day.
Sent from my iPod

Monday, May 3, 2010

You must visit Cat Cat.

I'm sitting on a balcony in Cat Cat. Looking at Vietnams highest
mountain. Ie: remote, and I can blog about it.
The world really is just that much smaller because of wifi. Not sure
how that makes me feel.
Sent from my iPod

Sunday, May 2, 2010


"Shazam" says I am/was listening to "lightning" by Blank and Jones.
It's beatiful, must get a copy.
Sent from my iPod

I'm off to Sa Pa tonight.

Well it's 11am and I've just left the hotel. I'm off to Sa Pa tonight on a sleeper train.
It was pouring rain in Hanoi this mourning. Now it's just drizling,
but with water still running off the shop awnings just to catch you un
Yesterday was a glorious day. I went for a long walk. It was not ment
to be a long walk, but as usual, I got lost. I'd like to blame it on
city planning really.
I'm trying to work out what to do today. My heel is a bit sore from
walking, and given Sa Pa will probably involve a bit of walking I
think it unwise to walk too much today. I'm currently at Highlands
Coffee (really the only place to get a decent cup (went to Moca
Coffee the other day, swear the cafe latte was made from instant
coffee)* most of the people here are either reading a book or
working on laptops. I could easily stay here all day, good coffee,
soothing music and a nice level of background chit chat. How many
coffees can one consume in a day before heart attack. I won't get a
fresh coffee in Sa Pa, and won't be drinking instant with condensed
milk. So , can I pre consume today what I won't get over the next few
days? Other than that, myight have to look for a tourist atraction.
I've seen the ones I want to see though. All except the war related
ones (not really into glorifying war) and have not and do not want to
visit Uncle Ho's morselium? How do you spell morselium? (I'll admit I
can't spell that one, all others are the iPods predictive text or
small keypads fault (Charlie).
Getting near the end of my extra large cafe latte. What to do, perhaps
order a caramel coffee freeze. We could think of it as a desert.
This is making me feel homeless, and homeless in Vietnam is a scary proposition.
Ooh. Someone just got the best looking stirfry. Not exactly hungry, but!
Sent from my iPod

*Ended up enjoying/preferring my Morning coffee and breakfast at Moca Cafe. Decided the coffee was fresh ground, just different from what I'm used too. Have not had instant coffee for years, so how could I know what that tastes like.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

About the last two posts.

I just realized I did not say what the flags and fireworks were for.
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the end of the American (Vietnam) war.
Why did I not just edit and add that to the post? I'm sending posts
from my iPod while I'm overseas. For some reason unbeknownst to me. I
can't edit a sent post. I can only delete it.
I will be fixing a lot of posts esp. typos when I get back to Aus.,
thanks to predictive text and my poor/slack copy editor skills.

Sent from my iPod


I was just starting to think about heading off to bed, when I heard
the most enormous bang! It was repeated then I realized it was
fireworks. The whole place felt like it was blowing up! Cheers from
the streets below my hotel room even more horns than normal and
flashes as bright as daylight.
I had to get down there to see what was going on. Everyone in the
street had stopped to look up and witness the fireworks. So I too got
out into the street and looked up. I walked on down to the main Road
that runs along Hoan Kiem Lake. Wow! So many people and all looking up
When the fireworks stopped though, I realized my mistake. The
motorbikes all started their engines, but with total gridlock they
could not move, and neither could I. I almost died from the exhaust
fumes, my throat still feels horrid and my eyes feel like they've
been in a sand storm.
It was a fantastic experience though.