These beautiful shiny bowls were neatly arranged for display at one of the stalls catering to tourists in Can Cau market, Vietnam. Pleasant to look at, yet makes one wonder if they were made locally or had been imported solely for sale to tourists visiting the area.

The Saturday Can Cau market is a weekly meeting point for the ethnic minorities in the northwest Vietnam highlands, especially the Hmong people. They come to buy and sell farm products, animals, household items, corn wine, farming implements and such amongst the locals. Some come just to relax after a week of hard work, meet up with friends, eat and drink! Like the bowls, the traditional clothes of the ethnic groups are just as colourful and varied.

Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi

in Vietnam
on 13 November 2012

Founded in 1871, Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi Old Quarter serves only one dish. The place certainly looks its age. The steep, narrow steps leads to the first floor where several tables and chairs are cramped into a small room. The kitchen is just behind.

After seated, the waiter proceeds to hand out a little laminated paper printed with the words, "We only serve one dish. Grilled fish" with the price per person stated below. Cha Ca La Vong are chunks of fried fish cooked with fresh dill on a brazier. It is then eaten with cold rice noodles, chilli and peanuts.

I don't know what is this called but it was delicious! The humble white noodle is a common staple food in Vietnam. It is often prepared and eaten in a myriad of ways.

Here in this bowl, there were some fried stuff, red beans, parsley and the white noodles. The gooey gravy stuff was still underneath, unmixed with the noodles yet. Ordered from a sidewalk vendor at Le Loi Street in Hue city, customers ate while seated on cheap plastic foot-height stools.

Behind the Can Cau market, there were stalls and more stalls selling cooked food. The Hmong people groups gathered here for their weekend shopping and enjoyed a good time of catching up with each other. Others, like this Flower Hmong woman, helped a mother to feed her baby, which was strapped on her back.

The Flower Hmong women are easily distinguished by their traditional clothing. Vivid thin line patterns adorn the fabrics used to make their dresses, of which, the majority are pink, maroon and red.

This mother was taking a break with her child at the hillside Can Cau market. At the bottom of the slope, there was a disorderly crowd looking and examining the also disorderly herd of bulls and oxen. Sellers stood next to their four-legged 'products' to attend to their prospective buyers' enquiries.

The Can Cau market happens every Saturday morning at the slopes of a hillside 20km north of Bac Ha and 9km south of the Chinese border. Many of the eight ethnic groups come here after a gruelling week of farming to trade, chat with friends, relax, eat, drink and meet new people.

Plum Blossoms of Bac Ha

in Vietnam
on 28 October 2012

Bac Ha White Plateau is so called due to the Tam Hoa plum trees that blanket the mountainous area with their white blossoms every year. It is said that decades ago, the head of Bac Ha Plant Breeding Research Centre and his colleagues had successfully created this new variety of plum through cross-pollination.

Usually after the winter, the Tam Hoa trees will be white with blossoms. It is during this season, that many come to savour the charming landscape of the plum plantations in full bloom. This image was taken while we were wandering through a slope covered with plum trees in Bac Ha.

We'd stopped at the home of this tribal woman and her son while visiting the Can Cau Saturday hillside market. The humble abode had a big unsegmented hall with the bed at one side, covered with a cloth as a veil. The manual sewing machine stood alone next to the wall just behind the woman. The attic served as storage space for the farm produce such as corn cobs and hay. The house floor was raw earth ground. The cooking area was placed at one of the corners.

Many of the tribal farmers in North Vietnam lived frugally. It was common to see the farm animals living next to their house in a separate enclosure. This tribal woman graciously allowed us to take some photographs while we were there.

In the Northwest Vietnam highlands, there are many tribes of people groups with their distinctive traditional wear. Each tribe has an identifiable style which clearly differentiates them from the rest. In this image, the womenfolk here are from the Flower Hmong people. They are distinguished by the cheerful bands of multi-coloured embroidery that adorn their clothing.

This hillside market is located at Can Cau, which is between Lao Cai and the China border. It is a weekly Saturday market where the tribes from nearby areas gather to buy and sell farm products, animals, farming equipment, household items and clothes. It is also a time when they take a break from farming duties, meet friends, eat and drink while the youths take the opportunity to connect with their lovers.

The first tomb we visited in Hue was for Emperor Minh Mang, who ruled from 1820 to 1840. The luxuriant gardens and man-made lakes with the imperial temple, seen here in this image, would have been easily passed as a massive park. One can't help but feel completely peaceful and serene walking around the grounds.

Each mausoleum has a specific character and design. Even so, they each contain five essential elements. Usually there is an honour courtyard filled with stone figures of mandarins, horses and elephants. Next is a stele pavilion that houses a huge marble tablet describing the emperor's accomplishments and virtues, written in Chinese characters. The third element is a temple for the worship of the emperor and the empress. It is usually built higher from the ground. As for the sepulcher, it is normally enclosed in some manner, where the emperor's remains were buried. The final feature consists of beautiful lakes surrounded by frangipani and pine trees, which gives the tombs the peaceful ambience.

Boats still anchored today in the Thu Bon River that cuts through Hoi An. In the olden days, these rows of golden yellow shophouses must had been thriving warehouses brimming with precious goods from the east and west. Hoi An was one of the major ports in Southeast Asia back then catering to vessels from China, Japan and Europe. Products like high-quality silk, brocades, ivory, fragrant oils, fine porcelain, weaponry and precious metals were traded here.

The Japanese and Chinese merchants dominated the economy although the Japanese community dwindled when they were prohibited from foreign travel by the shogun in 1639. Their legacy is the Japanese covered bridge while the Chinese have continued to prosper and established many assembly halls in Hoi An.

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Hello... I Am Josh

A Travel Writer & Photographer from South East Asia

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Josh For some, it's shopping therapy. Others, movie therapy. Yet more, reading therapy. For me, it's writing therapy.
Why writing? When I travel, I enjoy first-hand the experience like in shopping therapy. But when I write about my travels, I live vicariously the experience again, as if like a movie sequel (or more like GroundHog Day, except that this is fun!). Yes, writing evokes the memories, the fun and the not-so-fun but all-in-all it gives the satisfaction of reliving the sense of place once more.
With images, it enhances the experience down one's travel memory lane. With this in mind, I hope to share my travel stories in words and images with you. For your escape therapy! More...

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