Last week my best friend from college was in town for a vacation. We hadn’t seen each other for more than two years, so it was so much fun to hang out with her in Hoi An. Actually the first time I visited Hoi An was with her back in summer 2008. We had just graduated from college and took a South-bound trip across Vietnam together. Hoi An has changed so much since then, and so have we. That summer night in 2008 we went out and ate Hoi An chicken rice and drank their bitter rice-based alcohol. Afterwards we walked back to our hotel at 10 pm, and along the way we got a bit scared and lost among the many dark, quiet, narrow back alleys of the old town. But of course nothing happened other than in our imaginations.
And we helped take a million pictures for each other. It seems like nowadays we don’t like being in front of the camera anymore. We’re a lot more interested in photographing other people and scenes. So this time we just walked the old streets that are so much more bustling than they were eight years ago, talked and took pictures along the way, stopped for a coffee here and there, and then walked some more. It was so relaxing to just do simple things with her. After all, it doesn’t matter where you are and what you do; it’s really the company that matters.
Here are some photos I snapped during the walk with my friend that day. I hope you like them.
Quỳnh is an artist friend of mine in Hội An. I met her one morning last fall. When walking into my usual coffee place, I saw a woman hand-sewing blue leather straps into a beautiful reed bag. Turned out that she had painted that bag herself. Both of us loved her work and my husband asked if she would make a similar bag for his mom. Touched by a man looking for a pretty gift for his mother, she agreed to help, saying it was the first bag she made to order.
The second time we met, she was wearing Vietnamese modern áo dài that she designed and riding a little vintage Honda Cub in cream color. She looked like a Vietnamese woman back in the 1960s.
We met again a few days ago to work on several projects. I visited Quynh’s home and studio, where she lives with her boyfriend and a cat named Picasso. Her boyfriend is a painter too. Their studio is full of paintings, wood, textile and reed bags. Quynh has developed a bag line using local environment-friendly material (reeds). She embroiders or paints on the bags, and she even paints owners’ portraits on the bags as well. (I guess that would lower the rate of bag stealing.)
I went to her studio yesterday to photograph her bags in preparation for a workshop on bag-making and embroidery that she was teaching at a local crafts house. It was inspiring to see her and her boyfriend creating beautiful things in a little studio full of sunshine. I just had to capture that and share it here!
This morning I got up really early and took a walk in the old town of Hoi An. My new friend, Trang, a Hoi An local, took me to a street coffee place that was crowded at 6:30 am. 6:30! Yes, you heard it right!
Below are some snapshots I took during my leisure walk!
Laura and Diego are a Spanish couple living in Hanoi, Vietnam. Their fashion brand, Chula, makes lively, sophisticated couture designs with tropical inspiration. Last September I took a calligraphy workshop in their riverside house in Hội An and I knew I had to photograph it someday. The ground floor is dedicated to an Artists in Residence Program where artists can host workshops and art programs. The pictures below are of their second floor, which is the living area. Despite it being quite small, about 60 square meters (around 650 square feet), this space is very thoughtfully designed and charming because of its bright colors and unique furniture. Read more
I adore the houses in the old town of Hoi An! They’re uniform in their antiquity but individually unique. They look ill-tended with their old paint and rustic wood shutters but charming because of that look. They’re zen but lively, simple but sophisticated. And because of that, I decided to have a series on this blog named Beautiful Hội An to share this town’s beautiful places that have inspired me. Read more