2016 was a remarkable year for me in so many ways. When I decided to quit my academia job in mid-2015 after almost ten years working in that field to pursue photography, I was so unsure if it was the right decision. It was quite intimidating to leave a stable job for something I had just taken up and felt so strongly about but didn’t see a clear future. However, I still decided to give myself an ultimatum of two years to try photography and if it didn’t work out, it’d be just two years in a lifetime anyway. Luckily, 2016 cleared all of my self doubt. During this first year working full-time as a freelance photographer, I got published in major Vietnamese magazines, worked with my favorite restaurants and signed a book deal. I’m so grateful to have been doing which I didn’t even consider dreaming about just a few years ago. I owe the opportunities I received in 2016 to this blog and to readers like you. Thank you for checking out this blog, for your support and care, and for your positive comments which kept me going.
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.
Catching up with old friends is always so rewarding to me! It’s as fun to make silly bad jokes as it is to sit quietly and enjoy their company. It’s comforting to know that I can repeat the same stories that were told last year, knowing that I’m never judged. And in the sense of seeing old friends, this Vietnamese Independence Day long weekend was comforting! Three of my old friends whom I met at different times in my life were on vacation in town. I had coffee with each of them separately on Sunday, feeling like I relived three different lives.
Hà was my college classmate in Hanoi and then she went to school in the U.S. around the same time with me. We traveled together several times to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. It was fun this time to hang out with her in this little town of Hoi An. I took her to a friend’s place to buy a bag, got some clothes made, had lunch with grilled squid at a local restaurant, and then bought some more bags. (They were just Hoi An’s local straw bags, not Paris’ or Milan’s leather ones!)
I think Hà has a distinctive and beautiful look so I snapped a few photos and shared them here!
I came across Katya’s cute and lively drawings on Instagram and fell in love with them instantly. I didn’t hesitate a second to ask her if she would be interested in trading a drawing for a photoshoot. The results are the lotus drawing you see in the blog header above and the photos below.
We took these on the streets of the Ancient Town of Hoi An one morning. Katya sketched out some ideas of how she wanted to be pictured, which made it easier for me as well. I like how the photos show different aspects of her that I feel in person: fun, calm, and mysterious. Thank you, Katya, for being such a beautiful model!
We’ve been pretty busy for the past week “renovating” our house!
My feeling is that people here in Hoi An are very big on plants and bonsai. No matter how shabby a house might look, in its front yard there’re always frangipani, or some exotic, colorful tropical blossoms, or different kinds of palm trees and cactus. I spot people’s lovely plants and flowers every single day. I admire their beauty, and I get jealous! After one year of jealousy, I decided to add more green to our house and have been loving it so far! Read more
This morning I had a phone call with my old landladies in the Bronx, New York City. It was more than a year since we last talked. They’re among the kindest, sweetest people that I’ve been lucky enough to have met in my life. Actually, I’ve been very lucky when it comes to genuine friendship. Read more
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!