Saturday, December 13, 2008

Vietnamese Elegance

St. Joseph's cathedral in Hanoi is a popular meeting-place for locals and tourists alike. There's a sea of stationary motorbikes parked in front every evening, and as boutiques shut their doors, restaurants come to life.

If you stand in front of the cathedral and look up, you'll see a splash of bright yellow across the street.

The Hanoi House is upstairs, a resting place for travellers on their way to Sapa

The brilliant color makes it hard to miss. Inside, you'll find one-of-a-kind treasures: here's a lamp made of hand-dipped incense sticks.

This birdhouse has a couple of porcelain residents

Everything here is designed by the incredibly talented Tiep. He has fans around the world, from Spain to Australia. Here he is reading my book, giving me some space to explore his with my camera.

Tiep made these tiles - he has a kiln at the edge of town. Note the color variation from different composition of earths.

"When we were kids, we would perch on the mezzanine, twirl lotus buds into spirals, then drop them spinning down to the floor below. I designed these when thinking of those games; kids don't do that anymore, they have TV and internet now."

Hallway to the cafe

Table made of traditional chopping boards, transformed into fish

Whether sculpture or room divider or knick-knack holder, this bamboo structure's beautiful

This could be a shelf or an altar or a faux fireplace, all made of tiles

Some of Tiep's work from a boutique hotel in Sapa:

Decorative drum made of coins

Head vase

"These lights were inspired by the way women used to wear their hair in my grandmother's generation: they'd wrap it in fabric then twirl it around their heads."

Tiep molded these animals, then made these coffee tables that showcase local crops.

Birdcages made of local H'mong fabric from the surrounding hills

Tiep also runs a tranquil cafe overlooking Truc Bach Lake. Highly recommend it - stop by 17A Truc Bach Lake to sample some Vietnamese delicacies and sit at tables made of motorbike chains, lit by cocoon-like lamps made of unspun silk.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekend in Hanoi

Just returned from a long weekend in Hanoi, to leave these cyanotype clothing with Maison des Arts for the Long Bien Bridge Festival.

Memories of Hanoi's Long Bien Bridge on fabric

Silhouette of tire pump from the far end of the bridge

I finished off several pieces. They're stretched on steel and Vietnamese bamboo: with metal structures above, humanity at the center, and the earth supporting it all, I thought of the living bridge that spans this busy city. It has a huge personality: what history it's witnessed, from its inception by Eiffel over a century ago, to the present.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Park Island, Part 2: Ma Wan Village

Continued from yesterday's post

Up and over a hill was another grave, this one dotted with fresh oranges and, curiously, lots of timber

I glanced up, and saw a pair of arched windows, unusual in HK, particularly in an island village, where homes are built to a spartan standard

and the entrance hinted at grand views from decades before

I crossed the threshold with some trepidation

Climbed the stairs, marveling at the fine rich wood

Thought, "I wouldn't mind having a window like this one, wherever we end up"

Further down the path was a house near the sea, the beginning of the oldest part of Ma Wan village. An ancient man wandered out of the house next door to this one, raised a fist and croaked orders in my general direction; he was more than a little senile

Did anyone still live in the fishing shacks? I wondered

Yep, somebody definitely lived in this one - they'd left their shoes neatly outside. And their door-guardians were still in good shape, too.

Someone had left their living-room door open. Note the ultra-modern Tsing Ma bridge overhead.

Typically, when the government decides to clear out a village to make way for redevelopment, villagers are compensated for losing their homes, or are given a flat elsewhere in HK. But more often than not it's only the elderly who remain, and they can't recreate their vital community in anonymous tower blocks. Canny villagers will often invest the $$, or rent out their new flats and live on the proceeds, while squatting in or near their old homes. These squats are equipped with all mod-cons like air-conditioning and satellite TV.

Kids-sized village transport, parked on the balcony

Here someone had parked their tiny village vehicle outside their house

These stacked sieves, commonly used around HK by the Hakka people, are great for drying seafood

I think these rows of planks were used as supports for drying fish; there were dozens of them right next to the water

Painting from a Tin Hau temple - portrays a scene from a few meters away

Salt-filled mats next to the pier, for preserving shrimp or fish

No cars or motorbikes: gives you an idea of the pace of village life

...but roller-skating is encouraged

In the small village square, freshly-caught fish dry in late afternoon sun

Next to the fish, a traditional rice grinder - perhaps for communal use?

From an abandoned home nearby, old-school facilities

This was once a kitchen; now the jungle's reclaiming the house

Metal doors gape, high above a forgotten warehouse

A group of high-school students were collaborating on a conceptual art project, using the houses for creative outlets & experiments

A student explained this poem she'd written on this door: "It's about the feelings I get in this old place, the wind and the sea, and I imagine what it would be like if I grew up here"

The few villagers in neighboring houses appeared mystified by all this youthful activity with paint pens and colored tape. They raised their eyebrows, but didn't comment.

Once this was....a series of sinks?

Some abandoned homes had mesh to prevent curious animals - like us - from getting inside

A miniature shopping cart parked outside someone's side door

A gorgeous mural, much better than those cheap-looking atrocities in nearby Ma Wan Park

Old kayaks stored in a crumbling wall

A fistful of kayaks

Veranda with a view - for the entire village

A local lady finishes her day's work

As the sun set, I made my way back through the park to modern Park Island, with its concrete highrises.

Eventually ended up spearing my Park'n'Shop sushi with bamboo chopsticks, amazed at the clear evening view, next to dozens of families & teens who were spending their Saturday night in a very village-like past-time: fishing from the pier.