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Halong Bay, Vietnam Oct 28 2009

5 Nov

Lost in Halong Bay, watercolor and ink. Erin Lau © 2009

Aboard a Chinese Junk, the four of us plied the emerald waters of Halong Bay, skirting the Karst outcroppings, stopping to kayak, swim to secluded beaches, feast on fresh seafood, and sleep under the stars on the deck (by our request). In the middle of the night I crept downstairs to splash and oar through the magical phosphorescent water, and though tempted to swim, decided to let my half-asleep body go back to star gazing.


Cat Ba, Vietnam Oct 29 2009

5 Nov

View from Hotel on Cat Ba Island Erin Lau © 2009

Cat Ba Island was our launching point into Halong Bay, as I watched the sunset from the balcony of my hotel room (an $8 room) fishing boats were returning for the night, and fishermen began their nightly consumption of “happy water”.

Halong Bay, Vietnam Oct 28 2009

5 Nov

Fishing Shack and Junk, Halong Bay Erin Lau © 2009

This is where we docked to eat dinner on our boat. Later we joined the crewmembers of two other boats to dine from a Hot Pot dinner (“Lau” in vietnamese) All day we had heard them saying “hot pot, hot pot” (in vietnamese) to other people on boats, and finally we realized that they had been inviting their friends to a monthly dinner. They also passed around the Vietnamese “Happy Water”, which tasted oddly like rice wine.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam Oct 24 2009

5 Nov

Bungalows and Garden and Puppies at Lien Hiep Thanh Erin Lau © 2009

Phu Quoq Island is a bit off the normal tourist trek, and we got there at the perfect time- low season, clear skies, warm water, and over- zealous wait staff who made you want to order yet another mango shake, just for the hell of it. After five days of lounging around on beach chairs, getting $4 massages, and swimming in crystal clear teal bath water, I felt ready to do a month of hard labor, just to balance out the utter gluttony I had been wallowing in. But there were some hardships, for instance most mornings I had to wake up to sound of 3-week-old puppies yelping outside my door, demanding to be cuddled, and struggle with them as they yanked at my sarong. In that light, I don’t recommend visiting Phu Quoc around late October, its too affordable, too relaxing and way too easy to miss your flight back to Saigon. (Actually there are some non sarcastic reasons to not go then, we did have torrential thunderstorms that caused cars to get stuck in the mud, and we did almost miss our flight because of this) But I almost forgot about that.

District 3, Saigon, Vietnam Oct 18 2009

5 Nov

View from Duyen's Roof Patio, watercolor and ink Erin Lau © 2009

In Vietnam, houses are skinny, to avoid taxes based on the width of buildings. (You can see that brick one in the distance is only about 10′ wide, maybe less) On the flip side, they are also very deep, creating some dark, cavernous spaces. My friend Duyen’s house, which she rents, is off a 3 foot wide side alley, and has 5 interior levels. Open perforations in the walls let fresh air in, as well as any itinerant urban bugs, giving a sense of permeability that can’t be acheived in colder climates, like where I live. Or, for that matter, in a country with strict building codes. I felt compelled to draw a cross section of her house, because it made me think about how minor variations in section can create that necessary boundary between room functions, and private/ public space. The bottom level, for instance, is like the muck room, or garage, thats where the motorbikes and wet shoes go. Above that you enter into the more sacred realm of the house. Thats all for my architecty tangent.


Section looking South East


Ink version of rooftop view

Saigon, Vietnam Oct 16 2009

5 Nov

Plants and Powerlines Erin Lau © 2009

VIETNAM! Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), its alive, its buzzing, its raining like crazy and this insane jumble of powerlines is situated just three feet away from where I sit on this balcony. I dont even want to know. I will wait out the rain, for an hour, while little boys splash in the growing pool of dirty water below. Theres something a little more raw here, than in China, the adolescence of motorbikes that wont let you cross. Here in the backpacker district, Pham Ngu Lao, its a little too much. Tomorrow I will stay with my friend, Duyen, in a less touristy neighborhood.

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