Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Nuts & things | Pasar Beringharjo (III)

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My trip to Indonesia included visits to live volcanoes and ancient temples, but I think I took more pictures in this market in Jogja than anywhere else. In this series, you will find fruit, nuts, chillies and curious-looking sweets (at least I think they’re sweets in the last few pictures; someone please correct me if I’m wrong).

[On another note, I’ve now been living in Yangon for just over three weeks. It’s been a busy time, what with starting work, finding a place to live and generally getting my bearings. I’ll no doubt write a lot more about Yangon at a later date, but for now, I’ll just say that life here here is shaping up nicely, and the whole settling in process has gone remarkably smoothly. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures too, in between teaching and apartment-hunting, but I’m not going to post any here just yet, as I still have a bit of a backlog to clear from earlier in the year; these Indonesia pictures were taken back in May and June. I’m not even allowing myself to look at the pictures I’ve taken in Yangon yet; they’re hidden away in a dark corner of my hard drive, away from my Lightroom library. But if you’re interested in a visual comparison of Yangon and Hanoi, the homepage of this site is currently showing a slideshow of pictures from the two cities. These are the photographs that were included in the Hanoi/Yangon exhibition I had this time last year (Hanoi is in black and white, Yangon in colour).]

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Fabric | Pasar Beringharjo (II)

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Pasar Beringharjo – in Jogja, Java – is one of those big, sprawling south-east Asian urban markets that seem to sell almost everything. This post focuses on the ladies – and occasional rogue gentleman – selling fabric, dresses, shirts, bags and headscarves.

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Onions & garlic | Pasar Beringharjo

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There’s something about markets in south-east Asia. I just love taking photographs in them. Pasar Beringharjo, the central market in Jogja, on the island of Java, is now one of my favourites. There’s a lot more available there than just onions and garlic, but the clothes and fruit and veg and nuts and bolts and bits and bobs will just have to wait for later posts.

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Streets of Jogja

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Yogyakarta, Jogja to its friends, was a breath of fresh air – literally – after Jakarta. While Indonesia’s capital, as previously noted, is a massive, incomprehensible metropolis, Jogja is a friendly, laid-back city, more notable for its atmosphere than its sights, but easy to walk around and with an unhurried, familial vibe that I really liked. My visit coincided with the Ramadan fasting month, so the streets were perhaps less busy during the day than they would be normally, but there was still plenty going on and lots of pictures to take.

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On leaving Hanoi

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I’ve lived in Hanoi for a long time. I’ve had two spells in the city, the first from the summer of 2008 until the end of 2010, and the second from the autumn of 2013 until now. And now my time here is coming to an end. In a couple of days’ time, I will be leaving Hanoi and moving to Yangon. I’m incredibly excited about the move. I took two trips to Myanmar in 2015, and the idea of one day living there lodged itself in my head fairly early in my visit. Having slowly marinated the idea in my brain for a couple of years, things suddenly started moving very quickly over the last month, as I found myself a new teaching job in Yangon and finally started making concrete plans. I don’t want to tempt fate, but I have a very positive feeling about this new start.

But I will miss Hanoi. It’s been my home for many years, and has shaped me in ways I probably won’t fully appreciate until more time has passed. I’ll miss my lunchtime bún chả or phở gà. I’ll miss my afternoon coffee by the lake. I’ll miss the friends, old and new, that I’ve made along the way. I’ll miss scooting about town on my Honda Wave. I’ll even miss the casual lunacy of the Hanoi traffic. But I won’t miss mouldy March.

I can’t even begin to fully describe Hanoi in words. It’s a truly unique place, and everyone who’s spent any time here has their own take on it. It’s not always an easy place to live, but for all its frustrations and imperfections, there’s something about this city that gets under a person’s skin.

Choosing the pictures to include in this post has been a difficult task. On another day, I would have made a different selection, but these are the pictures I’ve taken in Hanoi over the last few years that most seem to mean something to me today.

Things might be a bit scattered on this site over the next few weeks. I still have some more pictures from my trip to Indonesia to post, some more from Ha Giang that have been on the backburner for a while, and a few bits and pieces that I’ve shot in Hanoi over the last couple of weeks. And of course, I hope to be out and about shooting in Yangon as much as I can, and sharing some of my early impressions. There’s a lot I could write about what I’m looking forward to about life in Yangon, but for the rest of this post, I’m just going to wallow in photographic nostalgia.

Hẹn gặp lại, Hà Nội. See you again.

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Going Solo

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There’s no shortage of spectacular sights in Indonesia: live volcanoes, ancient temples, endless rice terraces. I enjoyed visiting and photographing all of those places, but some of my best memories and – I think – some of my best pictures came from wandering the streets of the towns and cities, and experiencing the everyday life of the country. People, markets, street food, patterns and details: these are some of the things I most enjoy photographing.

Solo, also known as Surakarta, in central Java is my kind of town. It’s a fairly unassuming place, full of warm, friendly people going about their business in no great hurry, and I hope that these pictures capture some of that mood.

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Lazy days in Ubud

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Like Hoi An in central Vietnam and Luang Prabang in Laos, Ubud in Bali is a town that has wholeheartedly embraced Western tourism; the streets are lined with hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, it’s heavily commercialised and a little contrived, but there’s still something very appealing about Ubud and the surrounding countryside. Hindu shrines and temples are squeezed into every available space. The streets are strewn with carefully packaged offering of petals, fruit and rice. Taxi drivers politely offer “transport” to passing pedestrians. Ancient statues are draped with silk or garlanded with flowers. It’s all very conducive to doing not very much at all, a welcome change of pace and scene after the (quite literal) fire and brimstone of east Java.

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A Javanese sunset

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I don’t take many sunset pictures, but I like this image of the fisherman wading through the shallow waters back to dry land. It was taken at the end of a long day in East Java, which began with a climb up a volcano, Mount Bromo, and ended with a stroll around the nearby port town of Probolinggo.