Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘ha giang city’

Butchers of Ha Giang City

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Ha Giang City was the start and end point of my motorbike trip through the province of the same name in April/May this year. The city wouldn’t be at the top of anyone’s list as a destination in itself, but on both of my visits, I’ve enjoyed a final motorbike-free day wandering around the city, ruminating on the trip just completed. As I mentioned in my previous post, I think that the urban side of this largely rural, mountainous province is sometimes overlooked, so I thought I’d share a few pictures from the city, specifically the market. I can never resist a good market, as you may have noticed.

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Urban Ha Giang

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Most of the pictures we see from Vietnam’s Ha Giang province focus on rural life: landscapes, markets, villages, people from ethnic minorities in traditional costume. Nothing wrong with that, of course; I’ve taken plenty of those pictures myself, and posted them here.

But what about the urban life of the province? Dong Van, Meo Vac, Yen Minh and Ha Giang City may not be the most vibrant locations – nobody goes there for the nightlife – but there’s plenty of interest in the everyday life of these unassuming, low key towns. Travelling through the province in the autumn of last year and the spring of this, I became fascinated by urban Ha Giang: the banh cuon joints, the cafes and tea stands, the meat and vegetable markets, the games of checkers and volleyball, the windows and doorways, all the little things that make up the lives of these highland towns.

I think these towns are more than just places to spend the night before speeding off on the next leg of the loop. They are surrounded by mountains and karsts but, overlooked by breathtaking scenery, daily life goes on as normal. I suppose even the most beautiful surroundings can become mundane if you see them every day.

Of course, you can’t completely ignore the rural element in this part of the country, even in the towns. There’s no dividing line; the rural and the urban blend into each other. Walking down the streets of Dong Van or Yen Minh, you can catch glimpses of the surrounding countryside through gaps between the buildings where houses are being knocked down or built up. Dong Van is a town surrounded by mountains and sheltering a basin of rice fields. People from Vietnam’s numerous ethnic minorities are in the majority here.

These pictures were all taken in Dong Van, Meo Vac, Yen Minh and Ha Giang in April and May of this year.

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Flying the flag in Ha Giang City

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I’ve just come back from a week and a bit in the extraordinary Ha Giang province in the far north of Vietnam. This visit, my second, coincided with a holiday weekend, as Vietnam celebrated both Liberation Day (marking the anniversary of the liberation / fall of Saigon in 1975) and International Labour Day, meaning that streets and houses throughout the region were bedecked with flags. The picture above was taken in the late afternoon one day last week in Ha Giang City. These kids of course couldn’t care less about a war that was over before even their parents were born, and were just happy to be out on their bikes with their friends while the sun was shining. At this point, I could draw some clumsy parallel between Liberation Day and my own circumstances, since I am currently taking some long-term leave from my teaching job in Hanoi. There’s certainly nothing quite like riding a motorbike through the mountain roads of northern Vietnam to make a person feel free. I’m planning to go on more travels and take more photographs over the next couple of months. More pictures from Ha Giang province soon (or soon-ish – it will take me a while to go through all the pictures I took on this trip, but it’s a task I’m looking forward to).

Also while I was away, one of my recent posts from Bangkok was featured on WordPress’s Discover page. It’s always nice when my pictures get some extra attention, so thank you to the good people of WordPress, and welcome to those of you who are new to the blog.

Ha Giang, Ha Giang

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Most visitors to Ha Giang province don’t hang around for too long in Ha Giang City; it makes a convenient start and end point of a trip through the mountains that overlook the city and stretch throughout the region, but is not really a destination in itself. The city is far from being the most spectacular sight in the province, but it’s quite appealing in a low-key way. After I’d finished my four-day bike trip through the mountains, I found myself back in Ha Giang City. I didn’t feel like going straight back to Hanoi, so I spent an extra day in town, wandering about, drinking coffee, eating pho cuon, thinking back on the trip, and taking a few pictures.

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