Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘mekong delta’

Streets of Chau Doc (part 3)


My five day stay in Chau Doc in early August was one of the most rewarding periods I’ve had with my camera – everywhere I looked there seemed to be a picture waiting to be taken.  Everything seemed so easy – the weather was perfect, the people were friendly and my mood was good.  Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t stay there longer.

This is my final set of pictures from my summer Mekong trip: three and a half months of travelling from Yunnan province in China, through Laos, a tiny bit of Thailand, and eastern Cambodia, and then into the Mekong delta in Vietnam.  I came back from the trip with some great memories, ruined sandals, the nearest thing I’ll ever get to a tan, and – I think – some of the best pictures I’ve taken.  Just as I enjoyed the journey, which came to an end at the beginning of September, I’ve also enjoyed the process of going back through my photo catalog over the last few weeks and posting the pictures that didn’t make it onto the blog while I was travelling.  At the same time, I’m glad that process is now finished, so that I can give more time and energy to taking pictures in Hanoi, where I’m living now.  So this post is my way of drawing a line under the Mekong trip – for now at least – and moving on.

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I wrote before about how Chau Doc has an interesting mixture of Vietnamese, Khmer and Cham Muslim people. These pictures were taken in a Cham fishing village on the Bassac river, just outside of Chau Doc in the Mekong delta in southern Vietnam, in August this year.  There are many villages like this one in the delta, as well as in the Kompong Cham area of Cambodia, and it’s one of my few regrets from my summer travels that I didn’t spend more time in these communities.

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One of the most interesting things about my Mekong trip was watching one country slowly merge into another.  Vietnam’s Mekong delta felt very different to Yunnan province in China, where my journey started, but there were no dramatic changes as I travelled from one country to another, rather a series of gradual adjustments in culture and landscape, a blurring of the lines.  The rice terraces in Yuanyang in Yunnan are very similar to those in northern Vietnam; the flat plains of southern Laos are identical to those over the border in eastern Cambodia.  I ate Thai food in China, and Vietnamese food in Thailand.  I visited an ancient Angkor temple in Laos and Lao looking temples in China.  Borders have shifted over the years (and are still disputed in some regions) and people have migrated from one country to another, so there are Vietnamese communities in Laos, Khmer communities in Vietnam, Burmese communities in China.  Cham Muslim villages can be found all along the lower Mekong.

So it was quite fitting that Tra Vinh in southern Vietnam, the southernmost point of my Mekong journey, was another example of this movement of cultures.  Although located some way from the present day border with Cambodia, the town and surrounding countryside are home to a sizeable Khmer population, and a number of Khmer temples and monasteries.  These pictures were taken in a couple of those temples.  The monks I spoke to identified themselves as Khmer, but were also fluent in Vietnamese.

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Behind the scenes at the market


I’ve written before that it sometimes seems as if the women in Vietnam do all the hard work while the men just laze about.  Like most sweeping generalisations, it’s not entirely true – but there is some truth in it, as I think the picture above illustrates.

These pictures were taken in the Mekong delta town of Vinh Long, mostly in a narrow alleyway in between the market and the river where goods – mostly rice – are traded wholesale.


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Public displays of affection between men and women are quite rare among Vietnamese people – in daylight at least – but it’s not unusual to see friends of the same sex, men or women, holding hands or being otherwise touchy-feely. I’m not sure if these two were laughing at me, at each other, or at something else entirely.

(Taken last month in Vinh Long, in the Mekong delta)

On solid ground


If I could only take pictures in one kind of location, it would be the streets and markets of Vietnam. Can Tho, the main city of the Mekong delta, is best known for the nearby floating markets, but the dry land city streets are where I found the pictures that I like the most. While I enjoyed the experience of visiting the floating markets by boat, I didn’t come back from those trips with the pictures that I wanted. Maybe I’m just more comfortable with solid ground beneath my feet, being able to move where I want, rather than having to make the best of the boat’s position.

I spent a fair amount of time in Can Tho relaxing on the waterfront, watched over by a giant statue of Uncle Ho, but found time in the early mornings and late afternoons to wander the nearby side-streets and markets.  I seem to have been particularly drawn to strong reds, greens and blues during my stay. The original old market building now houses a riverfront restaurant and assorted souvenir stalls, so the market for fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables has spilled out onto the adjacent streets.











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Rambutans are not the only fruit


… but they might be the most photogenic. I got a little obsessed with the little hairy blighters while in Vinh Long, the rambutan capital of Vietnam (probably).

Oh, and they taste nice as well, very much like lychees.

[And apologies to email subscribers who received a draft version of this post without any pictures in it.]