Some shots I took of Bac Ha market in the far north of Vietnam, just a few miles from the Chinese border, on a knackered old Casio Exilim. It was a fascinating place. Here's a journal entry:
thick, damp mist cloaks the hills as our minibus rattles upwards to the market
town of Bac Ha. Despite the wetness and my letterbox view out of the windows,
rural Vietnam is at once very beautiful; a rustic spread of paddies and slender
farmhands, where children shepherd hulking buffalo and women, swathed in
colourful textiles, shoulder wicker packs and trudge to market. Bac Ha itself, a
low clutter of run down streets skirting a sprawling market, is a hive of
activity this Sunday morning. Here, once a week, thousands of local people- drawn
from the remotest homesteads and decked out in traditional garb- descend on
this patch of earth to do business. Over fifty recognised minority groups
coexist in Vietnam; it is the most ethnically diverse country in Southeast
Asia, and this extraordinary cultural richness is on full show in Bac Ha; there
are the Black Hmong in indigo with dashes of red and purple; the Red Dao, decorated
with copper and silver jewellery under bulging red turbans, and the Flower
Hmong whose costumes are a riot of colour and pattern. We look spectacularly
conspicuous as we dive, cameras aloft, under the tarpaulins and into the action.
There aren’t too many situations where
physical shortness is an advantage, but being in the midst of an oriental
market certainly is one. Alice explores without fear whilst my chief
preoccupation is to avoid losing an eye. This isn’t easy as there is a
bewildering mass of things to ogle; piles of foodstuffs and reeking tobacco,
vibrant textiles, huge fatty hunks of meat, screeching pigs being wrestled into
sacks and gaunt, wrinkled women decapitating fish.
On the way down to another clutch of stalls
one of my flip-flops breaks in two, and I’m left wallowing barefooted in a
muddy puddle. Hobbling down the road carrying fragments of flip-flop I hear ‘my
friend!’ A Vietnamese man lounging in front of his house motions me inside to
his toilet. Horrendously filthy it may be, but he gives me some toilet roll and
I thank him heartily- he didn’t need to do it. He might easily have sat, like
others, and watched with quiet enjoyment.'
When I left the market I was splattered with mud. I have tried to replicate the muck on the images.