Hoi An Photo Tour

30 August 12

Posted at 5:40

My favourite experience on my recent travels was the couple of days I spent in Hoi An. I wish I could have stayed there longer. Although I enjoyed everything about Hoi An it was the few hours spent with Etienne Bossot on an early morning photo tour that I enjoyed most of all. We arrived in Hoi An about 5 pm one afternoon. Whilst making an initial exploration of the little town (sussing out the bars and restauarnts!) I noticed a pamphlet advertising Hoi An Photo Tour. The tours ran in the early morning and evening (the sun bleaches everything out after 8am until around 4pm). As the following day was the only time I was free it seemed unlikely I'd be able to go and as it was so late i the day I was sure the following morning would be booked - if it was runing at all. I phoned Etienne to be advised the following day's tour was fully booked, however two people were yet to confirm so to call back in about an hour. Exactly 60 minutes later I called again and to my delight we could be accomodated. I took Brazillian George who I had met on my travels along as he had an interest in photography.

So Etienne picked us up at 0415 as arranged the previous evening. I was keen to go on this tour as it's difficult to force yourself to get up at 0400 to go out shooting, on your own, when you have no transport and little idea where you are or where to go. Having a photographer, living locally with transpot as a guide is just brilliant. So we picked up a few more togs around town, a mixture of abilities and equipment from pros to absolute beginners and top of the range DSLRs to iPhones. We then drove out of town to a quay to pick up a ferry boat to take us to the place where the fisherman brought their overnight catches in to be sold and distributed. We had a briefing by the boat and set off as the sun began to rise (which is quite a rapid affair in these parts).

Boat and Chinese Fishing Net

My first shot is from the ferry as we neared our landing point. A couple fishing from a boat in front of a traditional Chinese fishing net.

Etienne is an amazing photogpher, self taught and from what I gathered since he has been in Vietnam. He is really modest about his capabilities. He is an excellent tutor - most on the tour were inexperinced amatuers - Etienne was so, so patient with everyone ensuring all had understood his tips and advice. No mean feat as Etienne is French and the ten of us on the tour were made up of Dutch, Danish, Brazillian, German, British and a token Aussie. Although there would be a massive range of subjects to choose from I was particularly interetsed in photographing the people ( I was tiring of everyone you met in the touristy areas immediaty posing and gesturing as soon as they saw a camera.) So to mix with locals at a place tourists rarely venture to was a great opportunity.

As soon as we landed I spotted this lady enjoying the early morning sun. 

Morning Sun

Soon after another really interesting face. This is the iceman. He freezes massive blocks of ice which he then slides along wooden runways into the fishing boats. See below.


Ice being loaded

Loading the Ice

There was an abundance of interesting characters to chat (well at least smile) to..

The Coracle Builder

The Coracle Builder

His mate with a long goatie


and a lady in shades

Lady in Shades

Not everyone was old and wrinkled - here's a fisherman who looks pleased with his nights work

Good Day

and there were children around every corner

Some full of confidence..

Running Away

and others a little shy

Light and Dark

I had come here to see the process of the, mainly women, collecting fish from the mainly male fishermen.

Here's a group inspecting the catch

Inspecting the Catch

and here's the fishermen sorting the nets

Hauling the Nets

This fisherman's a man after my own heart - it's 7am so time for a flutter

Card Sharp

and his mate hasn't sold too many fish so has to be content with a ciggie

Time for a Ciggie

Meanwhile the ladies are busy buying and selling fish and carting them off everywhichway. Everywhere you look all sorts of fish are being laid out to dry in the quickly warming sun

Drying the Fish

We spent a most enjoyable time, we visited the place where fish sauce is made locally (may be the feature of a future blog), we ate street food which was delicious and after returning on the ferry we rounded the morning off with a bike ride back into Hoi An - in time for breakfast.

If you find yourself in Vietnam and you have any sort of interest in photography at what ever level or even if you just want to see the real local culture give Etienne a call. He also runs longer photography tours both in Vietnam and Laos. And last of all if you are thinking of getting married in Vietnam (not a bad idea as you can get a lovely wedding dress knocked up for next to nothing in just a couple of days) check Etienne out for your wedding photography.

Here are links to his Facebook Page and his website

To finish off a couple more photos from the tour

The fleet at rest and all packed up, and it's still before 8am

Fishing Fleet

On the way back to the ferry - harvesting from a coracle

Harvest in a Coracle

Well Etienne's tour was a great start to the day and that eveing at sunset I rounded off with another nice portrait - but this was in town and cost me a dollar!!

The Boatman

...was worth it though!







Tuol Sleng Prison Security Office 21. S-21

27 August 12

Posted at 11:15

For most travellers heading for Cambodia the main reason and highlight is Sien Reap and the temples at Angkor and indeed I went there and will posting photos and stories in due course. But for me one of the most memorable experiences I had in Cambodia was a visit to S-21, Security Office 21 also known as Tuol Sleng Prison. I am ashamed to admit that having lived through the Khmer Rouge era I never really appreciated the extent of  Pol Pot's atrocities. A visit to S-21 which is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a really humbling and also a distressing experience. 

Pol Pot exterminated over 2 million people in Cambodia in a three year period, 1975 - 1978 choosing in particular to kill the educated. That's somewhere between 20% and 50% of the population depending whose figures you take. But whatever the percentage it's horrific. S-21 was just one, but perhaps the most notorious, of the Khmer Rouge prision camps. many of the prisoners (and their families) who were tortured here were taken on to the Killing Fields of Choeng Ek to be executed. 

Below - an introduction to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Genocide Museum

Below are  some images from my visit to S-21

Building A S-21

This is Building A at S-21. The site was formally a school and it's still easy to recognise it as such. It was a large area hosting the Tuol Sleng Primary School and Tuol Svay Prey High School, so many of Phnom Penh's children will have studied here - and between 1975 and 1978 many will have died here along with their parents.

Building A

Above a description of what was housed in the three storey A Block. Below an A Block cell with typical furniture and on the wall a photograph of the same cell complete with tortured prisoner.

A Block Cell

Below - B Building which contained much smaller individual cells. part of the building contains photos and artefacts other parts have been left as there were found in 1979

B Block

Opposite B Block is what was an exercise bar at the school - converted by the Khmer Rouge into torture gallows

Torture Gallows

B Building Cells

B Block Cells

Also in B Building actual torture appparatus with diagrams explaining how it was used. Unsurprisingly although there were many visitors around there was total silence in these rooms.

Torture Methods

I took a wrong turn and ended up down this stairwell in Block B where the exit was sealed. It didn't take me long to get back up on to the top floor and on the correct route. The stairwell looks well lit here but it was quite dark and a bit scary!

Stairwell B Building

The prisoners were all numbered and photographed prior to being tortured/ executed

Victims Last Photos

17,000 were taken from here and executed at the Killing Fields - others died whilst still in S-21

Executed Prisoner

Leg manicles now on show in the museum


Only seven prisoners survived S-21 - below is a photo of them

Seven Survivors

The guy on the left is Chum Manh (or Mey). Chum is an associate director of KSAEM KSAN Association - a group which works to get compensation for victims, to ensure those responsible and still alive have trials and to preserve this museum. He happened to be at the museum when I visited so I was able to meet him, photograph him and get a signed copy of a magazine about him.

Chum Manh

Chum Manh

There are many rooms of photographic evidence in the museum and many photos of victims and perpretators. One image caught my attention.

David Lloyd Scott

David Scott

David Scott was an Australian who was executed at S-21. According to the declaration David was working for the CIA. But on doing some research it turns out that David and another Aussie had been sailing in what they thought was Thailand's waters when they were captured by the Khmer Rouge. David was a roadie for a West Australian band - Bakery. David when interrogated claimed he was recruited to the CIA by a Mr. Magoo in Prague! He also named band members as other officers in the CIA. David along with another Aussie, Ronald Dean, a club barman from Sydney, simply had contempt for their captors and signed declarations that were a piss take. Unfortunately in doing so they signed their own death warrents.

After visiting S-21 I went on to the Killing Fields. Although horrific the Killing Fields did not have the same impact on me as S-21. The fields are much smaller than I imagined and I guess as a museum are not as well presented as S-21. There is a  glass memorial tower at the Killing Fields filled with skulls - a memorial to the 17,000 victims.


Killing Fields

Killing Fields - Skulls




Colours of South East Asia

24 August 12

Posted at 9:26

Over the last three weeks we took a trip from Bangkok to Hanoi. Crossing Cambodia and following the Vietnam coast from Saigon to Hanoi. We travelled by public bus and overnight trains. I will no doubt post a number of photoblogs from the trip, in fact this is the second. Today I won't have a specific theme but will just pick out some colourful images we saw along the way. It's interesting that I choose colour as a topic because when I was in Nha Trang (Vietnam) I met photographer Long Thanh and visited his gallery. Long works only in monochrome. His work is incredible, check out his website here  .

But for me today it's colour. To kick off a shot taken from a boat on the waterways of Bangkok


Subtle colours in flat overcast light. The shutters and shells first caught my eye and then the impression that the mans left arm was on backwards!


Throughout Cambodia and Vietnam motorcycles and scooters outnumber cars. It appears there is nothing that they cannot transport on a motorbike. This s typical the whole family out shopping on a bike. Dad and Mum are both on the phone a toddler wedged between them - no wonder the young lad looks a little concerned!

Honest Mum

This is a typical scene, shot from the bus. I'll admit I didn't notice the discarded cigarette at first. I like to think the little lad has been caught smoking and is trying to convince his Mum that the chicken brought it in!

Nha Trang

A view of Nha Trang looking back from the Cham Tower.

Dancer Cham Towers

This is a dancer at Cham Towers. Only four of the original ten towers remain (the others being destroyed in the 'American War" as the locals refer to it). The Po Nagar Cham Towers are Nha Trang's most iconic attraction although I much preferred meeting locals in the back streets of the fishing village and spending some time with Long Thanh.

Anchor Up

Late in the afternnon sun a fisherman lifts anchor ready to set off for a nights fishing. Nha Trang

Below a different type of fishing off the beach also at Nha Trang

Beach Fishing Nha Trang

Now a move south to the Mekong Delta


It was great exploring the waterways of the Mekong and meeting the local people who live on and near the river.


It appears that this boat lady is either playing peekaboo or hiding her face from the camera. 

Last image for today going south again (the opposite direction to which I actually travelled!) Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it was formally known and still referred to most of the time. The shard like building to the left is the Bitexo Financial Tower. It is the 124th tallest building in the world and for a brief period of about a year was the tallest in Vietnam until in 2011 it was pipped by the Keangnam Landmark Tower in Hanoi. The Bitexo is supposedly shaped like a lotus flower, mmm I can't see it from this angle!

Saigon - Bitexo Financial Tower


Old and Young

22 August 12

Posted at 10:58

I've been away for what seems like an age but in fact is just three weeks. Travelled from Bangkok to Hanoi via Cambodia and the Vietnam coast. Had fun, met wonderful people and saw some amazing sights - many of which will no doubt be shared on my photoblog over the next few weeks. I'll kick off today with just a couple of images of people I met along the way.

First of all an old man near a fish market in Hoi An.


The photo was taken in a pretty dark room, so shot at ISO900, where this man makes ice blocks which are then taken down to the fishing boats. They can then keep their catch fresh in the 40 degree heat. Plenty of character in his face.

Next the other end of the age spectrum, a toddler playing in the rubble in a back street in Nha Trang.