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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Desperation Juice

Now if I opened a booze shop I'd probably call it City's Liquors, or Good Libations or Hit and Rum or any terrible punning name I could come up with. However I would not call it St. Jude. Especially if I lived in Goa where a large portion of the population being Christian would get the reference.

St Jude Booze Shop

St Jude is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. Mind you, I'm not adverse to a drop of the desperation juice myself and they did have a good selection.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The party's over; bring on the rains

"That'll be the holidays done then" as we Scots say. I start back to work next week and will be in India until at least Christmas. There's no hardship in that except that this year most of the national holidays fall midweek and there's only one long weekend between now and Diwali so travel will have to take a back seat. There's still plenty to do and see though, I live in Mumbai after all and I've barely started to scrape the surface.

Back in India the monsoon is well underway and it feels and looks good:

Monsoon Rains
No moaning about grey skies this year, mind you, I say that every wet season.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Moving portraits

Standing at the side of the road pointing a camera at people on motorbikes results in some interesting reactions. It's something I'm definitely going to do again now that I'm back in India until Christmas. Meanwhile here are some Vietnamese moving portraits:

Moving Portrait 1
Not best pleased

Moving portrait 3 Vespa
I'm ignoring you

Moving Portrait 2 Family
Front seat passenger

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Vietnamese Wedding Photographer

In Vietnam wedding pictures are taken before the wedding. It's a fairly lengthy process usually requiring at least three costume and related hairstyle and make-up changes. What adds to the overall hard work of the day is that the pictures are taken on location, usually several locations.

There are some tried and tested favourites,the central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral irrespective of what your religious persuasion is, on the steps of the Opera House are all popular. More prosaic choices might be on a busy traffic bridge or posing inside giant rusting pipes or buying fruit at a market in full bridal regalia. There are props to handle too, violins, basketballs, teddy bears, and stepladders, I've seen them all employed to various effects.

The average wedding photographer has a team of helpers to variously wrangle the cameras, the props, the costumes and the makeup touch ups but ultimately it's down to him to snap the pictures. It's his, and the photoshop editor's job, to capture the glamour and it's not always easy.

Wedding Photographer

If you fancy giving it a go, here is some advice from a Vietnamese wedding photographer "Wear Crocs; easy off, happy in water, solid floor, no smell"

Monday, 9 July 2012

Violet times in Ho Chi Minh City

I lived in Vietnam for four years before moving to India so it was great to go back to somewhere I was so familiar with and where I still have a lot of friends.

Sometimes, especially when I'm taking pictures somewhere I know well, I'll choose a colour and seek out things to snap that match it. The process is to have a quick scan about and the first photo worthy thing you see, that's the colour. In HCMC it turned out to be purple. Vietnam loves purple in all it's shades and flavours.

When you think of Vietnam or Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) it's likely that rice fields and conical hats come to mind and there are lots and lots of these:

Fruit seller, Hoi An

Right there, keeping her Non La or conical hat on - purple. Now you will find lots of ladies in traditional dress but HCMC is a fast developing city. It's a great mix of new and old, foreign and local influences and like most cities it has a fancy shopping street. The start of this area is marked by the Louis Vuitton store on Le Loi Street. Here we have the Four Legged Lady of Le Loi and a purple dominated LV window:

The four legged lady of Le Loi
Part of the tradition in Vietnam in general is the preponderance of public information propaganda posters, another is that everyone rides motorbikes:

Purple Propaganda Poster

If everyone rides motorbikes then you want yours to stand out from the crowd, if only to find it easier in the parking lots and in HCMC you can do that with style. Anything and everything can be personalised and here are two reconditioned Vespas demonstrating that:

Vintage Vespa and Lambretta scooters in fab shades

Even the airport has purple seats, some people dress to match...

Purple poser

and some to blend in.
Purple Passenger

As I sit here I've just noticed my toes, I got a pedicure in Saigon, trust me the best pedicures in the world are done in Vietnam. It's purple of course, I don't even like purple!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

New International Airport, Danang

I left Vietnam and moved to India a year ago, it was time to go back and see the old place while I could still get in and out on my multiple entry visa. First stop off was Hoi An. There's been a long standing programme to upgrade airports in Vietnam and Danang which serves Hoi An has also been built anew. Before it was what can be best described as a shed, quite a large shed but a shed nonetheless. The picture below is actually Vientien airport in Laos which was a good bit nicer than Danang but you get the picture.

Vientiane Airport, Domestic Departures, Laos
It's actually a very nice airport now, comfortable seating a surprisingly good public address system which is pretty unusual in any airport, places to eat and drink and clean toilets. People management and security are quick and efficient. There's not a lot more you can ask for in an airport.

There are some surprises though, it has a bar. An actual beer selling bar! If you haven't travelled through Vietnamese provincial airports you won't understand how surprising that was to me. I didn't have a drink but if I'd wanted to ...

New airport Danang - drinking

You can eat too, Big Bowl Noodle do a nice range of noodles in big bowls, surprisingly good airport fodder. Red Star coffee make a mean cafe sua da or any other coffee that takes your fancy, there's plenty of fresh fruit available. It's my firm belief that Vietnamese people are incapable of travelling anywhere without a big bag of fruit. A shock to my system after a year away though was this ...
New airport Danang - eating

I knew they were already in Saigon International airport but to see Burger King happily sitting in the middle of Danang domestics was a bit of a shock. Vietnam is still holding out against McDonald's and Starbucks but it can only be a matter of time.

It was good to see that not everything had changed.

New airport Danang - shopping

This knock-me-down-and-I'll-stand-up-again doll has been on sale at the airport for at least five years. I know it's the same one because of the smudge of dirt on its face. At 1,100,000 Vietnamese Dong (over 50 usd) it's likely to stay unsold. I'd be quite sad to see it go after all this time.

What I did on my summer holidays

First stop on the summer holidays was in Malacca, Malaysia. It's a pretty town, lots of shop houses and a lovely river walk. there are hotels and guest houses to suit all tastes and pockets.

It has a big Chinese and Indian community so good food is pretty much guaranteed and these two cuisines fight manfully with the more local Nonya cookery. Nonya food is delicious. It seems to be a mixture between Javanese and Indian cookery with the techniques of Java and the spices of India but I'm sure an expert could set me right on that.

There is a lot of history in Malacca and plenty to do and see but I've been before so didn't do much with the camera except take picturess of shops and things in shops on an afternoon stroll. So here, for your delectation are pictures of shops and things found in shops - exciting eh?

Signage Motor Oil
Shop sign, they sell motor oil and have been doing for some time by the look of things

Ikan Bilis
Ikan Bilis, salty, dried anchovies, you can smell them before you see them but they are delicious in a salty, fishy, smelly sort of a way and an important part of many dishes.

Racy red paper underwear
In the Chinese area of town you can find shops which specialise in paper goods. These are made to be burned so the ancestors can have a comfortable afterlife. I've seen all sorts, the new iPad and DSLR cameras are popular as are fancy cars and designer clothing but I've never seen racy red underwear before, I wonder what kind of ancestor would appreciate these.

Google shoes
Fake goods are all over the place, these shoes are for surfing.

Another nice shop sign, a place where you can trade all your Fatt Tatt.

Tall man with umbrella
And here's someone whose been shopping.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Shop sign, Malacca

I went to Malaysia and saw this:
Shop Sign Malacca
I don't know what they sell but it's bound to be Fok Sing Long.


People came today to do an overhaul of the fans and a/c units in the flat. They did a great job, the ACs hum beautifully the ceiling fans no longer wobble alarmingly and they brought all the equipment with them that they could possibly need - with one exception...

...that's a dressing table stool, a wobbly dressing table stool, with a drum stool on top of it.