Hoi An studies

From Dalat to Danang I took an overnight bus, which was convenient enough. The berths were rather cramped for my 1 m 95, but it was miles ahead of many of the nightmare journeys I’ve undertaken in the past… During one of the stops I saw two pigs scurrying past the bus in the dark on their way to Highway 1.
From Danang it was a short hop on a local bus to Hoi An where I arrived in the early morning. Hoi An itself is a UNESCO theme park. There are ticket booths where they sell tickets for the old city, but I found it best to simply ignore them. The local market seemed remarkably resilient to the flood of tourists and still had an authentic feel. Markets in this part of the world are invariably the best place for cheap food and a nice place for a coffee. If you can stand the smell of fish in the morning…

One of my days in the city coincided with a full moon festival during which people let little cardboard lanterns float on the river. After noticing the marked increase of tourist numbers in the past, the People’s Committee of the province has decided to now organise this colourful spectacle every two weeks (during full moon and new moon). Obviously, it now can no longer be called the Full Moon Festival and will likely be promoted as the Hoi An Lantern festival. This opens the possibility of even keeping the event every week and rake in still more tourist dollars… For now, I saw that the people still take it serious enough and they were very busy with their lanterns. Buddhist priests partake in the offerings and many people burn fake money on the pavements or at the riverbanks.


One of the benefits of sketching and painting is that you see details that most people don’t see. On this painting of the east entrance of the Japanese bridge, for example, you can see that its architecture fooled me with the extra angle which seems to appear at the roof, but is not there at ground level. From up close I saw that the angle was really ninety degrees, but the eaves suggest differently..
The perspective is skewed as I don’t make preliminary drawings, but the overall effect is pleasing and I was quite happy with the colours.

I attempted a watercolour from the other side of the river, but it wasn’t very satisfying.


But is it art?

The painting is overworked, the foliage on the left is poorly executed and rippling water obviously needs my attention.The quay is not straight, I have to work on my straight lines. And last but not least: zero composition…. but this is partly due to the fact that I’m often limited in places where I can sit in relative peace and without the sun  reducing me to a puddle of human misery.

On my way to the old town I bought a baguette from a mother and her daughter. When I had finished it, I noticed it was wrapped in the daughter’s homework: a fictitious English letter in neat handwriting. The next day I bought another baguette. This time the wrapping was a maths exercise. It was satisfying to notice that she had correctly solved the equation: 5x = 30.

In the late afternoon I often cycled to the beach. It was not spectacular, but it was nice to cool off a little bit and do some swimming. The Vietnamese call this the East Sea which  makes a lot of sense if you think about it.


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