Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam – accidental travelers in ‘Typhoon Season’ 

Terry – The Accidental Tourist

We woke up smiling this morning – the angry skies had lifted to a lighter grey and a mild drizzle of rain. The flood waters have receded by about 100m along our street, possibly down by a meter in height (though that could be tidal) and some clean-up has begun, streets freshly cleared of silt, leaves and litter. 

And my glasses keep steaming up. The weather has turned. We almost have shadows. 

The street markets are still above the flood line, all fresh veg and seafood and hacked meats. Chickens ducking in wire baskets and snakes winding around each other in colourful basins. Scooters doing their drive-through shopping thing, and the noise level un-dampened by the previous days’ downpour. Tarpaulins drip in focused funnels over helmets, bamboo hats, plastic cloaks and unprotected necklines. It’ll be a while before their full trade resumes.  

Typhoon Damrey drove hoards of tourists from their hotels, home stays and backpacker beds. Boats and trucks and bicycles and scooters evacuated people and luggage, some folk simply wading knee-deep through the water, cases on shoulders. Everybody wet through despite the rainbow of rain-cloaks. Barefoot. Or like me, blistered because I couldn’t cope with the thought of walking without my shoes.  

But this exodus has meant that the most lucrative tourist month for this chain of traders – the small-crop farmers that supply the market daily, the market traders that supply restaurants and hostels and home stay kitchens and restaurants, and the tailors and souvenir shops, tour guides and drivers – all lost custom. The next wave of tourists will no doubt arrive, if they haven’t cancelled after news of the storm. Will the dignitaries still fly in for APEC?

Apparently these storms happen several times a year. But it’s still devastating. 

For our part, we discovered a new coffee shop, modern (read adult-sized chairs), filled with locals for our morning outing, and a different, trendy, wine-bar for our evening walk, filled with designer-styled waiters and soggy Westerners. 

In between, we cocoon in our room, listening to LM radio, watching Morse on YouTube and drinking Jasmine tea. After all, it’s the end of typhoon season. 

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Flower Seller

Acrylic on Linen 40cmx50cm

Hoi An
My list of paintings waiting for canvas, paper, fingers and paint grows ever longer. The pad of paper for illustrations is finished, and tube of white (should have brought the additional tube I had planned to bring) almost, creating a new bother as I either need to make a trip to Danang, which isn’t appealing, particularly with the APEC conference on the go, or wait until Shanghai, which is a week away. I can use the light Naples yellow for some of the mixes rather than white and I have the linen pad as well as three large canvases to paint on.

No end of puddles to stomp through. Mud splattered legs. The arrival of Typhoon Damery, with flooding in the old town. Chaos with the market having to relocate, and be squeezed into one of the only streets not covered in water. We criss-crossed alleys dodging the boats, scooters, pedestrians, bicycles and the horde of rain-poncho sellers who seem to materialize out of every puddle. 

Miss Ly’s recommended as the place to have the best unwrapped fried wanton’s, a speciality of Hoi An. Dodging through the market stalls, we found ‘Cafe 62’, and a seat that allowed us to get fresh air. The wanton, made from rice flower with a topping of tomatoes, carrot, cilantro, pineapple, garlic, chilli, and spring onions. Messy but tasty and minimal impact on my sugar levels.

Amongst the stressed boat evacuations, and the ferrying of fresh water onto the islands, it’s a bit like a carnival with people laughing as they wade through the waters, or huddle under bits of cover drinking rocket fuel coffee waiting for shuttles or deciding how to manage a day with so much closed or flooded. 

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Hoi An

Yellow flowers, for the full moon honoring of ancestors, everywhere you look. Bunches in the baskets of scooters and bicycles. Bunches for sale on street corners and the entrance to the market a yellow carpet. Striking against the golden-yellow walls of the old town.

There are Buddhist temples all over the old city, with their intriguing architecture and sculptural elements. I made sure that for my painting of the temple detail, I included nine beam circles, 9 being an auspicious number. Cadmium yellow deep, raw Sienna and Naples yellow light used for the golden-yellow walls. 

Lantern festival, with clear skies over the old city. In Hoi An the particular tradition of lanterns developed during the 16th and 17th centuries when the port city was an important trading post. Hoi An bustled with merchants from around the world, including the Japanese who brought with them various shaped lanterns that they would hang in front of their homes. The locals began to imitate this in similar hopes of bringing good luck to their households.

The Nocturnal Artist, a small restaurant held together with garlic. Unpretentious Vietnamese cooking. Pumpkin soup and a shared stuffed calamari our lunch choice, with nominal added sugar keeping my blood meter in the green zone.

Cua Dai beach not exciting, even under blue skies. Notions of sunrise beach walks nor realistic next to these grey brown waters washing into a beach reinforced with plastic sandbags. Coconut palms creating an illusionary perfect tropical beach scene. The walk along the road to Cua Dai between coils of the brown river.

Storm blowing in, reminiscent of a puppy at play. A lot of noise as anything loose is gratefully picked up by the mischievous wind, shaken about a bit, and then hurtled against an object to create as much noise as possible. 

Diary of an Adventure

Vietnam Adventures

Early morning in Hoi An

Acrylic on canvas 90cmx60cm

Rain. The ‘sky falling on you’ type. Trendy, if noisy, Uy Viet coffee shop with its potent Saigon coffee. The fragrant tea accompaniment, much more palatable.

Messing about with paint, the floor in our room the studio. Hard it is, and my back certainly doesn’t enjoy the contortions. ‘Drenched in yellow’, a small acrylic on paper to capture the golden colour of the buildings in the old town. Van Gogh yellow! Alleyways of intrigue, weaving between the houses. Coffee culture, the lantern a must.

Roof lines of the old town the inspiration for a painting of the houses along the water front of old Hoi An. Their generally bowed nature working well for my fingers that struggle with straight lines. Not wanting the painting to become architectural, I kept the use of the marker pen to a minimum.

Did our shopping bit through the old town, with input from TripAdvisor, the hotel staff, and the labels saved from bits we had already purchased. The small tailors, difficult to navigate without a guide. In the end, we chose the upmarket Be Be with their competent staff, made easier as they all spoke good English. My well worn linen jacket replaced with a sparkling new version, even if I didn’t choose the zooty lining option. The market stall holders, helpful, particularly where we had Vietnamese labels they could follow.

Searching for the smaller shops, we did navigate through different streets and came across a fabulous deli and coffee stop, The Hill Station. Fabulous cheese, charcuterie and olives for dinner, with a smidgen of wine, in an intriguing old villa. Heaven. An illustrated book by Bridget March on Hoi An, a bonus.

Drenched in Yellow

Acrylic and marker pen on paper