Last week I travelled to Hanoi the capital city of Vietnam and home to 7 million people. Hanoi is known for its rich history, Chinese and French influences. I was here for work but couldn't miss the opportunity to get out my camera and photograph some of the city's inhabitants and spaces. The purpose of the trip was to produce a promotional film for the organisation I work for, so this afforded some time for exploration. The project would take me from the streets of Hanoi to the rural villages and paddy fields in Sa Pa in the Northwest region and ultimately to the summit of the highest peak in indochina, Mount Fansipan.
During my exploration one of my favourite places we uncovered were the back alleys along a street called Hao Nam away from the tourist heavy centre of town. Though quieter than the main roads these alleyways had much character and life to them as residents live and trade amongst these narrow spaces.
The maze-like structure of these alleys meant turning each corner presented you with something new, at times areas suddenly opened and expanded into lighter wider spaces. Here you would find street traders selling their wares and a cross-flow of people coming from intersecting alleys.
Anyone who has lived in a major metropolis will feel an immediate sense of familiarity in Hanoi. Being a Londoner I felt comfortable among its crowded streets lined with shop fronts and the constant traffic. The first thing that struck me about Hanoi was the pace. The city and its inhabitants move in one speed - fast! The main roads are battleground between cars, pedestrians and scooters. The only rule that seemed to apply is that everyone has right of way.
Many of Hanoi’s inhabitants travel around on two wheels. Standing by an intersection for a moment is mesmerising in the way riders have the uncanny ability to avoid collision without stopping, it is almost as if they are perfectly programmed to interweave amongst one another.
My day in Hanoi ended at its main train terminal for the overnight train to Lao Cai and then on to Sa Pa. The Vietnamese trains have a very old worldly look to them and I was taken by bold colours and heavy build.
So from here it was on to Sa Pa and our attempt to summit Mount Fansipan.