On to Cambodia and our first port of call was the capital Phnom Penh. It is a war torn country, getting back on its feet and the city has the old markets side by side with the new brash buildings. I did this very fast into the light, but hopefully it captures the flavour of the city.
The day before we entered Cambodia we spent a very pleasant day on the Mekong delta in Vietnam, sampling the transport and food. We had lunch in a riverside cafe on one of the many forested islands. After the meal there was time for a siesta – but art never sleeps and I had just enough time for this quick sketch before we were whisked back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Moving further south in Vietnam we arrived at Hoi An. There was quite a lot of charm about the place, but you still dont escape the crowds and hard sell. The town is situated on Bon river 4 Km from the coast. It is an old trading post with many influences and a number of old houses.
We walked through the very busy market, where fish and squid were being landed off boats and chickens were being taken away for the pot and walked along to the old French Quarter by the waterside. Here pleasure boats and fishing boats were moored and for once there were very few people. A great place to paint.
In the afternoon, after sitting in a cafe and watching a monk come in and scrounge some cornettos for him and his mates we crossed the river and I sat on a shaded bench and painted the waterfront. Mid way through an old woman came by. It was obvious I had taken her favourite siesta spot, but I wasnt moving, so she made do with an adjacent bench.
I did most of this by the banks of the river at Hue. Scooters and small motorbikes are a major form of transport here and there are lots of them. The group of people changed in this one, but the woman in the sunhat stayed. They were a family or group trying to sell tourists trips on dragon boats and boy did they try – though they left me alone – perhaps they thought I might sell them a picture.
The land in Vietnam from north to south is heavily utilised. There are paddy fields everywhere and quite a few water buffalo. Many people work on the land. It looks like hard graft – reminds me that there might be some gardening to do when I get home.
We flew into Hanoi and almost as soon as we arrived we were whisked off to Halong Bay. It was impressive, but very similar to Krabi in Thailand with less sunshine and even more tourists – this was industrial tourism.
I had wanted to get the limestone stacks in a sunset or sunrise. Unfortunately I was swimming at sunset and the sunrise was a cloudy affair. Still I did get some good photos.
As for Hanoi. We were only there for a matter of hours, staying near the old quarter. It was pandemonium. I would have loved to see more – but perhaps my health wouldn’t have taken it. We had to get the night train out and head south to Hue.
We left the enchanting town of Luang Prabang on the banks of the Mekong and travelled into the hills on some very dodgy roads to Vang Vieng on the Nam Song River which looks quote impressive with boats going to and fro along it. Then you see people wading across it , sometimes barely knee deep. The town looks down at heel compared to Luang Probang, but I managed to hire a bike and explored the surrounding countryside. This is the dry season and those who cant afford irrigation pumps leave the paddy fields for pasture for their cows. The fields have raised sheltered decks dotted about.
This small roadside farm could have been anywhere in the world, except that the fencing was made of bamboo. I was cycling back to Vang Vieng and had an hour to spare so why not paint it. I like the almost meditative aspect of sitting down painting, pausing a while, and studying the view in front of me. Even if you come out with nothing the time spent in contemplation is worth it.
The second day of navigating the upper reaches of the Mekong. I did these first two in the misty morning.
The afternoon sketches were much brighter when I looked at them – It seemed I was affected by the intense light.
We arrived at Luang Prabang which was once the capital of Laos. Today it is a laid back town on the confluence of two rivers mixing eastern and French styles. A welcome break after some of the frenetic cities we have visited.
Well it’s hardly floating, more flying down the fast flowing river powered by a large motor. The captain sits at the front kept company by the cook, as you can see in the first sketch.
As the scenery changed and passed out of sight so fast I decided to do small thumbnails.
However, being on the boat for six hours with nothing else to do allowed me to practise my watercolour, whilst the rest of my fellow travellers caught up with their sleep. There were some great views particularly in the later afternoon sunshine.
One of the limestone stacks just off the beach at Krabi, Thailand. This was painted from a beach in a national park where some of the rules on the sign as you entered were: no food and dont feed the monkeys. How could you feed the monkeys if you weren’t allowed food?
When we got to the beach there were some exclusive hotels – but you couldnt get anything to eat as they firmly said Guests Only. So I just sat on the beach and contemplated the view. It was pretty good and there there was even a long tailed boat in view.
On another day we went on an island hopping boat trip to some exclusive beaches – though they weren’t that exclusive as everyone else was doing the same. So we had small pockets of sand overrun with tourists like us, wondering why they had come. Outside our hotel there was a vast sandy beach with hardly anyone on at all – oh well… .
The second sketch was done whilst we jostled for space on Paradise island, named possibly as it was one of the few islands with a toilet.
Arrived in Krabi, Thailand after long sleepless flights. The main features here are the towering limestone cliffs and crags and the long tailed boats. The boats ferry you from place to place dousing you in plenty of sea water in the process – but who cares – it aint snowing.
The light was changing fast when I sketched these boats by the riverside and by the time I came to finish they had lovely effects illuminating their sides. I may do this again as a more studied painting – especially as they started to load-up one of the boats with provisions.