In Siem Reap in Cambodia (the city’s name means Defeat of Thailand – no punches pulled there) we sat in the park with the flying foxes roosting in the trees. Groups of tourists were brought to see them and as the guide spoke , enterprising icecream sales people swooped to feed the stationary tourists.
A few days earlier in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam we sat in another park. A group of children sat to my left painting, Tai Chi sessions were everywhere and one man even washed himself,( sorry, I wasnt quick enough with my camera as he shoved the hose pipe down his shorts to clean the nether regions) then cleaned his bike, changed his clothes and after donning a new hat – he wore a grubby old hat whilst cleaning his bike, – rode off into the traffic.
Up at 4-30 today to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat – along with a few thousand others. Waiting for the light I was able to sketch the outlines and make some colour notes. Probably not the most spectacular sunrise, but it was comfortably cool at that hour.
The day before we had tramped through the searing heat and visited some of the other temples in this massive complex. In the 12th century it was reported to be the biggest city on earth. Cracks and leaning buildings are testament to war, not earthquake. The displays of carving are exquisite and there are so many of them.
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.