Year-in-Review Part II : Confessions of a Hoi An wedding photographer
Hoi An’s a funny lil’ place. On the one hand, it’s a beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage site, with ancient houses and bridges, a picturesque wet market along a muddy river. It’s a short bicycle ride away from China Beach (or at least the long swathe of multiple beaches that mistakenly are called “China Beach”). There’s some pretty damn good regional Vietnamese food a stone’s throw from pretty much wherever you may find yourself standing. And if you get up nice and early, you can walk along its historic laneways and feel transported back to another time.
On the other hand, its a perfect postcard of what happens when tourism runs rampant and turns something good into something godawful. All those beautifully preserved shophouses mentioned above? Hard to see them behind the layers of kitschy tourist wares on display in front. The town, famous for quick-turnaround tailors, is now completely over-run by huckster seamstresses at every turn. The beach, not long ago an almost perfectly uninterrupted 20 kilometer stretch of sand and palms and fishing villages, is now turning into a tacky strip of exclusive resorts, Chinese casinos and golf courses. Oh, and the weather? It usually alternates between sun blazing hotter-than-Hades and flat out batten-down-the-hatches Typhoons.
And despite all this – I love Hoi An.
I can’t help it. Maybe its a nostalgia for the Vietnam I knew when I first visited in 1996. Maybe now that I have some very good friends living in Hoi An, it has a different vibe for me. Maybe its because two of my best friends married there a few years ago, and I know what its like to be a guest and not a photographer at a Hoi An wedding. And its damn fun. But anyway, whether or not you like it or loathe it, I think its fair to say there’s no other place like Hoi An.
I shot three weddings, an engagement session and a travel magazine assignment in Hoi An this year. And I really loved flying in, every time. I ate AMAZING food. I met up with old friends, and I made new ones. I ate more AMAZING food. I swam in the South China Sea. I got a little bit sun burned. I hung with Nadine at Red Bridge, Peter at Jaspa’s and Duc at Mango Mango. I drank a few Larue Exports. I sat under a Banyan tree and ate the most amazing Banh My sandwich my lips have ever touched. Seriously, heaven in sandwich form.
So here’s to you Hoi An. See you next year.