Day 4 - 14th June
On the Motorbikes
Today, we have a motorbike tour to the other side of the Red River on the cards.
It’s been nearly 40 years since I last threw my leg over a motorbike. Back in my school days, a friend often gave me a lift on the back of his bike as we shared the journey into town. But one day, he never showed up. He had died in a motorbike accident, and from that day on, I avoided these machines like the plague. Standing in Hanoi, about to get on the back of a motorbike with my driver, I felt a lump in my throat.
But here I am, we hop onto the back of the motorbikes and set off towards the Red River. Our first stop is in the fields on the other side of the river. As we arrive, I realise I’m shaking. I survived the ride, and quite well at that. At that moment, amidst the fields by the banks of the Red River, I know that embarking on this trip was a sound decision. Now, I’m elated and feel ready for the photo safari awaiting us.
We soon move on to a modern porcelain factory on the outskirts of town. The scent of fresh clay and the humming of the spinning machines fill the air. I capture the skilled hands of the craftsmen, transforming raw clay into exquisite porcelain. I try to capture the spark of concentration in their eyes and their pride in their craft.
Nico will later tell me to stop looking at things so technically and not to just create a documentary. Fortunately, I do take some candid shots of the workers and, in retrospect, I feel I’ve managed some rather good captures.
In the associated showroom, the porcelain created in the factory is displayed in all its splendour. Delicate vases, each hand-painted with traditional Vietnamese motifs, and elegant bowls and cups fill the room with an aura of refinement and culture.
The Porcelain Village
A small temple stands proudly on the bank of the Red River, at the edge of the Bát Tràng village. Some children kick a football around in the courtyard. We meander through narrow, winding alleys deeper into the maze of this village. Here, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, it feels like time stands still. In some houses, I glimpse raw porcelain goods through open doors and windows, neatly stacked and ready for the kiln.
We’re led into a historic factory that provides insight into traditional kilns. The vast brick structures are impressive and testify to the hard work poured into each handcrafted piece. I leave Bát Tràng with a memory card full of photos.
The Way Back
Our journey back takes us once again over the iron bridge that majestically spans the Red River. As we cross the bridge, we stop to take more photos of its iron structure, the traffic, and the people. Our trip ultimately concludes at a lovely restaurant owned by the organisers of this motorbike tour.
It was a day of discoveries, learning, and photography. I can’t wait to sift through my images and see if I’ve truly captured the essence of the day. Well, selecting the photos, a challenge every afternoon in its own right.