From Hanoi we went straight to Ha Long Bay where we stayed on a boat for one night. We went spelunking (kind of), kayaking, and swimming before the sun went down. My bed on the boat was so comfortable that I ended up reading and falling asleep early, while everyone else watching this very drunk Scottish man sing Karaoke. The morning before leaving Ha Long Bay we went to a pearl farm. Apparently Phu Quoc and Ha Long Bay are the only two places in Vietnam that grow pearls, and I've been to those two places! Although I've had plenty of opportunities to buy pearls, I haven't had the interest to. Once we returned from Ha Long Bay we had five days in Hanoi to run around. Our time in the capital was very unscheduled. Every place I travel to I am most interested at visiting places of worship. When I went to Italy and France with my family I loved seeing all of the churches. So when we got to the capital I knew I wanted to see as many pagodas and temples as possible. Other than temple hopping we walked around the old quarter, went to bars, bought a bunch of souvenirs, and visited museums .
One of my favorite things we did was meeting Hanoian photographer Jamie Maxtone-Graham. Jamie used to shoot in LA, but moved to Hanoi to start a life with his Vietnamese wife and daughter, Jamie's work is very different than your typical Vietnamese photography. What I mean by that is that it is very interpretive and is something that can be analysed and looked at in different ways. Typical Vietnamese photography is very safe and the photographer is clear with his/her intentions of what the photo is. For anyone interested in Jamie's work here is a link to his website http://www.jamiemaxtonegraham.com/, After meeting Jamie we were invited to go to an art gallery exhibit that Jamie's friend had arranged. The exhibit was a live, movie, and photograph show of one of Hanoi's first drag shows in 1999. There were photos taken of the night hanging downstairs, a movie of the night playing upstairs, and a topless man who was covered in sparkles and a headdress. I think he was meant to be a walking piece of art. I actually felt very at home at the art show. There were a lot of westerners and the people who were there all looked like they could be from Berkeley. Later on in the week we read an article in class that talked about how some performance artists in Vietnam are viewed as anti-art by the government and artistic elites. There was an example of a father laying on top of his son while his son read a poem aloud. This was supposed to represent a father's repression of his son. Performance art like this is viewed as anti-art by many traditional Vietnamese artists, because performance art doesn't necessarily need to be defined. Interpretive art frustrates traditional thinkers. The gallery exhibit that I saw in Hanoi is a perfect example of a new type of artistic expression that is popping up in Vietnam. The exhibit used many forms to present the drag show. The meaning behind the show was not clear and the viewer had to create his or her own interpretation. I think this style of art will become more popular in Vietnam as the government allows for more forms of art and expression to be showed.