Đà Lạt

Hereunder are some photos I took with my film camera during my last trip to Dalat, a city located in the southern part of Central Highlands region of Vietnam. The city used to be a French playground during the French colonial period in Vietnam thanks to its cool climate. That explains a large number of French architectures in the city. Some people even call it the little Paris of Vietnam even though I’d say the two cities aren’t that comparable : ). It’s a good place for a weekend getaway from Saigon (it often takes 6 hours by bus from Saigon). I’ve witnessed many changes of the city for the past 10 years since the first time I was there. The last time I was there I was kinda afraid that tourism might someday sweep away the pleasant vibe that made me fall in love with the city in the first place but maybe I was just worried for nothing. There’re many hidden charms of this city that have been yet explored : )

dalat skydalat

accident double exposure

A double exposure by accident. I gave my camera to my friend’s uncle and he accidentally rewinded the film.


yxuan huong lakexh lake

 

The brat

When I’m at home, I spend a quality amount of time playing with my dogs. My morning routine these days starts with taking them out for a walk around my neighborhood.

There’re many photos of Nhí, the youngest kid of my family in my collection so I thought I’d share some of them here. She’s smart but naughty, cute but overactive: a bad kid that needs lots of training and teaching. I love it how I can spend time with my dogs when I’m home! : )

 

 

I’ve already had a couple of blog posts scheduled to automatically publish themselves and I’m taking photos daily now (either with film or digital), which means I’m not short of topics and photos for the blog! I take my camera with me all the time now and wish to shoot more : D.

Only the last two photos are taken with film.

Something I don’t

1. I don’t have a smartphone. I feel bad thinking about buying a new phone everytime my 6-year-old buddy gets crazy. The foremost reason to have a smartphone is to take some quality impromptu snapshots and selfies (haha). I also need GPS but my Nexus 7 takes care of the GPS need now and I also prefer to use a real map (to easily get lost : P). Hence, I still don’t know if I need a new phone until my phone dies.

2. I don’t use leather. Yes, my belts, shoes, camera straps, bags… all are leather free. And because I don’t know how to tell the difference between real and faux leather, I avoid them altogether. When I was in Europe I didn’t wear leather boots. It sounds crazy but my feet didn’t feel the winter cold with just a pair of canvas sneakers : ). I have a pair of leather high-top sneakers which I didn’t realize they were leather until a few months after I’d bought them.

3. I don’t wear perfume but I like to buy perfumes as gifts for some people I love : )

4. I don’t wear high heels (but platform sneakers are okay) : D

5. I don’t like to judge people on first impressions. I prefer the idea that people are complex changeable creatures. We’re not fixed and many aspects in us are even unknown to ourselves. That’s why I’m not so keen on using labels and adjectives to describe someone. That makes conversations somewhat confusing but more interesting : )

Andorra and Barcelona

I found some photos of Barcelona and Andorra in a recent developed roll of film. It’s from the roll I thought was lost somewhere in Groningen but it’d been staying in my luggage the whole time.

I didn’t have many photos of the stunningly beautiful views of Pyrenees during my 5-day hike there last summer. If you have to carry a big backpack climbing up and down mountains at least 8 hours per day for several days, the last thing you want to have in your backpack is a heavy but delicate camera. Maybe next time I’ll bring less food (I figured out that when you’re hiking, you have no appetite) and take a weatherproof camera or a GoPro with me instead.

So these rare photos of that summer were taken in the cities – Barcelona and Andorra. I nearly went camera-free even after we’d already come back to the cities. Why? Just because…

Chum cafe

Last weekend, one of my friends and I spent hours talking in this café (we actually had stayed until it’s closed lol). I don’t really remember all topics we went through but we did talk a lot about Studio Ghibli anime. She told me she was crying watching Grave of the fireflies which made her eyes all puffy the next morning when she went to work and her colleagues made fun of her. It’s not too late to find my friend this cute now, is it? xD

I told her about Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) and she eagerly watched it the following morning. I saw the poster of this anime when I was in a cinema in Paris (Going to a cinema when you travel is something that might bring you joy and surprise. I watched Frozen in French without English subtitle there and even though I couldn’t understand the whole thing I still enjoyed it. One of the most memorable moments in Paris was me and friends singing Let It Go – French version on the subway back home : P). Kaze Tachinu does not only fictionalize the life of a famous aircraft designer but it’s also a story about a dreamer with a beautiful love.

The studio will release a new anime soon, When Marnie Was There. The theme song of this film was sung by one of my favorite artists, Priscilla Ahn. You can watch the official trailer here

And yeah, right, how could I forget that on that same night I kind of inspired my friend to explore the world of film photography? I’m a beginner myself so I simply told her my thoughts about film cameras and how different I think film is from digital. My friend had already considered about owning a camera and learning to shoot seriously. When she saw my Minolta, her eyes brightened and I found myself bombarded with questions in a few hours after. We went through the next few days looking for a camera. It’s been a long time since I saw my friend this determined about something and it strangely makes me thrilled! :D

Analogue photography is much more popular in Saigon (and Vietnam) now than it was a few years ago so getting a good and cheap film camera isn’t a hassle anymore. The problem is that there’re many to choose and we were both confused. We both come to the simple conclusion that the camera isn’t that important, it’s just a means to an end and it all depends on us who take photos.

I was editing this post a couple of hours after we’d got her a Zenit ET with a legendary Helios lens. This Russian camera was built like tank and it feels steady in my hands because of its weight. It’s also very beautiful and has an edgy look that I like (I have to admit that my Minolta looks girly haha). I noticed that it’s kinda different to use this camera than mine because of the light metering system. It seems that more effort should be spent to shoot with the Zenit and I could see that it’d be my friend’s good companion to photography. The hard way is the better way, right? She was kind of hesitant about buying the camera at first but finally she got it and we both felt so excited. I might be even more excited than she is haha. I hope to see her photos as soon as possible and can’t wait to switching our gears *heh*. I’m in glee!!!

What I ate in Taiwan [2]

I mentioned in my previous post about my food adventure in Taiwan that I preferred the taste of Tainan cuisines. It might be a personal preference because my Taiwanese friend Sharon told me most Taipei people think that Southern food is sweeter than it should be. In fact, many well-known Taiwanese cuisines are originated from Tainan. The second day in Tainan, I wasn’t surprised anymore every time Cloris and Sharon told me, “This restaurant is very old, and very famous”. Many famous restaurants in Tainan are old and have been run for more than 3 generations. I appreciate that Taiwanese people try to preserve not only their family business but also the taste of the food. This is the way how well-known restaurants/eateries keep their loyal fans and attract new fans. That’s why when you’re in Tainan and confused about where to eat, you only need to look for places with a long line of waiting people, and you’ll be safe! ; )

First meal in Tainan – rice porridge with milk fish (this fish is very popular in Tainan), sticky rice with braised chicken – this is very good!

Taiwanese udon

Fried-noodle soup with shrimp tempura – REALLY tasty!

Tomatoes with sweet soy sauce – something you must try in Tainan, it tastes “interesting” haha. Sharon said only old Tainan people like this. We had this in the famous Lily fruit store near Confucious temple. We also had tsua-bing (shave-iced) there but it’s not that good compared to other less popular places throughout the city.

Tofu pudding with red beans –  Anping district

Fish soup – I forget what kind of fish it is, lol x D

 

Rice with braised pork and dried fish

Oyster pancake, my favorite!!! Much better than the one I had in Taipei. The oysters are fresh and the sauce is really special!

Rice cake – Before.

After. It’s gone in 2 minutes, haha : D

Fried-fish soup – again, don’t remember the name of the fish xD

Fried chicken – at the same eatery where we ate the fish soup

Matcha ice-cream puff – at a bakery near Tainan university. Don’t eat this alone! Share with someone, or you’ll regret! : D

Stinky tofu – at a night market (night markets in Tainan are set up differently from those in Taipei. In Taipei, night markets cover one or two streets, but in Tainan they’re big outdoor food courts)

Charcoal grilled octopus – at the same night market

Guancai ban (coffin toast) – a popular snack in Tainan. There’re many different kinds of fillings to choose. We had the most simple one with mushrooms, carrots , and chicken in creamy sauce (similar to Alfredo sauce)

Sweet and sour eel noodle – looks ugly but tastes amazing! : P

Smoked eggs

Smoked mushrooms

Smoked tofu. The last night in Tainan, Sharon’s mom prepared a bento with these smoked eggs, mushrooms, and tofu so that I wouldn’t get hungry while waiting at the airport. I wanted to buy some back home but afraid it’s not allowed to bring these onto the airplane because the smell is quite strong.

I also miss the Oolong tea and the winter melon tea with tapioca in Tainan. They’re very good summer drinks. It’s really hot in Tainan when I was there. I’m glad that I made a good decision bringing winter clothes for Taipei and summer clothes for Tainan. In the end of my trip, Sharon and Cloris asked me which dish was my favorite. I couldn’t tell because I liked almost everything (and my mom always says I’m quite a picky eater :P). I don’t remember how many times I had to say, “so good!”, “so yummy!”, “wow!” after I tried a new dish. Some dishes are very similar to Vietnamese cuisines but some are really unique to my taste. Looking at these photos, I just want to go back to Taiwan to… EAT! ; )

 Some interesting reads lately

1. A family moved to an Arctic island in Norway for a year leaving behind their stable conventional life without any plans and they came back, happier, making us wonder about the meaning of our lives.

2. A meaning behind Brazil’s national dish – Feijoada: from this TED talk

Black bean: African population
Rice: Europeans
Red chili sauce: indigenous people
Green: great giver of life to Brazil and the world – the Amazonian forests
Manioc (yuka): the big Japanese population in Brazil (over 1 million in Sao Paulo)

Now World Cup 2014 was over but it isn’t too late to want to know about this vibrant country in South America, is it? :)

(About WC 2014: it’s over leaving me unsatisfied with Germany’s victory. I was rooting for Holland, then Argentina (I’ve been in love with them since the Euro 2004) so bad that I wanted to cry when Argentina was defeated by Germany. I know it’s just a game and by looking at Germany’s performance in previous games, one should not be surprised about their championship. But still, I don’t think football fans are the most reasonable fans. We hope and dream for the impossible, don’t we?)

3. About privacy: “…that there is no final, satisfying way to balance our need to be known with our need to be alone. The balance is always uncertain and provisional; it’s always a matter of dissatisfaction, give-and-take, and sacrifice.”

From this article on the New Yorker (the comments are also very interesting)

4. 10 common GMO claims and what scientists say

5. It all began when a couple found a cardboard box with 5 tiny kittens…

(yes yes yes, I have a soft spot for these cuties : )

 

What I ate in Taiwan [1]

Months after my Taiwan adventure, I still miss it terribly. I haven’t really looked at all photos I took during my trip until recently. I find it boring to look at the photos right after I took them because my memory was still fresh even one or two following weeks.That’s why I let myself effortlessly wait for the right moment to look into the past events again. Waiting isn’t always bad. My memory is tested. Did I go to the place just to take loads of photos and then forget about it? Who did I meet? How did I feel in a certain moment? I saw many people who take many photos when they travel and they always look like they’re in a hurry. I asked myself if I was the same. That’s why sometimes I just didn’t want to carry my big digital camera with me.

Taiwan is a street-food heaven. I could spend a whole day eating while strolling on streets and alleyways.  Seriously, I still remember when I was in Tainan, the main activity I had was to hop on Sharon’s scooter and we would go from place to place to… eat! Taiwanese people, especially people in the South, really know how to enjoy their life. I find it interesting that they share similar interest with Saigonese: We love to eat and always search for hidden-but-soon-to-be-famous food corners.

The famous stinky tofu ;P – Shilin night market

Taro, sweet potato, and pumpkin rice balls with tofu pudding in sweet ginger soup – Jiufen

“Iron eggs” – Danshui

Preserved fruits – Danshui

Ice-cream, peanut, and cilantro (not in the photo) crepe. Soooo good! – Jiufen

Sea-salt coffee and taro sesame bun – 85°C bakery near Longshan temple. I miss the coffee so bad! I went to this bakery the first time in Irvine, US, that’s why seeing it in Taipei made me all excited.

I still don’t know what it is… Selina also didn’t know (she’s been to Taiwan for 3 times already, lol). It’s like a big dumpling filled with sweet braised pork, the soup is thick, sweet and spicy…

Sushi at a fish market in Taipei – apparently this fish market is only famous to Hongkong tourists, haha :)

Beef udon in a udon restaurant in Taipei city mall (an underground mall)

Taro soft-cream- Hualien city

Tofu pudding, coconut ice with sesame, and tapioca – Hualien city

Railway bento – Hualien train station (I wanted to have the last dinner in Hualien with some new friends but I was late for the train to Kaohsiung so they told me I should instead buy this and eat on the train.)

I realized that Selina was in most of the food photos I took in Taipei (and in most of my Taipei photos, haha ; P). We actually ate a lot in Taipei but I prefer the food in Tainan, which is richer to my taste. I think we tried almost everything at the night markets in Taipei. We didn’t really go to any restaurants for dinner during our stay in Taipei. Night markets fed us well, as they do to many Taiwanese.

Now, I remember a soup and stir fried noodles I had in a small restaurant in the outskirt of Hualien city. I ordered them by chance and they turned out to be good. But I was so hungry that I didn’t take any photos of the food :P (it happened to many other awesome treats we had in Taipei too!). And, yeah, how could I forget my favorite Taiwanese drink – bubble tea? I’m so glad that there’re more and more Taiwanese bubble tea shops here in Saigon but bubble tea in Taiwan is still the best! : )

A journey with a Ukulele

I’m struggling with self-learning Ukulele at the moment! I got this little fun Hawaiian instrument a couple of days ago after I came back in Saigon. She’s already got her name: Pinee-uke : D. When I saw this Kala ukulele, immediately I knew that we’re meant to be together. She looks cute in a pineapple shape and she makes lovely sounds. She’s one of the best things I’ve ever got this year!

I have an old friend in Holland who was also my neighbor (I never asked how old he was but I guessed he must be really old because he looked like a hippie version of professor Dumbledore to me, haha). He played drums at a pub in Groningen and he asked me once that I should come visit him there and join his band. I told him I didn’t play any instruments. He said that we can make everything “our” instruments. We can use pots, pans, pencils, bottles, glasses, and many things more. We can whistle, clap our hands, jump our feet, or hum. We can basically make music out of anything! Music resides within each of us and anyone is able to make music. That’s so true! But I always want to learn some proper instrument(s).

It’s a shame that I haven’t picked anything to play even though learning an instrument has been in my bucket list for years. Many excuses were made: no time, many things to do, excessive traveling, and so on. Those all lame excuses have kept me from learning an instrument for years! I tried to learn guitar four years ago but it’s always awkward to hold one with my left hand on the fret board and my right hand on the strings. I was wondering back then if I was a leftie when it came to playing guitar but now I can kind of hold it comfortably. Giving it another go, I began my self-taught journey with my dad’s guitar last month but it didn’t turn out well. I need something simpler, easier, also lighter and portable so that my learning won’t be interrupted when I travel.

Immediately I thought about a ukulele. I’ve known about this cute little cousin of guitar and followed some ukulele artists for many years. The first time I touched a ukulele was two years ago when I was in South Carolina. One of the Hongkong girls I know had one and we often sang along the lovely melody from her ukulele with many other friends in the “Horseshoe”  – the main park on campus. Back in Groningen, living with Danielle and discovering she owns a Ukulele was one of the best things ever. I played with it a few times and fell in love with the sound even more. I thought to myself that I’d like to learn this cheerful four-string instrument someday.

I feel like ukuleles are made for players like me who feels intimidated by musical instruments. What I like about my learning so far is that I truly enjoy it. I feel like I’m more and more in tune with my Pinee and I’m always eager to learn more. It hasn’t demotivated me and scared me off! It’s always hard in the beginning to learn something that feels unnatural but once the joy of learning comes into play everything would be easier. I think it’s time to get over the fear that I’m so dumb when it comes to learning music (haha). Ukulele is definitely easier for me to learn because I feel so motivated thinking that I can actually bring this little toy anywhere and have fun with it whenever I want in whichever way I like. However,  I’m not saying that ukulele is easier to play than guitar just because it has fewer strings! Watching others play ukulele reminds me that I have a very long way to go (right now I can only play very basic children songs haha). I just want to say that the beginning is the most important phase of my learning curve and I’ve been enjoying that phase so far. Adjusting myself to something new is inevitably frustrating but it’s also exciting and I’m happy with my slow progression so far. Of course, to play better needs time, effort, and determination. I’m trying to form  a habit of practicing my ukulele for a little bit every morning. I’m looking forward to bringing her with me on my next trips! : D

Here are some songs with the ukulele I like: Amanda Palmer, one of my favorite musician/women/feminists/writers… and her Ukulele anthem:

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Amanda’s cover of Radiohead’s Creep:

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Sungha Jung (this guy is a genius *_*)  – Let it go (Frozen’s OST)

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Jason Castro – Somewhere over the rainbow (this is one of my favorite versions of the song)

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Priscilla Ahn – Find my way back home (I’ve been following Priscilla Ahn for years but I’ve only seen this video recently. Her songs seem good for my practice :D)

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George Formby – When I’m cleaning windows

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The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (They performed in Groningen last year but I couldn’t get a ticket! =_=)

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Noah and the Whale – 5 years time

The joy of shooting film

First, I have a story to tell about the digital cameras I’ve laid my hands on for the past 3 years. Last summer, I had to return the Pentax Kx I’d been using to my sister after our one-year camera exchange. My sister always thinks the exchange is unfair (haha). I exchanged my Lumix lx3 (a point and shoot camera) for her Pentax Kx (a dSLR camera). After one year, a friend of mine M helped me bring my sister’s Pentax back in Vietnam from the States while another friend K brought lx3 to Holland from Vietnam. It’s kinda complicated, isn’t it? But that didn’t end there! I lent my lx3 to that friend K when she went to Belgium during last year winter break and it was stolen at Brussels train station. I never saw my “Dế con” (or “little cricket”, yes, this is how I call my lx3 haha) again. It’s really sad because I hadn’t spent much time with him after he made a long journey to come back to me. Now I’m using my dad’s Nikon D5100, which is a good entry-level dSLR.

Even though I like taking photos with all of the mentioned cameras, there’s something missing that I couldn’t explain that leaves me unsatisfied.

I bought my film cameras from ebay last summer when I was in US. I decided to take photography seriously and I thought film photography would give me something I need, something that digital photography couldn’t. The film cameras were really cheap and I also needed something to replace the gone Pentax.

 

 

This image is from the roll of film that had stayed in the Canon AE-1 for 3 years. The roll was expired and it’s one of the least damaged photos. It makes my eyes a bit teary looking at this photo because Tít isn’t here anymore…

 

I got all of the films in my Minolta X570, and Yashica GSN35, and my dad’s Canon AE1 (this roll stayed in the camera for 3 years…) developed and scanned a couple of days ago. I use Minolta the most among the three. I got two rolls taken by this camera developed and printed last summer when I was in Holland. The first roll told me the camera worked perfectly. But it took me so long to finish the second and third roll.

 

I feel the joy of shooting film when my heart beats so fast every time an image appears in front of my eyes. Those bits and pieces of my life from last year become vividly alive. Time flies! I never feel this way with digital photography. Maybe because with film, after a shot is taken anticipation is built in a really special way. You’re all excited loading a new roll of film. You take a photo but unable look at the outcome immediately. You keep shooting until the roll is finished. Sometimes your busy life keeps you away from the camera for a while and you kind of forget about the unfinished roll. You come back to finish it someday because you desperately want to know, to see, to remember what you have seen through the lens of the camera. But you still have to wait until it gets processed. The whole process of shooting, waiting and more waiting does actually exist this hurry world and it makes a film photo precious to look at. Film isn’t just a medium, it’s a lifestyle. It’s all about delayed gratification. I’ve never been a patient kid but with time I have learnt the art of waiting. : ) (But it seems that I instead made my films wait for so long this time haha).

These film photos are “old” but they are also “new”. How amazing is that?

 

 

 

 

There’re many failed exposures due accidental shutter releases, light leaks, and poor focusing. There’re some shots I don’t even remember having taken. I took my Minolta to a camera repairman yesterday and I’m so glad that it’s still working after I dropped it so hard a few months ago (I was so shocked back then seeing the filter broken but the camera was still in one piece!). I bought a new filter for my lens yesterday and a customer there looking at my broken old filter saying that he’d been shooting for more than a year but never dropped his camera or his lens. I can see the “WOW!” in his eyes when he’s looking at me. Thanks to the filter there’s no damage on the lens. I’m super lucky!

 

 

 

I think I should have some sort of film shooting diary to note the time, film type, and camera that have been used. It’s got confusing already with just a few rolls!

 

 

Speaking of which, I still have a roll of film lost somewhere in my warehouse which was taken on my 10th birthday but never got developed. Should I be looking for it now? Or is it too late? : D

 

Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeps! : P