We flew from Danang to Saigon for the last stage of our trip. Immediately struck by the energy of the city. After settling in at the hotel we happily get lost walking through the alleys, passing street stalls and locals going about their daily routine. The old city still in evidence when we pass museums, government buildings and temples. Western influence is more noticeable here in the form of cafes, expensive designer shops, skyscrapers, malls and hotels.

On our second day in the city, we took a long and hot bus trip to the Cu Chi tunnels. As we were on the bus for a few hours (each way) I thought I’d take the opportunity to sketch people on the move. Many on their mopeds. It got a bit bumpy at times but fun to draw.

Hoi An

In the morning we stopped off at the beautiful Tam Giang lagoon and ate prawns freshly caught and cooked in garlic. Then we headed to the historical Hoi An. Once settled at our hotel, we walk to the old town. Very pretty with it’s many old Japanese merchant houses which are now tailor shops and bars/restaurants. More temples, pagodas and the lovely little Japanese bridge (built in the 1590’s) which I sketched whilst sipping coconut milk. It’s a modern day icon of Hoi An and even features on the 20000Dong note.

It’s much more laid back here compared with the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and Hue and so we hire a moped. Was great heading to the beach and rice fields. Also drove by the riverside which was once a port. I sketched the pretty buildings and boats lining the river. Also enjoyed sitting at the bars having a cold beer and occasional cocktail.


I particularly enjoyed a group guided tour by dragon boat stopping off to visit local Pagodas and Temples. We visited  An Hien Garden House, a beautiful old traditional Vietnamese house with a pond at the entrance. Only spent a few minutes here and quickly sketched the Pagoda. Interesting objects and colours with incense sticks burning, candles and photos of the family’s ancestors. Was v rushed and had to dash to catch the boat.

We moved onto the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Guardian statues at the Tomb of Khai Dinh caught my eye so I did a couple of sketches.

Back at the hotel before freshening up, I sketched the view from the window.


After returning to Hanoi  we take the sleeper train to Hue. We share with a French couple and . . .  a mouse!

‘“Alarme! Alarme! Souris’!”  arriving in Hue 13 hours later. (Fortunately we were on the top bunks)

Hue is a charming and picturesque city located on the Perfume River. The old city and the famous Citadel is situated on the north side and the newer city, including bars, restaurants and hotels on the south side. We walked to the Citadel in the afternoon with the sound of the crickets ringing in our ears. It was extremely hot. Most people were sensible and were at home and asleep! We sat in the shade and I sketched a pretty house.

Around the corner from the Citadel is the Royal Antiquities Museum. The beautiful interior of Long An Palace houses nearly 10,000 antiquities including clothing and ceramics relating to life during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). In the garden we sat in the shade amongst the collection of cannons and statues.

Hanoi and Halong Bay

With all the exploring in the heat, having breaks and a drink
has been a necessity. I generally try and find a spot with a good view so if I get the urge I can draw. I find it really relaxing people watching and sketching.
Whilst in Hanoi we take a 4.5 bus journey to Halong Bay. The setting is beautiful despite the misty weather. We spend most of our time on top of the boat relaxing  and admiring the distinctive limestone islets. Later we visit the caves and go kayaking. On return to our sleeping birth I thought the view from the cabin was interesting so sketched it. The rest of the day was spent enjoying great sea food and attempting to catch squid at night time. The following day we took a trip up the river to the floating markets.

Hanoi cafe scene and Lenin Park

Walking out of the grounds past the rickshaws and tourists we head to a bar recommended by a friend.
The interior has more of a South American feel than Vietnamese.  Very welcoming, quirky and interesting to draw. Green walls with turquoise shutters opening out onto the busy street below. The walls decorated with photographs of American jazz musicians and jazz album covers and records without their sleeves. An old gramophone sits by the window. I sketched the scene in front of me : visitors reading, drinking beer and chatting. Very relaxing.

After a couple of Tiger beers we walked to Lenin Park.
There was a fun atmosphere so we sat and watched people playing badminton and kids playing in the square. It was a Sunday so many parents were there too as. Funny seeing small kids sitting in really big plastic remote controlled cars powered by their dads. I think the dads were having more fun than they were!

Hanoi: Temple of Literature

A walk to the Temple of Literature followed. During my stay I saw many pagodas and temples and this was one of my favourite locations. The traditional Vietnamese architecture is very striking. It was built in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong and the temple is dedicated to Confucius ( khong Tu) It honours Vietnams top scholars and whilst there, hundreds of graduates  were celebrating. We walked through the lovely gardens and water features. Friendly atmosphere. Even ended up having photos taken with the graduates. I found a quiet spot to sketch the pretty bell pagoda.

Hanoi Fine Arts Museum

Always enjoy a gallery/museum visit and the Fine Arts museum has a good display of ancient Vietnamese stone carvings and paintings. Some really good drawings and prints too. Many depicting scenes from French colonial days.

I liked the simplicity of  this woodcut ‘Parade’ by Hang Trong. Depicting French national fete day.

Also Tran Van Cams ‘ buidling a bridge’ drawing from 1954.