French colonial Hanoi

I’m getting out of my travel order again here, but I was in Hanoi recently and was looking around the fantastic French colonial buildings. I thought: how can I capture this beauty as it must have been, before time and decay took their toll? When the beautiful Hanoi was the Paris of the East? But of course I must shoot a beautiful French woman there! (il est évident!) So my first model shoot ensued, and since it was a lot of fun I hope to do more model shoots in the near future. Here is a sample, and you can see some more results at my photo work blog.

Evening drama

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Miri the seahorse city

 

Miri the seahorse city is the second city of Sarawak and boasts a vibrant economy based on oil and wood. The oil and gas under the city dried up decades ago, but the timber industry and offshore drilling have kept Miri buoyant (more evenly distributed wealth here compared to Sibu where there were some rich people and a lot of poor people). A standout in Miri is the food – you can get anything you want and it’s all good, especially the local jungle food. Midin ferns, chicken and tapioca leaves cooked in bamboo, cangkok manis, and of course the fresh seafood. I don’t think there was a single thing I tried in Miri that I didn’t like! Its also worth a visit to the handicraft centre to buy authentic tribal goods made by the people selling them to you… avoid the chinese tourist shops in the centre of town where most of it is either mass produced or the tribes get a pittance for it. Australians also have the burden of not being able to buy any wood due to our strict customs, which cuts out a lot of great stuff!

Big vase, guarded by big ants, Malaysian Borneo, Miri, Miri City Fan, Sarawak, traditional pottery, tribal designs.

Big vase guarded by big ants! Miri, Sarawak.

 

dramatic clouds, lighthouse, Malaysian Borneo, Miri, Sarawak, sea horse, Seahorse, silhouette, twighlight

Seahorse lighthouse silhouette, Miri, Sarawak

malaysian borneo., Miri City Fan, Roundabout, Sarawak, sculpture, tower

Roundabout tower near Miri City Fan, Sarawak.

gold, lamp post, light, Malaysian Borneo, Miri, Sarawak, sea horse, Seahorse streetlight, streetlamp, stylized design

Seahorse streetlight, Miri, Sarawak.

malaysian borneo., Miri, Sarawak, tribal design, Wood carvings

Wood carvings, tribal design. Miri, Sarawak.

lake, Malaysian Borneo, Miri, Sarawak, schoolboy, sculpture, Sea horse mimicry, water, white seahorse.

Sea horse mimicry, Miri, Sarawak.

colourful patterns, looking up, Malaysian Borneo, Miri, Miri City Fan, Sarawak, tower, Traditional designs

Traditional designs on tower, Miri, Sarawak

deep blue sky, Malaysian Borneo, Miri, Sarawak, sea horse., Seahorse lighthouse at dusk, silhouette

Seahorse lighthouse at dusk, Miri, Sarawak

chrome, colourful diamonds, Diamond pattern, flute shape, Malaysian Borneo, Miri, miri city fan., Roundabout, Sarawak, tower

Diamond pattern on tower, Miri, Sarawak.

Sorry for getting things out of order – I’m a bit behind in my posts and the earthquake in Chiang Mai necessitated an interruption of the schedule to bring you the breaking news. We’re back on track now… coming up is the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah, and then Thailand.

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Earthquake near chiang mai

We just had a magnitude 6.8 earthquake (downgraded from 2 x 7.0 quakes) over the border in Myanmar. I was on the 4th floor of an old wooden building here in the north Thailand city of Chiang Mai that swayed a fair bit, but there was no damage here or elsewhere in the neighbourhood. No sirens to be heard either, so all seems fine here. I hope the burmese are ok too.

Edit: Only casualty in Thailand was one person who died on the northern border town of Mae Sai in Chiang Rai province. No damage seen in Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. Myanmar (Burma) has confimed at least 75 dead and counting, with significant damage to remote villages and roads.

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Bawang Assan headhunter village homestay

A short 45 minute van ride out of Sibu is the Bawang Assan village, of the Iban people. Like most tribes on Borneo they were into headhunting until as recently as WWII… and it was mentioned that in very remote locations there may even still be the odd beheading. All in the name of good fun, of course. But don’t worry, tourists aren’t a target – it was (is?) only worth taking the head of another warrior, as it was to prove your worth. Depending on which tribe you were in you needed to have taken 1-5 heads in order to be considered worthy of marriage. Thats right – the poor men were following orders, and it was the women who were really the bloodthirsty ones! The guys just did the head hacking bit.

Anyway they were the best hosts and I have no idea how much rice-wine we had as we went around the village greeting everyone (including the chief), but it was a lot! Apparently there aren’t many wooden homestay longhouses left upstream, they’ve been using concrete recently as its cheaper. So get in to Bawang Assan if you want to see real 100 year old wooden longhouses and be a part of a peaceful village community for a night or two. Just don’t bring alcohol. We didn’t because we were warned that the guy who wrote the lonely planet guide brought a bottle and with the generous hospitality of the villagers it was multiplied many times over. Travel photographers don’t have time to spend a week drinking and wandering around longhouses in our underwear!

backdoor, cat, headhunters, Iban, longhouse, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, raised wood walkway, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden house

Iban backdoor, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

 

golden rice fields, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, paddy, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden house

Rice paddy, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

hardwood, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, old, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, unpainted, village, vine patterns, weathered, wood, wooden house, wooden windows

Old longhouse windows, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

communal living space, headhunters, Iban, inside longhouse, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village

Communal longhouse, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

headhunters, Iban, longhouse, making, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, mat, Sarawak, Sibu, straws, tribal, tribe, village, weaving, woven

Mat weaving, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

dark, Door, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, old religion, pagan, ritual, Sarawak, shaman, Sibu, sign, tribal, tribe, village

Shaman door, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, motorbike crossing, river, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden boat, wooden bridge

Wooden bridge and boat, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

basket, decapitated, fight to the death, headhunters, human skulls, Iban, longhouse, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, real, Sarawak, Sibu, skulls, tribal, tribe, village, warrior

What headhunters do best, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

boat landing, headhunters, Iban, jetty, low tide, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, mud, pier, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, village, wooden houses.

Boat landing, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

dance, gongs, headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, music, Sarawak, Sibu, traditional, tribal, tribe, tuah, village

Music and dance, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, music, rapid gong playing, rhythm sticks, Sarawak, Sibu, tribal, tribe, tuah, village

Rapid gong playing, Iban village near Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

By popular demand, here’s one actually including me! Photo taken by Macartay, Iban Longhouse Homestay Co-ordinator.

headhunters, Iban, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, my gong-playing cameo, Sarawak, Sibu, traditional, tribal, tribe, tuah, village

Strange looking gong player, Iban headhunter longhouse, Malaysian Borneo

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Sibu and the Rawang

On the mighty Rawang River in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo is the city of Sibu.  Roads being as they are in Borneo, the best way to get to Sibu is by ferry from Kuching. The main industry is timber, as can be seen by the scores of lumber yards lining the river as you approach. While there are many very poor people here and in the rural areas, there are also some very wealthy people in late model cars, living in big houses. Though the restrictions placed on logging have slowed the official rate of deforestation on the Malaysian side, business is still very good for some.

boat, Borneo, Evening, girls, malaysia, rawang river, Riverside, Sarawak, Sibu, silhouette, street, stroll, Sunset
Evening stroll along the riverside, Sibu, Sarawak.
backlight, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, motorbike, Sibu, steps., Sunset

Motorbike at sunset, Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

boats, Clouds, malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, rawang river, riverboats, Sibu, silhouette, sundown, Sunset, water

Sunset on Rawang River, Sibu, Malaysian Borneo.

boats, Clouds, jetty., malaysia, Malaysian Borneo, pier, rawang river, riverboats, Sibu, silhouette, sundown, Sunset, water

Boat and Jetty at sunset, Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

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Tua Pek Kong Temple, Sibu, Malaysian Borneo

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Sarawak Cultural Village part 2 – The Performers

No village is complete without its villagers… and the villagers at the Sarawak Cultural Village work hard to bring the tribal past to life. Not only do they perform the daily tasks of the village and talk to travellers about their culture, but they do two international-class 45min performances a day to show the dozen or so traditional dances, music and costumes to their fascinated audience. Again, these shots are unfortunnately not for sale unless permission is granted by the village management some time in the future. Even though I can’t sell them it was great low-light event photography practice and portfolio material… not to mention it was a fantastic experience!

Iban dancing woman

Iban woman dancing

Dancing around the wooden poles

 

Hornbill feather traditional dance

Mean-looking tribal warrior dance

Old Chinese immigrant dance

Young Malay bride

Malay wedding dance

Malay sweethearts

Making rice cookies

Jumping between poles (a bit like 'elastics')

Traditional top spinning (after dancing with it, he put it down to keep spinning!)

Playing the mellow Sape

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Sarawak Cultural Village part 1 – inanimates

Near Kuching, the Sarawak Cultural Village is a great place to learn about the tribes of Sarawak. Once a real village, it has been converted into a mixed village comprising one house from each of the major tribes of Sarawak. You can talk to the people in the houses doing traditional everyday activities such as making Sago flour and rice cookies, husking rice, playing the Sape, tossing spinning tops, jumping in between poles, making and shooting blowdarts and generally having a good time like they used to (in the good old days). Shaman paraphenalia and headhunter skulls were just the icing on the cake! Unfortunately none of these prints are available for sale yet, as I’m still trying to get permission to sell them (it’s private land, so permission is needed). I hope you enjoy them anyway.

Shamanistic drawing

Traditional Malay house

The power of the shaman

Skeletal Shaman

Shaman masks and carved dolls

Painted tribal mask

Tribal Mask

Traditional house with no nails

Headhunter's skull

shell decorations on a basket

Longhouse stilt tribal paintings

Traditional bridge across the stream

Mountains behind the old village

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