Motorcycle Diaries: Vietnam

Story: I’m a photographer, but some months ago I stopped taking pictures. It happens sometimes; due to a combination of upheavals and illness, the appetite to capture the world abruptly went away.

Then I ended up on a last-minute trip to Vietnam with a friend. On a patched-up motorbike we drove 500 miles across the country, from the northern capital of Hanoi down to the ancient port of Hoi An.

Vietnam was a sensory overload, which shook us to the core from the moment a soldier stamped our passports and issued us in.

We drove across long open roads, weaving between pristine coastline, leafy interiors and vertiginous cliffs. We rattled through huge, raving metropolises and tiny forgotten villages.

Dependent on dubious Google Translate, Couchsurfing and crumpled maps, we met people from all walks of life. Every day brought different climates and scenery: dew-drizzled springtime at dawn; sticky summer by noon; misty, odorous autumn in the evening; stone-cold winter at night.

The thirst to take photographs quickly returned, but I began shooting in a different way. It was hard to believe that just 40 years ago, this outstandingly beautiful country was the battleground of an epoch-defining conflict. The Vietnamese people’s sense of forgiveness and ability to heal was both inspiring and humbling.

When I got home, I moved to another country and quit my job in order to devote more time to photography. This was a trip that broke a spell – I hope this series goes some way to show why.

@Kamilakstanley
www.kamilakstanley.com