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Zeiss Ikon, Contina I (d) (526/24-mod), 35mm Camera. Photograph gallery.

River Mekong as it winds through Ho Chi Minh City

Straight in at the deep end for the Contina's first outing - it was taken to Vietnam without ever having a test film put through it. The next three shots illustrate the completely differing way the same sunset looks through the lens of a camera. I couldn't make up my mind which one I preferred...

Standard sunset shot with the bulk of the image under exposed, resulting in completely silhouetted foreground and horizon.

This is a scene across the River Mekong as it winds through Ho Chi Minh City, the river is heavily industrialized and a rather muddy hue during the day, but manages to look quite enticing here.

River Mekong as it winds through Ho Chi Minh City

just a minute or so after the sun has disappeared, with the aperture opened up to that suggested by the meter.

River Mekong as it winds through Ho Chi Minh City

Another couple of minutes later and this time opening up a little more than the meter suggested.

two girls illuminated by the light from a grass fire

These two girls illuminated by the light from a grass fire caught my attention as I was walking back from watching the sunset. The exposure was a wild guess, but worked out about right.

bright floral display was part of the Tet
decorations in Ho Chi Minh City This bright floral display was part of the Tet (Chinese New Year) decorations in Ho Chi Minh City and celebrates the year of the boar which started in February 2007, so far as the west is concerned. The whole street was closed and this stunning display was laid out for just a few days, complete with cemented in brick walls, a small river with a bridge and paths. Then it was all demolished and no sign of it remained just a couple of days later.

Hotel Continental

The famous old Hotel Continental, dating back to French Colonial occupation of Indochina, when a lot of the street names were French and the city was still known as Saigon. Actually it still gets referred to as Saigon by both the expat's who live there and by a deal of the locals, even the airport code remains as SGN.

Vietnamese Brick Kilns

Scattered around the Vietnamese country, you often find clusters of brick kilns used to make the local distinctive bricks, seen in the foreground of this image. The bricks themselves are smooth without a frog and largely hollow, making them very light. The bricks appear to be fired rather like pottery, rather than 'burnt' as in English practice where in some cases the fuel is partially mixed in with the clay so that it burns during the process. Vietnamese brickwork on close inspection looks like a complete disaster, with bricks pushed in at seeming any conceivable angle with cement oozing out of the joints and left unfinished. This provides the rough key for the subsequent layers of plaster to go over, at which the Vietnamese are undoubtedly experts, as a perfectly flat and smooth surface results, concealing the bricks beneath. Most dwellings are single skinned as heat retention isn't exactly a problem.

Beehive brick kiln

Usually the brick kilns are a rather unsightly "Scotch Kiln" angular construction away from the road, but driving back from the Cao Dai temple I came across these rather more attractive Beehive examples. These do not appear to be of the down draught type. There are bricks protruding from the dome to form a spiral stairway to the apex. The dome itself is very nicely made, being just one brick thick and is quite a technical achievement in it's own right. Owing to my lack of Vietnamese I wasn't able to find out from the owner how many firings a kiln could survive before needing to be rebuilt, even though they were very happy to show me around. Three chimneys are placed around the periphery to allow a good draw of air required to keep a high and even temperature inside the kiln. The bricks themselves appear to be made and dried off site prior to firing.

Inside the fuel sheds with the kiln mouths to the right

dome and the apex vent

Inside the fuel sheds with the kiln mouths to the right. A variety of fuel is used, but amongst wood a large amount of ground coconut husk is used, this can be seen spilling out of the bays to the left. When being used the kiln entrance is physically bricked up, the firing takes two days then a further two days to cool down before the bricks can be removed and added to the store, the whole process can take a week

Inside an empty kiln about to be recharged, looking straight up into the dome and the apex vent.

Zeiss Ikon, Contina I (d) (526/24-mod), 35mm Camera. Sample images - Cambodia

Angkor was the ancient capital of the Khmers

Sharing a border with Cambodia means getting from Vietnam to Angkor is a simple task. Angkor was the ancient capital of the Khmers but was abandoned after it was sacked by the Siamese over five centuries ago. The jungle rapidly encroached on the site and systematically demolished the ancient cities and they remained largely forgotten until the 1860s when they were discovered by the French. A huge project to clear and partially reconstruct many of the sites began. One of the most challenging is the Bauphon inside the city of Angkor Thom, this was entirely dismantled to reinforce the crumpling innards, the huge carved blocks were laid out in front of the site and carefully documented, this process was terminated at the end of the Vietnam War, when the US supported Cambodian Government collapsed following US withdrawal and Pol Pot and the 'Khmer Rouge' started their orgy of terror. All the records for the archeology were destroyed and all but a handful of the 1000 strong Khmer team were executed.

Now in happier times, a French sponsored team have started where they left off and the task of re-assembling the enormous jigsaw puzzle continues.

Ta Prohm,         seemingly left as it was found

romantic Keah Preahn


One of the most romantic sites within the Angkor complex is Ta Prohm, seemingly left as it was found. It gives a wonderful impression of what it might have been like to stumble across it. In fact the site has been cleared significantly and some attempt is currently underway to make safe some of the more precarious structures, however it remains my favourite of all the sites, with it's towering fig trees grappling with the structures as if some absurdly huge candle has been allowed to drip wax over them.

Right is the inside of one of the corridors of the very similarly romantic Keah Preahn site.

Spectacular Cumulous Nimbus cloud

Spectacular Cumulous Nimbus cloud building rapidly to the North of the Tonle Sap lake, the occasional bolt of lightning would arc as it crawled towards us, fortunately the sun set shortly afterwards and, robbed of the energy that fueled it's birth, it subsided into a benign shadow of itself and allowed us a dry walk back.
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