Book Review: A Week In Hoi An
The ancient port town of Hoi An in central Vietnam is a beautiful place. At least, it is if you know how to see the beauty.
(You may remember, my first impression of Hoi An a few months ago was not a good one.)
As someone who writes and takes photos to try to express things and/or record events, places and people, I never really think much about art. Especially not drawing or painting, pursuits I gave up in high school because I was no good at either.
Enter Bridget March, an artist who produces the most beautiful sketches and water colours.
Bridget spent a week in Hoi An in December last year, filling a moleskin notebook with drawings, paintings and insightful written observations about the World Heritage-listed town. Her notebook was so exquisite that just about everyone who saw it encouraged her to publish it as a book.
And so she did.
I just love the fact that Bridget “just did it”. And the end result is a visually stunning little book that captures the magic, charm and beauty of Hoi An as seen through an artist’s eye.
Flipping through the book is like stepping back in time, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. Not just any guide, either. A guide who has sat and watched local life for hours and then discussed her observations with the locals.
It’s a book to be savoured again and again.
For those who have visited Hoi An, this book would make a wonderful souvenir. For people planning a visit to Hoi An, this book would help open your eyes to some of the less obvious enchantments of this multicultural Vietnamese town that was Southeast Asia’s largest port in the 1st century. (Because as I discovered first-hand, sometimes it’s hard to find Hoi An’s charm behind the commercialism and the tourist hordes.) For people who have not visited Hoi An and and don’t think they’ll get around to it, this book is full of beautiful art that will make you nostalgic for a magical mystical faraway place in the Far East.
Bridget officially launched A Week in Hoi An last week, the one-year anniversary of her arrival in Vietnam. Being a practical kind of artist, she combined her book launch with the opening of her exhibition of water colour and acrylic paintings at VinGallery in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2.
As well as being beautiful, Bridget’s book and exhibition of paintings — many of which appear in A Week in Hoi An — are a reminder of how important it is to slow down. It’s too easy to rush through life in a fog of exasperation, trying to herd kids, slow-poke husbands, dogs and everyone else to where they’re supposed to be. And never taking the time to just be.
Perhaps I should visit art galleries more often.
Until the book launch, I didn’t know much about Bridget-the-artist. I only knew Bridget as a bubbly fun friend, a friend I met on one of our street food tours.
But at the exhibition I learned Bridget had a successful career as a furniture designer in Northern England and then as a senior lecturer at the Leeds College of Art. But a chance invitation to visit a friend in Vietnam led to a major life change (hmmm, that sounds familiar) and now Bridget spends her time observing, painting, drawing and teaching art classes in Ho Chi Minh City. Oh, and publishing art books.
Bridget’s exhibition even features a piece of “my” Vietnam, a painting based on what she saw in a market during one of our morning walking tours. You can see the market painting on the wall behind Bridget in her photo higher up in the post.
A Week in Hoi An is listed on Amazon. It’s currently out of stock but Bridget says it will be available again soon.
If you haven’t done so already, like The Dropout Diaries on Facebook
6 years ago