After strolling along Hoan Kiem Lake, we decided to simply buy some fast food for our casual dinner back at the hotel.Â We had to prepare for our Halong Bay Tour the following day and try to get enough sleep before our 6:00 a.m. wake up call.
Our hotel in Hanoi was kind enough to store our luggage for free for the duration of our Halong Bay Tour.Â The front desk highly recommended the Oriental Sails Overnight Tour.Â The tour was offered at US$ 100 per person, which was not so bad for a one night cruise.Â The tour guide met us at the hotel lobby at 7:00 a.m. sharp and ushered us to a private van.
After about an hour on the road, our tour guide announced that we were about to make our first stop.Â We were brought to a souvenir factory which appeared like a cold chunk of gray concrete from the outside.Â The moment we set foot inside the compound, we found ourselves in front of huge front gates which covered with photos of tourists from around the world.
Once inside, we were immediately surrounded with hundreds of paintings in different colors and sizes.Â Upon closer inspection, we realized that the artwork was in fact sewn into the canvases.
These sewn â€œpaintingsâ€ or embroidered artworks usually represent Vietnamese values, traditions and ways of life.Â The artists expertly use their talent to creatively blend different colors to match various shapes and make each sketch on canvas come alive.Â The subjects of the sewn â€œpaintingsâ€ are very diverse: city life, rural life, intricate landscapes and even detailed portraits.
To start, the artist creates a sample sketch on the canvas and proceeds to poke holes on the outline. The next step is to select the appropriate thread colors and determine the specific embroidery technique that will be used to complete the piece.Â The artist proceeds with the embroidery and checks the overall color blending from time to time.Â Once done, the artist either mounts the canvas on hardboard or a frame.
Photo credit theshutterbugs
The sewn â€œpaintingsâ€ are relatively expensive for a number of reasons but mainly because the finished products are handcrafted by extremely experienced individuals.Â The artists work laboriously on each piece: indeed, a single one can take months to complete. Interestingly, every piece sold helps support Agent Orange victims from the Vietnam War.
At the factory, three generations of victims of can be seen doing embroidery work.Â There were workers and children with visible disabilities and handicaps within the compound.
It took quite some time to make up my mind on the sewn â€œpaintingâ€ that I wanted to bring home as a souvenir.Â I had my eyes set on a huge piece of a local riding a bicycle.Â My heart sank when I was told that it was US$ 1, 300!Â Good thing they offered the same painting in a smaller and more affordable size.Â I look forward to displaying it one day in my home.