Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Vietnamese hat trick

Like many visitors to Vietnam, I thought it was a good idea at the time.

But buying the traditional conical straw hat was the easy part.

Getting it home intact was considerably more difficult.

It certainly couldn't be packed, which meant carrying it through numerous airports and past customs officials in several countries on the way home.

It also meant never resting on the plane.  Instead, I needed to keep an eye out for other passengers seemingly keen to put their duty-free bottles on top of it.

My conical hat - home safe and sound

Thankfully, the hat survived the journey home as several years on it has become one of my most treasured travel souvenirs. 

It sits on top of a lamp, thereby illuminating one of its hidden secrets.

It was made by a lady our little travel group visited in the city of Hue.

She's something of a local celebrity, not just because of the quality of her hats, but because she makes them with only one hand.

The hat maker from Hue
A legacy of the chemical warfare used in the country, the hat maker has one five-fingered hand and a stump with one finger on the other arm.

Despite this, she spends her days making conical hats with considerable skill.  This is how she supports her family.

Assembling the hat from scratch
Her decorative flourish can be seem when you hold the hat up to the light.

Thanks for stencils cut from newspaper and inserted between the layers of straw, a range of silhouettes appear when the hat is backlit.

A boat on a lake

A pagoda reflected in a lake

Lovers hidden in the hat

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