After visiting the colourful market in Da Lat we packed our things and headed north towards Lak Lake, stopping on the way to see Cuong Hoan Silk factory. It was worlds apart to the one we saw in Cambodia. Where in Cambodia they did everything by hand, here they had machines to do it all. From unwinding the silk from the cocoon, to the weaving loom it was all done by massive machines. This made the silk much faster to manufacture, but quality was sacrificed. To be honest, we preferred the silk from Cambodia. However these creatures rounded out another day of exotic food tastings, where we sampled slow cooked porcupine at lunch, followed by crunchy, nutty, corn flavoured silkworms for dinner.
After checking in to our hotel at Lak Lake we headed to Jun village of the M'nong ethnic minority on the shore of the lake. There are many subjects to photograph in villages; houses, animals, fruits and other food products. But the most photogenic would have to be the people, and above all, the children.
One thing that I really enjoy in Asia is that it is still ok to take photos of children. Usually they love having their photos taken, and when showed to the parents you get a lot of laughs. But in Australia I don’t take photos of children. The paranoid privacy issues, media beat up and fearful, aggressive parents just make the experience a hassle. It also helps that the kids here are much more entertaining and active outdoors. Who really wants a photo of a kid sitting in front of a TV playing video games?
The next organised shoot was to have Dag Nan and Son (an elephant and his mahout) walk into the water of the lake with the plan to shoot their silhouette against the setting sun. The planets must have aligned or something as the sunset was a ripper. Having the elephant, sky and reflections together created the magical three elements needed to give this photo that wow factor.
Before dinner the M’nong people treated us to a traditional dance show where we learned some of the customs of this matriarchal society.
It was quite impressive, especially the fire dance that almost burnt the house down when one of the candles fell through a crack and the floor itself started smoking. A mild panic but quick hands put it out and doused it with water, while we doused our own wits by drinking the communal rice wine at the centre of the circle.
The planets must have aligned again in the morning as the sunrise really worked out for me. It was not your typical pinks and oranges; instead a beautiful blue enveloped the view, which matched perfectly with the grey rock close to shore.
The tripod had been well used during the tour and needed a rest. It was time to try and take some photos on the move. And move we did. It was a little bumpy and rocked around a lot, but being on the back of an elephant was quite the experience. The movement took a bit to get used to; it’s very different to a horse.
Hien led us out on the back of Tok, who walked along the road a bit at first. It was amusing when scooters went past - the scale was way off. Then it was time to get wet and we started walking through the lake. It surprised me how deep we went and how useful a trunk is. The water level was above the elephant’s eyes, but it just stuck its trunk out of the water and kept on walking.
The skin and feet are also something special, so much texture.