Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Travel Photographer's "Cafe Dao (& Love)"

"No one in our village was as beautiful as she was...we liked each other since we were 12 years old..."
A foreign stranger suddenly walks up to you while you're relaxing on your front porch, with cameras dangling off his shoulders, asking to document your daily life. What would your reaction be?

Well, Thai Truang Dao happily said yes. Of course, Maika Elan was there to explain my purpose, but Mr Dao's hospitality went beyond the inherent politeness shown to a foreign guest. Allowing me into his home (and his life)...and at one point, gesturing me to go up the creaky stairs to photograph a now little used second floor, where his family's shrine and portraits were carefully laid a testament to his kindness.

His candor during the lengthy interviews was natural, and brought Maika and I into their life which they shared for over 60 years.

Thai Truang Dao is a 92 years old Vietnamese, living in Hoi An with his wife, Thai Mo Ba. He established Cafe Dao in the mid forties, before the battle of Dien Bien Phu and much before the Vietnam War (known as the American War in Vietnam). He recalls Cafe Dao as being a meeting place for socializing, gossip and friendship, not only for good coffee.

Bao and his wife were school mates but after graduation didn't meet until she was 28 years old. Very unusually for a Vietnamese woman at that time, Ba hadn't married...waiting for Bao whom she loved but had never shown nor expressed. Meeting again by happenstance, they got married.

Bao wasn't drafted by the Vietcong during the American war due to his Chinese ancestry.

Snippets of their lifestory in just over 3 minutes.

You can also watch it in its native Soundslides format below (it's a better resolution).

©Tewfic El-Sawy- Maika with Mr Dao during the photo shoots.
©Maika Elan. Tewfic with Mr Dao at the end of the photo shoots
Initial Draft Story Board For Cafe Dao