On the way to Halong Bay / by Marek Charytonowicz

On the 3 hour way to Halong Bay the bus stops for a short break at a massive craft shopping centre. The vast area is covered in sandstone and alabaster sculptures, from Buddhas and animals to depictions of Lenin. Tourists are supposed to cross a large hangar like building to catch their buses on the other side.

Inside there are a lot of people working on - as a matter of fact - quite beautiful pictures woven entirely of silk, very detailed and at a first glance looking like photographs. Some bear descriptions of the artist’s name and disability - mostly Agent Orange.

That brings to my mind Artisans D’Angkor in Cambodia but that’s where the comparison ends. There visiting workshops you could see art in the making with certain feel of satisfaction and pride on the students faces. Here, nobody even tries to explain the idea behind this place and the history of those people. The feeling of being a walking wallet is overwhelming but it would be a bit too easy to just focus on that. Maybe it’s a project good on principle but a one that went astray because of the lack of understanding both sides of the equation - the disabled people in need of decent life quality and tourists who will help much more if they were not treated like cows that can be milked at every occasion. In this way the mutual respect that’s essential is lost completely and it leaves you with an uneasy and a bit disappointing feeling.