University of Washington

Scenes from Mainland Southeast Asia

by Sam Van Fleet

This show represents nearly two years of exploring and photographing Mainland Southeast Asia - Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. Selections from the portfolio are in the permanent collection at Harborview Medical Center's International Medical Clinic as well as in homes and businesses throughout the United States. It has also been presented throughout the region as a narrated slide show.

My work aims not only at portraying the stunning beauty of the region but also at exploring the remarkable intersection of art, architecture, religion and daily life. The images offer a glimpse into the hearts of the people and cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia.

It is also my hope that these photographs will help to represent Vietnam as a country and not as a war. It is a place full of good people with a rich and varied culture. My experience there was so overwhelmingly positive - both artistically and personally - that I can't wait to return.

For more information about these photographs contact: Sam Van Fleet
October 16, 2001 © Sam Van Fleet

Halong Bay (Viet Nam): With its 3000 islands rising from the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The bay's vegetation-covered islands, beaches, grottoes and caves stretch nearly 1000 square miles.
Rice Fields (Northern Vietnam): Outside of urban areas, the Southeast Asin peninsula remains an agrarian society built around intensive rice farming. It is a way of life that has endured for centuries.

The Stroll (Viet Nam): Ho Chi Minh beards, fedoras and wool sport coats are commonly worn by older men in Hanoi.
Still Life (Viet Nam): In the midst of the hustle and bustle of a new modern city, Hanoi still offers moments of the most poignant serenity.
Halong Bay Sunset (Viet Nam): The name 'Ha Long' means "where the dragon descends into the sea."

This type of magical landscape is found only two other places on Earth--Guilin, China and southern Thailand.
The Transaction (Viet Nam): The everyday becomes lyrical outside a temple in Vietnam's capital city.

On the Steps of the Temple (Viet Nam): Centuries of influence from China is evident in this temple door in the port town of Hoi An.

Cave Temple (Viet Nam): The smoke of burning incense permeates the air in this spectacular subterranean shrine near China Beach in Vietnam's Central Highlands.

Young Boy (Viet Nam): The youthful face of modern day Vietnam.
Generations (Viet Nam): A grandmother feeds her infant daughter at a street side cafe in the port town of Hoi An.
Wat Doi Suthep (Thailand): This gold-leafed burial "chedi"

at Doi Suthep temple in northern Thailand is said to contain a relic of the Buddha. The temple is a major pilgrimage site in a country that is 95% Buddhist.
Novice Monks (Thailand): The monkhood, or "Sangha," remains at the core of Thai culture. Most young men are ordained as monks, at least for a short period of time. It is a rite of passage into manhood and brings the young man's parents great merit.
Buddha Image (Thailand): This saffron-robed, bronze Buddha image is a fine example of the highest expression of religious art in this predominantly Buddhist nation.
Foot Bridge (Thailand): For years this suspension bridge was the only way to cross the Yom River near the ancient city of Sri Satchanlai. Even though there is now a modern concrete bridge up-river, this still looks like the best way to go.
Khon Performance (Thailand): Originally performed only for the royal court, this masked dance-drama depicts scenes from the Ramakian.

Golden Chedi (Thailand): This magnificent burial site, or "chedi," is located near the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Its brilliant sheen is due to millions of one-inch square gold tiles.
Temple Mural Details (Thailand): These early 19th century murals from Wat Phumin in northern Thailand are famous for their vivid and rather whimsical portrayals of daily life a century ago.



Sunrise (Cambodia): The famous temples of Angkor, built between seven and eleven centuries ago, constitute one of the greatest architectural wonders of the world. The temples feature soaring towers and exquisite sandstone carvings built on a monumental scale.

Western Gallery and Spires (Cambodia): Angkor Wat is the most famous of the nearly 100 temples comprising the vast Angkor complex. The monuments of Angkor are now a World Heritage Site.
Ta Prohm (Cambodia): The Ta Prohm Temple, left just as it looked when French explorers first set eyes on it over a century ago, stands as a monument to the awesome power of the jungle.
Detail, Angkor Wat (Cambodia): When exploring the ruins of Angkor, each day is a revelation. The temples feature finely detailed craftsmanship in monumental proportions. The overall effect is sublime.
Lao Villager (Laos): This man sits on the steps of his stilt house in the northern province of Luang Prabang, the site of thye first Lao kingdom.
Mekong River (Laos): One of the great rivers of the world, the Mekong River or "Mother River" originates high in the Tibetan Plateau and flows nearly 3000 miles through the heart of Southeast Asia. On its journey, the Mekong touches China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Temple Door Carving (Laos): The Lao are reknowned for their exquisite woodcarvings. This lively detail from the temple door panel in the capital city of Vientiane features a traditional ensemble of musicians and dancers.
Border Crossing (Burma): The border between Burma and Thailand is truly a cultural crossroads. People from a wide variety of nationalities and ethnicities come together as they travel one of the region's main arteries, the Salawin River.
Old Meets New (Burma): Shows such as MTV appear nightly in this roadless region along the Burmese-Thai border.

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Southeast Asia Center
University of Washington
303 Thomson Hall
Box 353650
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-9606 tel
(206) 685-0668 fax

Laurie Sears, Director

Rick Bonus, Director of Graduate Studies

Sara Van Fleet, Associate Director

Tikka Sears, Outreach Coordinator

Mary Barnes, Program Assistant

Linda Cuadra, Graduate Student Assistant