Australian Anna Barnes paints daily life in the ancient town of Hoi An

Barnes said she fell in love with Hoi An when she first traveled to Vietnam in 2012. Since then, she has been coming back one to three times each year

Australian Anna Barnes paints daily life in the ancient town of Hoi An:

Australian Anna Barnes fell in love with daily life in the ancient town of Hoi An and vividly colored sketches capture her enchantment.


Barnes said she fell in love with Hoi An when she first traveled to Vietnam in 2012. Since then, she has been coming back between one to three times each year to continue drawing and hold different art workshops.


A drawing of a fishing market on the outskirts where restaurants in the central ancient town buy raw materials from.

“To become a fish seller in Vietnam, one needs to have good health, owns white rubber boots, has a superficial but cheerful voice and can stand the fishy smell,” the artist jokingly said.

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The idea came to her during her first trip to Hoi An with her 3-year-old son. As she ventured around the wet-market, she had the urge to pull out a notebook and began drawing.

She later showed her comic to local street vendors and they really enjoyed her artworks. At that moment, she realized this is an interesting way to learn and connect with the locals and decided to continue with this project.


Since Barnes has a strong passion for food, her drawings often center around food and vendors. She also has more than 25 years’ experience working in Sydney restaurants. She holds a master’s degree in design from University of Sydney and a bachelor’s degree in Southeast Asian studies.


A drawing of a sweet soup (che) stall in Hoi An.

“This is a unique dessert that combines different ingredients like beans, fruit, yams and many others that are cooked with water and sugar. Once they are cooked, each type of che was put in separated pots and transported to the vendor.”


Her favorite piece is the drawing of Tuat, a vendor downtown selling banh can, which is made with rice flour and eggs. The steamed cakes come with a lot of toppings to choose from. Tuat later moved her stall out of the town’s center as tourism boomed while she only wanted to focus on serving locals.

“Every time I have the opportunity to visit Tuat’s new place, I am very discreet, never taking anyone with me. I always sketched her portraits but she never smiled at me. Perhaps because I am a foreigner and my Vietnamese is very bad. But I still really like the steamed cake flavor here.”


People work on making Hoi An’s famous lanterns.

Barnes said the lanterns look mesmerizing at night with their light lighting up the surface of the nearby river.


Barnes draws her sketches in little notebooks that she carries everywhere. Later, she takes photographs and shares them on her personal website and social media.


Flower sellers line a street one morning.

“They sit in plastic tools and are surrounded with buckets of flowers, which makes it easy to display and clean up,” Barnes said.


A dissection of the ubiquitous banh mi.

“Painting and connecting with locals are experiences I cherish the most,” Barnes said, adding that her goal is to bond people together via art, food and culture.


Barnes shows curious locals her drawings.

She moved back to Australia in March over the Covid-19 crisis, but said she plans to relocate here for good when the outbreak is over. “There is something really special about Vietnam that makes me adore and want to learn more about the place.”

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