Hang Dao street in 1988. (Source: Michel Blanchard)

Hanoi (VNA) – A photo exhibition on Vietnam’s tourism before the country opened its door to the world opened on November 22 at the Vietnam House in Paris, giving French viewers a rare bit of insight into the lives of Vietnamese people in the 1980s.

The exhibition includes 30 photographs by photographer Michel Blanchard, former head of the AFP News Agency’s Office in Vietnam. They capture Vietnamese people and their lives between 1981 and 1988 when he worked in the country. There are also photos from times he returned to Vietnam.

Visitors to the exhibition can explore the beauty of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, full of small, short houses with roofs covered with moss, bustling streets, Ha Long Bay, the old Quoc Hoc Hue High School, the simple lives of Vietnamese people before the reforms, Hanoians going to markets to shop for the Lunar New Year, Nguyen Hue Walking Street and HCM City’s cultural features.

Vietnam was liberated 40 years ago, but the country opened its doors to foreign tourists 15 years after, due to difficulties caused by war and sanctions imposed by the US and its allies, said Blanchard.

There were not many foreigners in Vietnam back then, and photos from that period could help people understand more about the difficult times before the economic boom in the 1990s, he said.

Talking to a Vietnam News Agency reporter, Blanchard said he felt lucky to be in Vietnam during the 1980s and saw Vietnam’s changes. He said he admired Vietnamese people, who not only overcame difficulties and deprivation, but also always kept a sense of optimism about them.

Blanchard was head of the AFP News Agency’s Office in Vietnam from 1981 to 1983. He returned to Vietnam many times in the following 10 years as a tourist guide, and to visit his relatives and friends.-VNA