Photographs reinforce memories. There are some things that simply defy the photographer. Their scale can make it difficult to represent in a photograph. Something that has filled your eyes can be difficult to replicate in a small image. The beauty of Vietnam photography tours is that there is such variety that an album of a Vietnam holiday should never disappoint. While there are religious and historical buildings to photograph it is the people and the beautiful environment that provide the real riches that set Vietnam apart from many other popular travel destinations.
Any holiday in Vietnam is likely to include the two major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City where modern buildings mixed with the traditional as well as old colonial architecture but the real gems are found outside these two urban areas. It is important to respect the local people and if your Vietnam photography sessions use intimate images then you must ask permission to take pictures. Villagers are naturally friendly and there should be no problem as they have become increasingly used to seeing tourists who want to experience the real Vietnam.
Here are a few of the things on Vietnam photography tours that can make your ‘’album’’ really special. This initial list in the north provides a chance to understand more about the ethnic tribes and their daily lives:
• North of Hanoi are the Sa Pa Terraces, famous for rice and vegetable production. Fanispan Mountain at over 3,000 metres high towers above the region and indigenous tribes live and work here as they have done for generations.
• Mu Cang Chai in the north-east borders with Laos. If you are lucky enough to be in the region when the rice is harvested you will certainly have many images that you want to get in your camera. The rice terraces are fairly narrow because they sit on steep slopes.
• Previous visitors have described Y Ty as ‘’almost from another world’’, a poor rice growing region at over 2,000 metres. The white clouds contrast with the green and a visit in May to watch the Ha Nhi people planting their rice seedlings will ensure anyone taking photographs in Vietnam has some great pictures. It is not just the rice production that will interest photographers. The earthen houses are in the shape of mushrooms. The clay walls are up to 50 cms thick with straw roofs and a single door and window. The Saturday market is wonderful and those on Vietnam photography tours should try to visit markets all over the country to see the colourful local produce.
• Hoang Su Phi is close to the Chinese border and the photographs you will get here are dependent on when you visit. In May the terraces will just have the seedlings but once the rice is established they look the most wonderful green.
• Ha Giang has a long border with China with spectacular limestone and granite peaks dominating the skyline. This truly green environment provides a splash of colour on every photograph.
• Ba Be Lake is the largest in Vietnam. Limestone mountains surround the lake which has three small islands. The Lake is fed by three rivers and the whole area is forested. Vietnam has some great waterfalls to photograph and Dau Dang is certainly worthy of a visit.
• Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a 100 kilometres of coastline, up to 2,000 islands and fishing villages scattered throughout the area. The villagers’ homes are floating and after experiencing the lives of hill tribes this is a different experience altogether. To get the best experience of Halong Bay it is essential to have a cruise between the islands to photograph the many caves, the green vegetation and possibly getting a glimpse of the marine life, mammals and birds.
Vietnam has a coastline stretching mostly north to south and many fishing villages are found throughout its length. Some have developed in to tourist resorts to cater for the demand of middle class Vietnamese and an increasing number of overseas tourists. Vietnam photography tours offer the opportunity to capture the best of the coastline and when you are in the north Halong Bay must be included.
• Mui Ne close to Ho Chi Minh City in the south is renowned for its sand dunes. It was a popular venue for viewing the eclipse in 1995. The dunes vary in colour – the Fairy Stream produces some red sand as well as the usual white. The little village that remains has a lovely market and a shot of the colourful boats in the harbour is worth a place in your album.
• Nha Trang in Khanh Province in South Central Vietnam has wonderful beaches and a bay a match of bays anywhere; three sides are mountains. Shipbuilding, salt and fishing have now been overtaken by tourism as the main revenue earner.
• Phu Quoc is an island in the South China Sea off the coast of Cambodia. The contrast between the white sand and green jungle provides more photo opportunities.
The Mekong is an iconic river. It rises up on the Tibetan Plateau but the section within Vietnam is primarily the Delta, the most fertile region of Vietnam. There is so much to see and do, as well as photograph within the Delta. There are the floating villages that provide protection against the monsoon season. Some of the villages concentrate on fishing, others on growing rice and vegetables. You can cruise the main channels or the quiet side waters and it is unlikely that you will put your cameras down for a second.
Vietnam is a photographer’s dream. In the days before digital photography the biggest problem a photographer might have had was to decide how many films he or she had to carry. These days you can edit each night and store the day’s highlights before setting out the next day to photograph some more. At the end of a Vietnam photography holiday you are certain to have an ‘’album’’ that even skeptical friends and family will enjoy seeing.