LOCATION – 5 PLACES TO VISIT IN VIETNAM
Vietnam is a hot destination right now, and for good reason. It is easily accessible, has beautiful scenery, friendly people and is great value. Here are five recommended photo spots for the keen photographer.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City is a thriving, exciting, modern and ancient city all in one. It is clearly undergoing a rapid transformation visible by the amount of construction. Photographers will instantly notice the amazing old-world charm of a time past when Ho Chi Minh City was called Saigon. A wonderful blend of French colonial architecture mixed with modern glass facades that could be London or Shanghai.
For the photographer, we would recommend briefly visiting the popular Ben Thanh market, but spend a lot more time meandering the surrounding back streets observing the amazing architecture.
Many tours will visit the landmarks of Saigon Central Post Office, Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
and Ho Chi Minh City Hall. These are wonderful examples of old Saigon and French influence in particular. The area
around City Hall extending to the Saigon River has wonderful new and old-world building design
Asia is generally renowned for its hustle and bustle and capturing this can be a challenge. All over Vietnam, and especially in Ho Chi Minh, it is easy to capture wide traffic scenes. Traffic seems to endlessly flow from all directions with no real order. However, as is often the case, chaos just works.
Hoi An is a delightful town in central Vietnam, easily accessible from Danang. It won’t take long to realise why Hoi An is often described as the ‘Venice of the East’. Beautifully preserved heritage listed buildings, picturesque canals and great coffee. It is a true delight and a must see on any trip to Vietnam
As with many places, an early morning start is best. The low light seeps thru the alleyways, creating beautiful side light that photographers adore. The ochre coloured architecture and atmospheric laneways come alive as the city awakes.
As night begins to fall it is well worth taking your tripod to the river and photographing the many lanterns floating on the water, along with the crowds. It’s a beautiful sight, and most likely, quite surreal to anything you might usually experience!
The famous Hoi An night market is the place to go for your classic lantern images. The sellers don’t appear to mind you photographing, but in reality the lanterns are so attractive, you will want to purchase one.
If you are a portrait photographer, the weathered yellow ochre walls provides an amazing backdrop. To be really prepared, take some clothing for your model that will match yellow!
As one of the most vital assets of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is not to be missed. A river system that extends all the way to the Himalayas. It is mind boggling the effect this river has for millions of people, and whilst impressive, the river is mostly about the people that live around it. Despite the obvious tourism boom, it is surprising it is to see locals go about their daily lives without any obvious frustration about visitors. Vietnamese people are extremely friendly and understanding of photographers which is fantastic for portrait images.
The iconic floating markets that are easily seen on the Mekong provide a fascinating view into daily life. Having wide and longer zoom lenses is ideal for capturing the impressive boats, as well as the people working on them.
An overnight boat trip is highly recommended which will provide far more opportunity to shoot landscape images. Tropical storms are plentiful providing fantastic images. Waking up on the Mekong is a wonderful life experience as you witness the locals starting their day. Vietnamese fisherman at work amongst vintage cargo boats carrying freight towards the ocean.
As the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is surprisingly far less modern than Ho Chi Minh City. It has the charm of a far smaller city, but still has many sights and things to do.
Easily the most iconic spot is at Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square in Hanoi’s old quarter. It is a manic intersection with beautiful surrounding architecture from a bygone era. The best place to capture this is with a tripod set up at the Highlands Coffee store. Purchase a coffee and a bite to eat at sunset and marvel at the chaos below.
Like much of Asia, bikes are the main mode of transport. Capturing them as part of street life is a great representation of society. Hanoi is a great place for this. Whether it is motorbikes or abandoned push bikes, the options are endless.
As the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is well represented by impressive government architecture. None more so than the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which is the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh. There is an impressive display of the guards, and photography is still allowed.
Ha Long Bay
The iconic Ha Long Bay is perhaps the most iconic destination of Vietnam, and for good reason. Towering columns of limestone protrude from a glass like bay, providing a photo from every angle. Seemingly limitless compositions of rock pillars and local fishing junkets can be achieved. Taking a boat trip, preferably with an overnight stay is the best way of experiencing Ha Long Bay.
Whilst sunshine is usually the desired for landscape photography, don’t be disappointed if you are presented with storms and clouds. The mist hangs amongst the pillars, creating a ghostly atmosphere that is stunning in a black and white image.
Many of the boats that tour Ha Long Bay are vintage junks. If you are on one, then don’t forget to take photos of these magnificent Vietnamese icons. Ha Long Bay is as much about the experience of the transport as the landscape!
Once again, there is plenty of opportunity to see local people going about their daily activities. There are many fisherman and tour boats dotted throughout the area. Though at no point does it feel crowded or touristy.