Vietnam, Southeast Asia’s “skinniest country”, stretches roughly 1,000 miles from top to bottom but is only about 25 miles wide at its narrowest point near the center. Although officially reunited, north to south, Vietnam feels more like two separate countries. While Hanoi and the northernmost cities and villages cling to more traditional, communist ways, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City as it is now called) in the south, bristles with the energy and entrepreneurial fervor of any major U.S. city. With its amazing diversity and rich cultural history, Vietnam offers the adventurous traveler a unique opportunity to experience and photograph an exciting mix of landscapes, people, places, philosophies, cuisines, crafts, and religions.
Starting in Saigon, we will travel by boat to Can Tho and be captivated by the lazy rhythms of the Mekong Delta. We’ll photograph the amazing diversity of Can Tho’s fish markets and in particular, a unique floating market where trade continues as if untouched by the modern world. Next we’ll travel north to explore the azure beaches of Danang and Hoi An, an important Vietnamese trading center in the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1999, Hoi An’s old town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port with buildings that display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
After photographing Hoi An, we head northward to Hanoi to experience a completely different “Vietnam”. In Hanoi, we will shoot the bustling old quarter and visit Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, and even have some free time to avail ourselves to some of the best shopping in Southeast Asia. It’s here where the silk and lacquer ware is most plentiful and inexpensive. Then it’s off to the Gulf of Tonkin and breathtaking Halong Bay. Ha Long Bay (literally: Descending Dragon Bay) is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. We’ll board a traditional Chinese junk and sail among Halong Bay’s limestone cliffs and caves. after a meal of fresh, regional delicacies on the boat, we will disembark to spend the night on Cat Ba Island.
As our journey draws to a close, we are transported by overnight train ever northward, to experience and photograph Bac Ha. The town of Bac Ha, which is nestled among the emerald rice paddies, riots of bamboo, pine, and orchids of Vietnam’s lush northern hills is host to a Sunday market where we’ll be able to photograph up to 10 different local hill tribe groups including: the Flower Hmong, Dzao, Giay (Nhang), Han (Hoa), Xa Fang, Lachi, Nung, Phula, Thai and Thulao. The photo opportunities about, as they bargain for water buffalo, pigs, horses, bottles of local firewater (made from rice, cassava or corn). It is here you will have one last opportunity to purchase charming locally made Hill tribe handicrafts. Bac Ha will be our final stop on what likely will be one of the most memorable, photo rich trips of your life!
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