HO CHI MINH CITY - HANOI - NINH BINH - HA LONG - LUANG PRABANG - SIEM REAP
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
Indochina including three beautiful countries Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia, is the best place in Southeast Asia to witness the convergence of the old and new. Through this photographic journey, travel photographers would not only dip into local culture; capture the stunning natural sites but also complete one of the incredible historical sites in the world- Angkor Wat with various photo opportunities.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh city, greeting and private transfer to our hotel in town. The remainder of day is at your own pace.
Once known as “The Pearl of the Orient”, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) is still determined to retain the charm of its past through a number of old pagodas, temples and beautiful French colonial buildings dotted throughout the city. The city’s dynamic energy is apparently featured in the bustling street scenes with thousands of people on motorbikes constantly on the move.
Set off with your guide taking in some of city’s most historic landmarks popular for its great photo opportunities including City Hall - a French colonial style monument, Saigon Opera House - a beautiful French colonial-era building from the late 19th and early 20th century, Notre Dame Cathedral - a red brick edifice with twin spires constructed based on the original construction from Paris, Central Post Office- designed by the French architect, Gustav Eiffel, before he had risen to fame for the Eiffel Tower. Then head across the square to the Central Post Office, designed by the French architect, Gustav Eiffel, before he had risen to fame for the Eiffel Tower.
Today, grab our cameras and set off to encounter the hidden charms of Ho Chi Minh City from the back of a motorbike as a real Saigonese does. Meet our qualified drivers and embark on a scenic ride through the tree-line boulevards. Visit the largest wholesales flower market in D10, Ho Thi Ky Street hives of lively vibrant trading activities amid colorful blooms of flowers from all over the country including roses, lotuses, lilies, daisies, orchids and more. Continue zigzagging through local streets towards the historic and cultural Chinatown. Make a stop at the vibrantly colored Soi Kinh Lam textile market that is well-known for its long-established role as a crucial distribution product not only for the city but entire southern Vietnam. Continue riding past by the scenes of daily life on the way and get a chance to observe the street life of the area by venturing through Cho Lon’s busiest streets. Chance to practice various photographic techniques as well as to get an insight into the daily life of a real Saigon. The special focus can be on portraiture and you will learn how to approach and interact with local in action for quality portraits. At the end of the trip, stop at a local coffee shop to review what you just captured.
Cap of the day by a fantastic cruise navigating the sights and sounds of the bustling waterways. Be amazed by the architectural spotlight constructions of the city with wonderful opportunities to practice wide-angle photography techniques, especially when it is going sunset.
Today, get away from the bustling Ho Chi Minh City and get ready for a journey encountering the beauty and serenity of Ben Tre province, a hidden gem of Mekong Delta, where life is simple and slow with people living close to the quiet waterways and farmlands. Board the private charming Apricot boat for a slow journey along the Mekong River. Indulge yourself in countryside scenery and river life. The highlight is to visit the Thom coconut floating market to photograph the bright colors and lively coconut trading activities along the waterways. Explore a remote yet beautiful village with photogenic elements of countryside landscape, people, farming activities and animals. Take in friendly conversations with local farmers for an insight into their daily farming activities. Learn how to prepare some main Southern dishes and then savor them in a relaxing atmosphere before returning to Ho Chi Minh City.
Take the morning flight to the capital of Hanoi. Compared to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi is more traditional and refined. Today it is best known for its thriving contemporary art scene and French architecture, visible by the many colonial villas scattered throughout the city. While it is rapidly developing, the city has retained many of its cultural traditions.
Discover iconic locations and hidden corners of Hanoi to marvel in its photogenic monuments and gain a unique insight into the rawness of everyday life. Stop at the Opera House for photos while your guide will provide a quick glance of the French architecture, visible by the many colonial monuments scattered throughout the downtown. Hanoi’s urban layout of spacious boulevards and beautiful common spaces was strongly influenced by the French occupation. Zigzag through fascinating maze of back streets inside the Old Quarter, fronted by narrow houses known as “tunnel” or “tube houses”, built to avoid taxes based on the width of their frontage onto the street, a wonderfully eclectic glimpse into Hanoi street life.
Time is always on our side so there are definitely opportunities to shoot the blue hour in the city or get your own shooting corner before heading back to the hotel.
Walk up early this morning and experience serene Hanoi as the city begins to rouse by taking a cyclo ride to Ba Dinh Square to witness the daily flag raising ceremony. The square is also the historic site where President Ho Chi Minh famously read the Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945. Continue our ride along some of Hanoi’s most beautiful boulevards lined with ancient trees and classical French villas. Stop along the way to capture typical early morning activities such as tai chi exercise and local residents enjoying their street side coffee or tea. Enjoy Vietnamese breakfast as locals do: a bowl of Pho (noodle soup with beef or chicken). Conclude this lovely morning by a stop at a streetside café where we will sit on the small chairs as is the typical style of Ha Noi and taste a cup of egg coffee or green tea while reviewing the fabulous photos in our cameras!
Get ready for an excursion exploring the key highlights of the city. Visit the Temple of Literature, the first university of Vietnam. Constructed in the 11th Century, this stunning temple constitutes a rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture and is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese dong banknote. Continue to the Tran Quoc pagoda, Hanoi’s oldest pagoda, located on a small island of West Lake. Tour the 11th century Taoist Quan Thanh Temple featuring a mix of architectural styles from the imperial era and highlighted by a large yard shaded by a giant banyan tree and a shrine.
Head to the historic Long Bridge, famed with its unique historic, architectural, and cultural value. Constructed during the French occupation period since the beginning of the 20th Century, the bridge owns a great beauty, typical of French architecture. Get our cameras ready to capture picturesque panoramic views when the magical sunset is over the Red River or convey your sense of unique moments of local people or street vendors crossing the bridge on their traditional transportation.
Located around 90km far away from downtown Ha Noi, Ninh Binh is referred to as “Halong Bay on land” with its natural beauty and karst limestone mountains, offering a world of cultural heritage to explore. The photogenic elements of the day include stunning scenery of mountain, cave as well as rice fields (depend on rice season), wildlife, rural landscape as well as farming activities.
Known as “Ha Long Bay on Land”, Tam Coc (“three caves” in Vietnamese meaning) was formed by the river of Ngo Dong flowing through a mountain. A local skilled rower will take you on a magnificent waterway lined with rice paddies. Enjoy the spectacular view of the karst formation as you explore these caves amid by towering mountains. Disembark the boat and enjoy a follow a village trail to reach Thai Vi temple. Capture the beautiful rural landscape as you pass by the endless rice fields and mysterious grotto with a sacred shrine inside.
With an area of nearly 3000 hectares, Van Long eco-tourism area offers stunning scenery of local villages dotted among the limestone karsts and caves. Travel through narrow village lanes lined with rice filed, fruit orchards, and cottages. Along the way, we might see cows or buffalos working on rice fields with farmers or relaxing under shade (depend on rice season). Gain a glimpse of the real Northern countryside by having a chat with friendly locals.
Take a scenic drive to magical Ha Long Bay, inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1994. Magnificent Ha Long Bay, with its 3,000 islands rising from the clear, emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, is one of the natural marvels of Vietnam. These tiny islands are dotted with innumerable beaches and grottoes created by the wind and the waves. Observing the limestone rocks rising from the sea and sailed junk boats sail by will be a truly memorable experience. Upon arrival, let the exploration begin with a delicious seafood lunch served on board as the boat cruises amongst the incredible limestone karsts of Ha Long Bay to view Thumb Island, Cock Fighting Island, and Incense Island which can be seen on Vietnam’s 200,000 dong currency note. Explore one of the biggest, beautiful stalactites and stalagmite caves of the bay. Explore a secluded beach where you can kayak in the crystal clear waters of the bay. Then venture back to the main boat to cruise to the location where we dock overnight.
The day starts early onboard with Tai Chi session on the sundeck. Tai Chi combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements. Coffee, tea, and pastries for breakfast are served in the dining room with a morning view of the bay’s landscape. Enjoy the excursion provided by the cruise and then relax on the sundeck or in the dining room, enjoying the bay scenery while approaching the wharf.
Drive back to Ha Noi to take the flight to Luang Prabang. Known as a sleepy town nestled in a mountain valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan Rivers in north central Laos, the city offers a fascinating glimpse into the Buddhist religious practice and traditional lifestyle of the various hill-tribe groups in this northern region. This evening, stroll around the Street Night Bazaar to capture wide-angle photos of the vibrant nightlife of Luang Prabang.
It is no wonder that UNESCO declared the charming town of Luang Prabang as a World Heritage Site in 1995, describing as an “outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries”. Together with over 30 temples and pagodas, Luang Prabang is home to rich architectural heritage monuments and building in their natural setting which have been featured in a famous limited-edition. Have your camera ready and set out on a guided walking photography tour with your local guide knowledgeable and proud of his hometown’s architecture and history. Make your way through the small streets and alleys where you will be amazed by spectacular colonial architecture with various photography opportunities.
Visit the Royal Palace featuring the combination of the French beaux-arts styles and traditional Laos architecture. Drive or enjoy a leisurely walk on through the peaceful tree-lined streets to admire some of Luang Prabang’s famous temples including Wat Xieng Thong, a great masterpiece of mosaics and carved wood featuring traditional Lao style; Wat Aham widely known as the “watermelon stupa” because of its distinctive rounded shape. Climb up to the top of Mount Phousi to explore the sacred, gilded stupa and admire the panoramic sunset view of the Mekong and Khan rivers as well as the mountain range.
Known as an integral part of Lao culture, the Baci ceremony is a common ritual, widely practiced throughout the country. Held to celebrate a special event like weddings, births, homecoming, or departure, it is based on an ancient belief to wish people good luck and health. At the ceremony, a village elder will wrap a white cotton thread around your wrist while chanting an invocation to strengthen the power of the blessing. In Laos, white is the color of peace, luck, and warmth. You are invited and welcomed to a local family home to take park in in this ancient practice, this is also an amazing chance to fulfill your travel photo collection.
Wake up before dawn to witness and take in offering alms to hundreds of saffron-robed monks in the early morning light. This is also one of the ways that Buddhists can make merit, helping contribute good circumstances for the future. A gift of alms can be prepared if you wish to make an offering. Let’s snap the town come to life complete with the hundreds of saffron-robed monks. Wind your way to a lively local outdoor market where people gather to buy and sell local products. You will have a chance to discover different meats, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices that might be unknown to you and your guide will explain how they are used in the Lao kitchen. Make close-up photos of the colorful objects and focus on the crowds, and the hectic atmosphere to create some unique masterpieces.
Visit the Sala Thammiviharn at Wat Khili where 35,000 original photographs (prints and negatives) about Buddhist monks of Luang Prabang have been digitized, identified and safely stored in a project supported by the British Library’s Endangered Archives Program. Engage in conversation with a local photography expert to gain a deep insight into the project and future plans for the Buddhist heritage of Luang Prabang.
The famous Pak Ou Caves sit beneath a dramatic karst formation about 25 kilometers from Luang Prabang. Located next to the mighty Mekong and opposite the mouth of the Mekong and the Ou rivers, the two limestone grottoes house approximately 4,000 sacred Buddhist statues and images which range from mere centimeters up to 2m (7ft) in height. Get onboard a traditional long-tail boat to explore these ancient shrines. Have your camera ready to capture the beautiful landscape surrounded by the Mekong River, the saves with Buddha statues, especially breathtaking sunset over the Mekong River.
Spend a half-day discovering the picturesque Kuang Si waterfall. Follow the unpaved trail as it gradually climbs through the forest to reach different levels of natural blue pools, some are shallow and one central pool has a rope swing. Take a leisurely hike through the natural park past the Asian Bear Rescue Center, home to more than 20 Asiatic Black Bears rescued from dire circumstances. Stroll along with the wooden viewing platform and view the adorable beasts as they lazily lounge or play together or search for foods.
Bidding farewell to Luang Prabang, we board our flight to Siem Reap, a charming provincial town that attracts travel photographer by a cluster of villages, Chinese-style shop houses, and French-colonial architecture. As a gateway to the ancient temple ruins of Angkor, Siem Reap is a wonderful destination to explore and yet numerous photo opportunities.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Angkor complex is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia as it contains the outstanding remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th Century.
Spend this memorable full-day tour with a local photography guide, starting early at 04.30 to catch the magical sunrise at Angkor, one of the modern wonders of the world. Be amazed by the sheer size of the temple and learn how the Khmer Empire prospered between the 9th and 13th Century, around the time when the temple was built. After the breakfast, continue onward your photography journey with some different spectacular ruins of Angkor Complex, including the mysterious Bayon temple, crowned with the large number of serene faces sculpted on its towers, the intricate carvings of the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King, Ta Prohm, made famous by the movie ‘Tomb Raider,’ an ancient temple overgrown with fig trees that gives a haunting yet exotic atmosphere, Banteay Kdei, less visited than other temples and yet very impressive with it amazingly beautiful compound with a fascinating maze of chambers.
Night photography challenges the night exposure techniques, with a particular set of skills and special preparation. Transfer by local tuk-tuk to the local night market to enjoy the tantalizing sights smells and flavors of local specialties. Stroll through the alleys and side streets around the old market area offering many magnificent scenes to practice night photography techniques such as long exposure and light painting. Focus our lenses and take close-up photos of colorful products and local specialties which visually allow telling a hidden story.
Today, travel Siem Reap’s countryside by ox-cart passing through red soil paths, rice paddies, fruit farms to get inside the heart of the Khmer community. This memorable journey covers various photogenic elements of countryside scenery, architecture, people, farming activities. Make a stop at a vibrant authentic market where you will have a great chance to capture the everyday activity of local people while tasting some typical and delicious snacks with a fresh sugar cane juice. Walk on the remote village paths, immersing a typical Khmer countryside to reach a gorgeous and iconic Buddhist temple, known locally as the most sacred and beautifully decorated within the region. Admire its stunning architecture with the colorful decoration and listen to the history and beliefs that made Buddhism become the sacred religion of the country. Receive a blessing ceremony by local monks for a better life. Close your eyes while whispering your wish for health and happiness. Your return ride by ox-carts takes you through rice fields, local wooden houses winding slowly back towards downtown Siem Reap, ending up a memorable and enchanting morning. Especially, this is a great opportunity to capture the portraits of the Buddhist Monk here.
Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and is vitally important to Cambodia. The Tonle Sap drains into the Mekong River in the dry season and the mighty Mekong forces the Tonle Sap River to reverse its course effectively filling up the lake. This afternoon, board a local wooden boat and set out on a relaxing and insightful cruise exploring the floating villages where more than a thousand families live and make their living. Capture the floating schools, markets, police stations, and the traditional way of living. For the resident of the village, life on the water is the greatest traditional culture that should be preserved before the rapid development of modern society. Continue to the open waterways and challenge your sunset photography compositions for the wild-angle photos of poetic and immense landscape with oranges, reds, pinks, and purples of the darkening sky when the local people prepare for nightfall on the lake.
This morning, check out the best photo galleries of an American photographer who first came to Angkor in 1995 to witness a total eclipse of the sun. Inspired by the surreal, otherworldly light of the eclipse, he returned again and again over the next several years to create a definitive artistic portrait of the ancient Khmer temples. He settled down a new life in Siem Reap where he founded the galleries that exhibit the work of Cambodian artists and photographers working across Asia. Stroll around the gallery and get the chance to learn the stories behind all the photos and their characters.
Transfer to the airport to take the departure flight home.----------- End of service ----------