Recently pulling her old-school camera out of storage, Morgan challenged herself to capture the true essence of Vietnam. There’s something so genuine and authentic about only having the one change to capture a memory, don’t you agree?
Check out these fabulous Vietnam itinerary ideas and stay tuned for further posts about Morgan’s incredible visit to this vibrant South-East Asian country.
Vietnam is a country that lends itself really well to photography. There is absolutely always something going on, and there never seems to a moment of quiet, dull or ordinary. There’s plenty of magic though.
I was really excited to take my film camera with me on my trip – a Pentax P30, with a Tamron lens. It’s not entirely dissimilar to my DSLR, but it still presented a challenge. There were a large number of beautiful shots I missed, simply due to inexperience, lack of speed, or running out of film.
The challenge, however, is what makes me even more delighted with the shots I managed to get, and the film just seems to add an extra level of emotion to the shots, which I will cherish forever.
I hope you enjoy looking these snaps them as much as I enjoyed taking them!
Vietnam on Film:
A city alive, and my first destination in Vietnam. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the smells and sounds that never cease in Hanoi, but it also had a quiet beauty about it when I went hunting that I came to cherish.
Post-Christmas Reindeer in the Lake-Side Gardens
I found the amount of Western Christmas culture in Vietnam to be a little odd; particularly in Hanoi. This was interesting for two reasons; firstly, we were well into January by then, but even more interesting is this statistic – Vietnam is 75% Buddhist!
These garden sculptures were nonetheless beautiful, positioned next to the large city-centre lake, which was dotted with many small, outdoor cafes (like the one in the background of this shot).
A Tangled Mess
When I first took this shot, it was because I thought the haphazard way the telephone wires were dangerously held together was bizarre, but I soon learned that this was a fairly mild example of telephone poles in Vietnam. Not long after, I later saw some so bad I didn’t even want to walk under them!
A Moment of Quiet on the Famous Train Street
Pinterest lauds Train Street as a colourful, lively and unmissable spot in Hanoi – but is scant on information on where to find it and what times of day are best. I soon found that many streets could be considered a Train Street, as the tracks frequently jammed themselves between towering houses in the city. Plagued by bad weather, the colourful and lively streets emptied and homed just one or two people enjoying a moment of quiet. Perfection.
Hanoi to Sapa by Train
I travelled all of Vietnam by train; what struck me most was the attention to detail and energy put towards beautifying the country’s main form of public transport. Ultimately, it was a futile effort, because as soon as the train began to move, this fake rose toppled over.
I was only in Sapa for a day, and didn’t see much of it – the high, mountainous city was blanketed in a thick fog, which meant even in the bustling, metropolitan areas you could still only see a few metres ahead. Despite this, trekking the rice terraces with the Sapa Sisters was one of the most unique and rewarding experiences I had in Vietnam.
The Bamboo Forest
From what I am told, walking the rice terraces in Sapa involves a constantly evolving landscape – knowing this, my guide was visibly upset that we had such low visibility from the fog. Fortunately, I could still experience some of the changing landscape – one of my favourite moments came in a quiet moment, watching one of the many waterfalls splash through a bamboo forest. Emersed in the green stillness, I couldn’t help but lose myself.
The constant sheet of rain falling upon us and the thick fog meant that we were shivering only an hour into our hike through the Bamboo Forest. My guide, Big Ku, stopped me at a local lookout, insisting we’d stopped because of a beautiful rocky river, surrounded by giant rice terraces. “Very beautiful view”, she said to me as she gestured out into a flat wall of grey fog.
What we were really stopping here for was the warm fire and I can’t say I blamed her.
The Fog Lifts
For only an instant, the fog lifted and I was graced with a small but breath-taking view of the terraces. Big Ku and her friend wandered ahead and I was able to capture my favourite shot from the entire trip.
Hoi An goes down as my favourite city in Vietnam. It’s a bustling tourist spot – this is undeniable – but once you get past this, it’s a lot of fun. It’s only small compared to the other cities, which means that you’ll get your bearings very quickly.
Hiring some bikes, my newfound friends and I peddled around the Ancient City, enjoying the food and drinks, the markets, and the river – which light up into the most beautiful scene every night, flooded with lanterns.
Canadian Tourist Taking in the River
I don’t remember his name, but this Canadian – clad in Canadian Tuxedo no less – was enjoying a moment, taking in the Hoi An river, when I interrupted him with “oi!” and captured the moment he turned back to see why I was being so obnoxious.
The best part about backpacking is making new friends in every city – even if you never remember their names…
Riverboats Waiting for Passengers
Day and night the river was lined with an assortment of boats waiting to take tourists on 30-minute trips. During the day these mostly remained empty, but at night, with the lanterns lit across the city and floating down the river, these boats came to life.
A Fruit Vendor at the Markets
There were vendors absolutely everywhere in all of the cities I visited, selling goods like this lady. I really loved the lines and colours involved, but they always walked too fast to capture that perfect moment! Finally in Hoi An though, I captured this beautiful lady selling fruit.
I love the simplicity of daily life in Vietnam, don’t you?
Ho Chi Minh City
The biggest city I have ever seen, it just stretched for miles and miles, seeminly never ending. Lucky for me, Uber is cheap and quick in HCMC!
There were a number of tourist traps in this city, but it’s a great spot to explore the food of Vietnam whilst enjoying fantastic city views from many of the skyscrapers.
The Hustle and Bustle of the Ben Thanh Markets
One of the aforementioned tourist traps was undoubtedly the famous Ben Thanh Markets. These markets are inside a large building that swelters with humidity, and is thick with the smell of raw fish and other foods. Every stall seemed to sell the same items and although it is encouraged to bargain heavily with the vendors, I found myself too eager to escape – generally accepting the first price given to me, simply so I could head back outside into fresh air!
Google insists this is a “must-do” for all tourists, but I have to disagree.
The Saigon Skyline
Having slept on trains, buses and in more hostels than I could count, I knew that for the last few days of my trip I wanted to enjoy a life of a little more luxury. My rooftop AirBnB in the Icon 56 Apartments was exactly what I needed, and the view was undeniably the best part.
From foggy mornings to twinkling nights, Ho Chi Minh City really comes alive when you view it from above.
Vietnam has a particular old-school charm, energised with a vibrant, exciting culture that keeps travellers on their toes. Flashes of colour, incredible tastes and surprising sounds; a camera can’t capture the magic but it gets pretty close.