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Asia Photography

Northern Vietnam: A Photo Diary

Northern Vietnam is unlike any place I have been. We take a quick flight from Hong Kong in the middle of the day on a Wednesday. Descending into Hanoi, we float through a dense fog for what feels like forever. Anxious, as always, to get an aerial view, I am disappointed. Thirty seconds before landing, a runway appears in what looks like the middle of a jungle. The entire city is wrapped in this dense fog and clouds, not a sliver of blue sky in sight. Instantly, it feels exactly how I thought it would. Eerily quiet, somewhat depressing, and foreign.

“You’re going where? For how long?” This was the reaction from most of our friends and family when we decided to backpack through Southeast Asia. And although there are heavily trafficked backpacking circuits in this region, I hadn’t read much about anyone staying in Hanoi, uninterrupted, for a month. But we were determined to travel on a budget, so we rented an apartment on the outskirts of town in the hopes of finding insanely good Pho and making some local friends. These photographs serve as a diary of sorts from that month we’ll never forget.



Best Places and Experiences in Vietnam

When you’re out to visit Vietnam, there are plenty of places to explore, and experiences to enjoy. Vietnam is spreading on a large territory and boasts cultural heritage, natural treasures, and mesmerizing sceneries. It’s pretty much impossible to see everything, and as a tourist, one should have it all planned out to make sure they will enjoy an unforgettable trip.

To make things a bit easier, we’ve handpicked a couple of must-have experiences and places to visit when visiting Vietnam. Of course, which ones you go for, is all up to you, but we made sure to include something for everyone.

Ha Long Bay

We’re kicking things off with one that’s perfect if you want to cruise Vietnam – the Ha Long Bay. It is definitely one of the most recognizable places when it comes to Vietnam, and it’s a sight to behold. You have the bay’s emerald waters and quite a lot of limestone mountains that are scattered throughout.

Now, Ha Long Bay is something that you could spend a single day on, but if you want to make the most of it, you should definitely dedicate at least two to three days. This will allow you to explore it completely, and see what it’s all about.


One of the most crowded places in Vietnam, Hanoi is located in northern Vietnam. Contrary to the peace you could get from exploring Vietnam’s wilderness, in Hanoi, you get the Old Quarter experience. This is a place that’s chaotic, to say the least, but there are a lot of things to do.

This is where you’ll find some of Vietnam’s finest colorful food for sale. Both the sidewalks and the streets are as crowded as they come, which is why Hanoi, especially the Old Quarter, shouldn’t be your first stop. Even though that’s exactly what makes it so attractive, Hanoi is rather overwhelming. You should visit something like Hoi An first. And while we’re at it …

Hoi An

While the name is definitely similar to Hanoi, Hoi An is a slightly calmer experience in comparison. Hoi An is an ancient city located in central Vietnam, and should definitely be one of the places you witness. If your trip only allows you to go to one place in Vietnam, you should go to Hoi An.

The main reason why it’s so good is the fact that you pretty much get everything Vietnam has to offer. In the center, you’ll find some of the finest restaurants in Vietnam, as well as shopping opportunities. There are even some really nice historic sites you should visit, too. Oh, and if you take a short ride, you’ll be met with those stunning rice fields Vietnam is known for, as well as some of the best beaches you’ve seen.

The Mekong Delta

This is another one of those must-have experiences, and is also known as the “rice bowl”. The Mekong river actually starts all the way in China, moves through Cambodia and Laos, and ends in the Mekong Delta before going into the South China Sea.

But that’s not what you’re here for – what you are here for are the numerous rivers that spring out from the river in Vietnam’s south. They create a stunning network of canals that you can travel by boat, and they link things like small cities and rice farms. This is a stunning tropical maze that you’ll enjoy every minute of.

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Min is one of the cities Vietnam is famous for, and there are plenty of reasons why. Previously known as Saigon, this buzzing-city gives you a pretty interesting combination of old and new, history and contemporary.

You will get the opportunity to visit and tour buildings that were designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Gustave Eiffel), see cultural sites like the War Remnants Museum, and if you would like a bird’s eye view of the entire city, you can head to the Bitexco Financial Building.

Of course, you also get to experience the same motorcycle dodging you get in Hanoi, which is pretty much a trademark of Vietnam at this point.

Phu Quoc

Even though technically, Phu Quoc is closer to Cambodia than mainland Vietnam, it’s still one of the most beautiful, tropical places you can visit. There is certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches in Vietnam, but Phu Quoc is something else. It’s the go-to place if you want to get away from the chaotic city experiences.

Now, one thing to note about Phu Quoc is that “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true here. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, by all means spend a bit more and go for one of the nicer resorts. This also gets you larger and cleaner beaches, and better views, something definitely worth paying extra for.

And if you make it to Phu Quoc, do not miss the chance to continue your trip to Cambodia. It sure is one of the Asian countries, that together with Vietnam, should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Asia Cruising

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

The Mekong River – the world twelfth largest river, the lifeblood and the boundary line of much of Southeast Asia. Cutting through valleys, ancient silk towns, major metropolises, monasteries and hundreds of miles of farm lands and fishing towns… exploring the Mekong River is a cultural traveler’s delight. Today, I’m sharing the highlights of my fifteen-day long exploration of Cambodia and Vietnam while cruising down the Mekong River.


In between visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, cruising down the Mekong River gave me the opportunity to see a quainter, more rural and authentic side to its people and its culture… for which I’m forever grateful. I truly believe getting off of the well-worn path of must-see cities and metropolises gives travelers a more well-rounded, fuller perspective of a place.

Cái Bè

Perhaps there’s nothing more classic on a Mekong River cruise than experiencing a floating market. Cái Bè’s market was buzzing with excitement, from the sellers and farmers bargaining amongst themselves, to the overflowing amounts of fresh vegetables, candies and more. However, just off the busy market streets you’ll find the calmer waterways lead to the heart of the village, where locals showed us their honey tea making customs and let us sample their delicacies. So special!

Sa Déc

After boarding a small boat set to explore the backwaters of the Mekong Delta, after passing many factories and floating markets, we landed on Sa Déc’s shores. Sa Déc is home to famous authors and brick factories, but what I loved most about exploring this small city was the interactions I had with the locals who were selling their handmade goods and homegrown fruits and vegetables. Having the time to speak with locals and support the local economy was so incredible.

Tan Chau

Our time in Vietnam’s silk weaving factory town, Tan Chau, will forever stay with me. In between exploring the silk-weaving looms, wooden beams and swelteringly hot conditions, we were able to again connect with the locals yet again. Their smiling faces and warm reception to us meant the world to me. It’s the small yet meaningful interactions with locals that always resounds the most with my heart.


Although Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat draws many, many tourists every day… I could not suggest seeing the country’s quieter side more. Every morning our excursions through Cambodia’s villages revealed a new, intimate experience I just know more travelers would love to witness on their own. For anyone looking to experience their own Indochina Tour, there are so many options and packages out there for every type of traveler.

Chong Kho

Upon crossing into Cambodia’s borders, we were welcomed into the small village of Chong Kho – best known for its silk-weaving and rich fabrics. I found myself exploring the small streets alleys filled with local children, joyfully playing in their swing sets and climbing trees.

French NGO

I truly love photographing people. Their expressions, their joy, the spark in their eyes when I make them giggle or attempt to say something in their language. I spent so much time with the children you see below, these snapshots are just glimpses into the memories I have of them laughing, jumping and walking side by side with me.

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham is a centrally located hub of fishing and agriculture in Cambodia, filled with dense archaeological sights and over 200 ancient temples. You read that right! 200 ancient temples… some of which go back further than the Khmer Empire.

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

Magnificent Mekong with Viking Cruises

The grand Mekong River was a sight to behold. And having it as my morning view? Priceless. Viking’s itinerary through the Vietnamese and Cambodian river valley boasts some of the most gorgeous panoramas. But what really made me fall in love was their commitment to showcasing the authentic silk towns, fishing villages and aged beauty of the Vietnamese and Cambodia culture. Each morning I knew that my day would be filled with discovery unlike I’d ever imagine.

Viking’s lodgings and menu always leave me rested and well fed – exactly what I need before taking part on daily excursions! Traditional Vietnamese and Cambodian meals were offered daily… and as an adventurous eater, I loved the experience of tasting the indigenous flavors and authentic dishes as much as I possibly good. 

While cruising through these ancient villages and learning from the locals, I was extremely thankful for Insure Yonder’s travel insurance coverage. I’ve learned the hard way in years past that airline and cruise insurance can be super expensive and lack coverage… but their insightful and thorough coverage gave me such a sense of ease while on this grand adventure. Very thankful for the peace of mind it brought to me while enjoying these serene sights!

A big thank you to Viking Cruises for the opportunity to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia. And also a big, resounding thank you to Insure Yonder for providing us with travel insurance, in case of an emergency! 

Trip sponsored by Viking Cruises. As always, all opinions are my own. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.


5 Wonderful Experiences You Can’t Miss In Vietnam

Vietnam has a ton of gorgeous tourist attractions and you’ll surely find them all in your research. But if you want to return home with experiences that’ll fill your heart and soul, these are a few you shouldn’t miss.

Take A Walk Around Hoan Kiem Lake In Hanoi On A Weekend

‘On a weekend’ is imperative. Because every weekend, the roads surrounding the Hoan Kiem Lake are cordoned off to traffic so people can gather around the lake and have fun.

It is a spectacle! You’ll see little kids driving around in toy cars, older kids playing đá cầu or Hacky Sack, people singing and dancing, jogging, or simply walking around with friends and family having a good time.

A walk around Hoan Kiem Lake is a lovely way to feel like you’re part of the local scene. Explore the place even further and you’ll find little parties happening on streets–people sitting on tiny stools and tables outside, sipping on cold beer, eating snacks, and chatting with one another.

Drink As Much Vietnamese Coffee As Possible

If you like coffee, you will love Vietnamese coffee.

There are typically get three variants of Vietnamese coffee in most cafes — black (just the extracted coffee), white (with milk), and brown (with condensed milk – my absolute favorite). And you can have them hot or cold.

Cafes are also experimenting with different flavors like coconut milk and frozen yogurt. It’s quite delicious! And I’d highly recommend you buy some to take home – just so you can recreate this delicious concoction in your own kitchen.

Kayak The Emerald Waters Of Ha Long Bay

When you’re researching your trip to Vietnam and looking for things to do, a cruise to Ha Long Bay will be featured everywhere! And once you get there, you’ll see why.

Gorgeous blue waters and skies as far as your eyes can see, towering limestone islands… you’ll get to visit natural caves and manmade fishing villages. Even bette, most cruises offer you the option to go kayaking in the waters. I’d definitely recommend doing it, if you can. It’s a thoroughly magical experience to be out in the middle of the ocean in a little kayak and watch the limestone islands towering over you.

Have A Chat With The Locals

Vietnam isn’t really an English-speaking country. But many young students want to pick up the language!

When you’re walking around and exploring Vietnam, school-going kids might walk up to you and ask if you’ll help them practice their English. They’ll speak to you for a good three minutes and ask you simple questions to practice their English skills (what’s your name, where you’re from, what plans you have while you’re here, etc). It’s an utter delight every time a student comes up to you to have one of these conversations! Indulge them, and it just might make your day!

Make Time For Your Favorite Things

Just because you’re in a different country, doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you love.

Love to cook? Look around for a cooking class in the local cuisine. Love photography? You’ll find a ton of people offering photo walks. I love crafting and sure enough, I found a little craft studio in Hanoi called DIY Box where they teach you how to fashion fun things out of crocodile leather — passport holders, vanity pouches, wallets, phone cases. I decided to make a passport holder and spent a good three hours happily trimming, hammering, and stitching everything by hand. Such a cool experience!

Asia Food Insider Tips

The Best of Vietnam Insider Guide


I recently wrapped up my second visit to Vietnam, one of the most vibrant countries in Southeast Asia. Land of rice fields, lanterns and noodle soup. It was a trip of old favorites and new wonders, and I wanted to share just a few highlights with you lovelies. Happy travels!


Favorite City – Hoi An
This celebrated port city was home to a spectacular Ancient Town, a cluster of 800+ buildings and colorful corridors filled with charming shops, market stalls, restaurants, etc. on the banks of the Thu Bon River. And lit up at night, the place was even more magical! Every evening, I watched as tourists and locals boarded the tiniest boats to set lanterns afloat along the river. By 9 PM the river looked like a painting – a dark waterway aglow with hundreds of flickering yellow lights.

Hoi An

Favorite Pool – Mai Chau Eco Lodge
I had to go off-the-beaten path to find Vietnam’s most epic pool, nestled in the northern countryside. The Mai Chau Ecolodge was a haven of green with its surrounding rice fields, banana trees, swaying palms and limestone peaks. And smack dab in the middle of it all was this sparkling oasis of turquoise with the dreamiest pool views.


Favorite Food – Pho
Pho was my go-to meal at every stop in Vietnam. It was cheap, and it was delicious. I’m a pretty picky eater, so I had a hard time with some of the more exotic Vietnamese cuisine and flavors. Luckily, pho was served almost everywhere – from little street stalls to sit down restaurants.  


Favorite Rice Fields – Ninh Binh
People always tout Halong Bay as the crown jewel of northern Vietnam, but Ninh Binh remains my favorite. The soaring limestone peaks rising out of the riverbanks looked like something out of a fairytale. One of my favorite adventures was exploring Tam Coc Grotto by private boat on a river that snaked through rice paddies and soaring limestone karsts. And for a topside vantage of the grotto and rice fields, I headed to nearby Mua Cave for the prettiest views in Vietnam.


Favorite Resort – Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai
Hoi An was home to the only Four Seasons property in Vietnam, and it felt a world away from the chaos of Saigon and the bustle of Hanoi. The resort’s picturesque beach setting shocked me into much-needed R&R mode – I saved this for the last leg of my trip. Happily, I spent my days poolside on one of the resort’s luxury loungers sipping on coconuts & passion fruit juice with beach views of swaying palms. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have thought I was on a remote tropical island.


Favorite Off-the-Beaten Path Adventure – Halong Bay via Bai Tho Mountain
A junk boat tour of Halong Bay is touted as a must by every guide book, but honestly, I’ve done it twice now and it’s a bit … boring. The bay was beautiful, but there was very little to do on the water, and after a few hours of floating, it got a bit old. I love freedom when I travel and I think because this place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s (understandably) very restricted. Tour companies seemed to be the only way to see the bay, and outside of a few overcrowded spots to, there wasn’t much else to do. I preferred my off-the-beaten-path experience at Bai Tho Mountain. It was a tricky trailhead to find in Halong City. And it was also a gnarly climb straight up a mountain. But the soaring view over the epic bay of 1,600 islands was absolutely priceless.


Favorite Historical Sights – Hue
Citadels, temples, tombs and pagodas. Hue had it all, and its central Vietnam location made it the perfect stop while traveling from Saigon to Hanoi. The sights were a bit spread out, so my favorite way to see the Imperial City and its surroundings was on two weels. About $3 a day to rent a bicycle – quite the deal!


Favorite Big City – Hanoi
Hanoi was a sensory overload, but I loved everything about Vietnam’s chaotic capital city. I started my days at Hoan Kiem Lake, an oasis in the heart of the city, and made my way to the Old Quarter and French Quarter on foot where I let the busy streets and little alleys guide me through the shopping, the street food, the scooters, the crowds and the mayhem.


Favorite Hike – Pu Luong
It’s a truly spectacular journey through the mountains to reach this nature reserve situated in northern Vietnam – a two-hour drive from Mai Chau, and then another three hours to Hanoi. The region was filled with rice fields, sugar cane, wooden waterwheels, gushing rivers, epic limestone peaks and 0 tourists. Completely off the map, Pu Luong offered incredible hiking trails, a lovely escape from the pollution and crowds of Vietnam’s larger cities.


Favorite Driver – Loc Nguyen
With two visits under my belt, I’ve decided that private car is the more comfortable way to explore Vietnam. It also offers a lot more freedom in terms of stopping and schedules for all of the long distance travel. I was randomly assigned a driver from a transport company I booked with out of Hanoi, and completely lucked out. I spent nine days with Loc Nguyen, a rockstar driver who didn’t speak any English, but quickly became a dear friend (the power of Google translate and sign language). He joined me on rice field hikes, grotto boat rides and market visits, and I enjoyed several meals with him all over northern Vietnam. I booked him through the Hanoi Transfer Service company.


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