Terra Galleria Photography

Classic Vietnam in Focus – A Photo Tour with QT Luong


I may be a bit partial because of my Vietnamese background, but after visiting all the countries of continental South East Asia, and many others, I’ve found Vietnam to be one of the most diverse, enriching, exotic, and visually interesting countries in the world. Vietnam has it all: extraordinary natural landscapes, captivating historic cities, an ethnic mosaic of friendly people, and a traditional rural life that has not changed in centuries.

The coastline is highlighted by mountains dropping into the sea in Central Vietnam, and thousands of limestone karsts in Halong Bay. Soaring peaks culminate near Sapa, where colorful minority tribes make a living on impossibly steep slopes. In the mysterious Mekong Delta, all life – even public markets – centers on the water. Besides its natural beauty, Vietnam is home to a civilization dating back 4,000 years, which have produced a performance art, water puppetry, and a religion, Caodaism, not found anywhere else. Imperial palaces, citadels, temples, ancient ruined Champa cities and old trading ports, all contrast with the energy of modern Vietnam.

My images of Vietnam have been published worldwide, including on the cover (and opening spread) of a Vietnam issue of GEO magazine, and then on the cover of a dozen other brochures, magazines, and books. The very first photo gallery on this site (see site timeline) portrayed Vietnam in 2001. That same year, in order to share with other photographers some of what I’ve learned, I posted the photo.net photographer’s guide to Vietnam. It had taken me 10 weeks of travel to find the visual highlights of the country described in the guide, but Vietnam is small enough that it is possible to experience the most quintessential sights, which include all of the above and more, in a fast-paced two-week tour.

I am pleased to announce that I will be leading such a tour, Classic Vietnam in Focus, in the Fall of 2012 (Oct 25 – Nov. 10). For those who have less than 2 weeks time, the itinerary is broken down in 2 sections. The main section takes place on the plains (12 days) with an extension in the mountains (5 days) which can be taken separately.

The tour is organized by Insiders Asia tour director, Phuoc Babcock. Although her company is new, she has extensive experience in the travel industry, having led more than 30 tours. We will be traveling in style, staying at five star hotels (except in Hanoi, four star).

Our journey will take us through the whole length of the country, from Mekong Delta in the South to the border with China in the North, visiting the three main cities of the country, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Hanoi. We will ride boats large and small in the busy waterways of the Mekong Delta, the famed Perfume River on our way to imperial mausoleums, the fantastic Ha Long Bay, and the Chay River bordered by mountains. Our scenic drives will include the Hai Van Pass, one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world, and the remote route from Sapa to Can Cau. We will stroll through the architectural museum that is Hoi An bathed in the warm glow of paper lanterns during a festival, and trek to remote minority hamlets in the mountains. Our sights will range from majestic palaces and temples to colorful rural markets.

Unlike in ordinary tours, the emphasis will be on sites with the greatest photographic potential, and we will make sure we are there at the best time of the day to capture great light. Other tours may visit the same locations, but look carefully at our timings. Just to take the example of Central Vietnam, besides planning our visit for the Lantern Festival, we will leave at 5am to be for the sunrise at My Son, and then visit its fish market at sunrise the next day. We will stop in Lang Co overnight, therefore enjoying great scenic opportunities both at sunset and sunrise in this fishing village where other tours only do a quick mid-day stop (if they don’t miss altogether the Danang-Hue drive).

In the evenings, a workshop session focused on tips to improve your photography will include a group slideshow that helps us remember the day, as well as individual sessions customized for each participant’s level, where I will answer any questions related to photography, post-processing, and the photography business.

When is the best time to travel to Vietnam? Now — for tomorrow things might not be the same in this rapidly evolving country. Come and join me on this incredible journey to Vietnam. With your camera, you can capture a part of your experience that may not be there tomorrow.

Update Aug 2002: sold out

Detailed information about Classic Vietnam in Focus photo tour.


  1. Ivan Cazares says:

    QT, I’ve been following your gallery updates for a long time. In fact, you gave me a recommendation for a camera to buy 3 years ago. I don’t have a website, but I can share with you some of the pictures that I’ve uploaded to my picasa gallery. . Pls send me information about the trip and let me know why you chose summer. I went to Thailand/ Cambodia once in winter, and from what I remember, that’s the best time to see those countries b/c of the monsoon season.

  2. QT Luong says:

    For more information about the trip, please check the official Vietnam tour page on Insiders Asia, which includes a detailed itinerary in PDF.

    Vietnam is very spread out from South to North, so the climate can be surprisingly different in different parts of the country. There are actually two monsoon cycles, the one that you mentioned in the South (May-October), and another one in the North (October-March). Since this tour visits the whole length of Vietnam, we cannot enjoy the best weather conditions for each place, however summer is an excellent compromise, especially if the goal is to have great conditions for photography. If the goal was just touring, the cooler conditions of winter would be more pleasant.

    In the South, summer is definitively monsoon season. However the precipitations are mostly brief and intense afternoon showers. The advantage of summer for photography is that we get more varied conditions during the day, including dramatic skies, and clearer air, whereas I have found the dry season to be quite hazy. The landscape is also much greener, the rivers more full, and there is more activity in the Delta.

    In the North, summer are hot in the plains but mostly dry, whereas winters are quite cool and wet. Although the total amount of winter precipitation is not that high, there is often a persistent drizzle and overcast skies which can be dreary for landscape photography. In the mountains the temperatures are nice in summer, but could be below freezing in winter (a previous Insiders Asia trip to Sapa had to be canceled for that reason).

  3. Le Huu Phuoc says:

    I stayed in Vietnam between October 2010-March 2011 and noticed that there was hardly any rain between December-March; the weather was mostly clear, less humid, and refreshing. This is the dry season and certainly the best time to visit Vietnam and take great photos, if you don’t like to get wet. The lively Vietnamese New Year, Tet, also occurs during this period.

  4. QT Luong says:

    It’s possibly the most comfortable time to visit Vietnam, but based on my experience, I am not sure at all that it’s the best time to take great photos, for the reasons mentioned in my reply.

  5. Tom says:

    This is so cool! Excited to see you starting to do stuff like this. I’m still just a hack, of course, but I learn so much when I get the chance to tag along when you’re shooting. Plus with your knowledge of photographing Viet Nam, this should be an amazing trip for people

  6. Jean says:

    Amazing photography.. well done.. my passion is also Vietnam.. I offer Opulent Tours to Vietnam, discovering the Hidden Charms of her French Colonial influenced architecture, food, and meet some of her wonderful people.
    Wish I could come on one of your tours.. I’m trying to get onto that detailed site, without success.

    Please email me those details if you don’t mind?.. with thanks – Jean Wethmar

  7. SK says:

    Hi – Great pictures. I appreciate the way you have followed your passion and become a full time photographer. The pictures of bay area provide me with great tips for correct locations and land-marks to photograph. Do you have any photo-walking trips in Silicon valley? I’m sure more people will be interested..


  8. Hi- I see all these amazing picture and feel very good and want to once in our life. The picture’s are awesome.

  9. Amazing photos! there are the best place in Vietnam travellers should visit. thank for your sharing

  10. Chuck Kuhn says:

    Nice series of photos. I like you have a passion for Vietnam. I’m located in Northern California and you? I’m getting ready for 3 month trip to Vietnam, this will be my third trip, First SOLO, more later

  11. Please send me informations about itinirary and costs of travel to vietnam.



  12. Ngan Ha says:

    PLs go to Quang Binh province !quangbinhexplorer.blogspot.com

  13. Richard says:

    I was In Vietnam 1966 to 1967 & 1968 I was with the 1st cav. div.Aco.2/12 cav…….I don’t think I will ever get over it… I can never Forget Or Forgive Then In the North. For The way thay Treated Our P.O.W……Thay Where & Still As Far As I see War Crimes.The U.S.A. Should Have Never Helped These So Called Humans. Till All P.O.W. were Found. I Still Say There Are Some There Still

  14. Steve says:

    I like Richard was in Viet Nam in 66 also with the 1st Cav. I remember that country every day when l look at the POW FLAG flying on the pole in my front yard.
    I hope in your photos that you include some of the battle sites where many were lost.
    Please you who enjoy the photos of that place, remember .

  15. QT Luong says:

    Richard and Steve, I understand what you’ve been through and where you come from. Many more bombs were dropped over Vietnam – in civilian areas – by American forces than were used in all of World War II. Yet Americans (including veterans) experience a genuine welcome during their travels to Vietnam. The Vietnamese people have simply moved on. The tour is meant to help people discover Vietnam as a country. There are no plans to visit war sites.

  16. Centaur CE says:

    The Vietnamese are indeed a remarkable people. Those of us that served over there are aware of the bombs that were dropped on that little nation. I’m surprised you didn’t also mention My Lay in talking down to the 2 Nam vets. Please keep in mind that the North Vietnamese killed more of their own people that all the American forces combined.

  17. Chris says:

    Seems to me any veterans feeling lingering resentment over the war should direct it at the politicians and military brass that started that military adventure thousands of miles away from US shores based on weak justifications like “credibility” and falling dominoes. Not to mention the majority of Americans that casually supported getting into the war. The people of Vietnam suffered immensely from a couple of decades of war in their country and if they can move on surely Americans can too.

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