This January, AFAR embarked on our inaugural World in Focus Photography Expedition to Vietnam, in partnership with Nikon. From the majestic views of Halong Bay, to the bustling streets of Hanoi, Nikon photographers Joey Terrill and Charissa Fay helped travelers capture the country’s energy, storied history, and dynamic culture. These captivating photographs will make you want to experience it too.
The expedition began in the city of Hanoi, known for its historic French-colonial buildings juxtaposed against its modern, hectic streets. An oasis from the bustle, Van Mieu Mon, or the Temple of Literature, exemplifies the Confucian principle of social harmony. Photographer Charissa Fay captured some of the aged details of this 11th-century temple as seen here.
One of the best parts of Vietnam is its food. You won’t regret parking your motor scooter on the sidewalk in the Old Quarter, and walking up a winding, narrow staircase to be served a rainbow of fresh local flavors. “Bun cha, a dish of rice noodles with grilled pork, fresh herbs, and fish sauce, offers lots of flavors in each bite,” notes Charissa Fay.
The group traveled north from Hanoi by overnight train to Lao Cai and then headed up to the mountain town of Sapa, originally built by the French as a cool retreat from the balmy city of Hanoi. These days, travelers come to this area for its hikes with views of the countryside, often escorted by the Red Dao women who can skillfully traverse the muddy tops of the rice terraces. Trip attendee Sandra Stevens captured this image on the group’s Sapa hike.
The weekly Can Cau market attracts locals from this northern region, including from neighboring China. Sandra Stevens captured this moment “inside a makeshift billiard hall” at the market.
The awe-inspiring views of Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, include thousands of jutting green islands and caves. It’s no wonder local folktales speak of magic and describe dragons creating the islands. In fact its name translates to “Descending Dragon Bay.” Here,Joey Terrill shot this iconic landscape with the Nikon D850, capturing, in his words, “a lone fishing boat among a few of the 1600 limestone islands.”
Hibiscus flowers are common all over Vietnam and their bright pink petals embody the vibrancy of the country’s culture. This dewy detail shot was captured during one of many photography lessons on the trip.
The Buddhist pagodas in Vietnam come in a variety of shapes and sizes–some fitting in corners of alleyways with others spanning acres. This photograph by trip attendee Frank Fazekas is a study in light with the swirling smoke of the burning incense mystically framed in a beam of light.
The ancient town of Hoi An glows with a rainbow of illuminated lanterns that line its streets. Despite the crowds that come out at night, the town still has a peaceful hum in the evening. Here the lights are reflected in the water of the Thu Bon River.
As one of the final stops on the trip, the floating villages of the Mekong Delta were a highlight for the photographers. Along the delta’s maze-like channels, a lively floating market gives a picture of daily life for many Vietnamese. Everything from produce, fish, and meats is sold on these waters, but by far the best part of the travelers’ experience was a pho (Vietnam’s national dish) breakfast from a boat.