Treasures of Vietnam

Tour Intro

Contact Strabo for details. 2018 rates to be announced.

Travel with Joel Collins on this amazing photographic journey to the heart of Vietnam, an irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty, ancient cultures, and inspiring people. Start in the bustling, narrow streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter, visit brightly decorated pagodas, and wander through traditional villages. Overnight on the Victoria Express Train to Sapa, nestled among emerald rice paddies, pine forest, and high mountains. Photograph the warm faces, traditional clothing, and local crafts in the colorful hill tribe market and trek through the scenic tribal villages, where you will interact with the local people. Visit the ancient town of Hoi An, photograph the waterfront, market, and take a boat trip to a small fishing village. Drive along the stunning coastline to the old capital city of Hue, a World Cultural Heritage site, offering photography of the royal tombs, the Thien Mu Pagoda, and a boat ride on a traditional dragon boat. Lastly, sail on the Prince’s Junk Cruise in Halong Bay. Your voyage cruises you among the thousands of fascinating limestone rock formations rising from the emerald green water.

Depart Vietnam for home or extend your tour in the Mekong Delta of Southern Vietnam. You will also photograph the night life of Saigon, on the back of a vintage Vespa scooter.

Each day your photo leader will focus on various aspects of photography, constantly challenging you to explore new ways of seeing and expressing your vision. Topics that will be covered are customized for each day depending on the itinerary and the desires of the group. Typical topics of instruction include: finding subjects, following the light, interacting with local people, creating depth in an image, telling a story, digital photo enhancement, and responsible travel. Joel invites you to join him on this unforgettable photo tour.

Tour Highlights

• The waterfront village of Hoi An.
• Old World Grandeur of the Imperial Palace in Hue.
• Lively street life of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
• Colorful hill tribes and terraced rice fields in Sapa.
• Two-night cruise in Halong Bay aboard a junk-style sailboat.
• Extension in Southern Vietnam.

Tour Itinerary

September 6: Depart U.S.

A day is lost en-route, landing tomorrow evening (September 7) in Hanoi, Vietnam (HAN).

September 7: Hanoi
Women Dress

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Flights arrive this evening in Hanoi, where you will be transferred to the hotel. Overnight HANOI LASIESTA RESORT & SPA (meals on plane)

September 8: Hanoi
Vietnam Artist

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

In the morning your local guide will meet you and take you on a tour of a noodle village  and Duong Lam ancient village just outside the city. You will learn about Vietnam’s culture and traditions, while photographing the ancient houses and wandering narrow alleyways. Overnights HANOI LASIESTA RESORT & SPA (B, L, D)

September 9: Hanoi - Sapa

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Highlights of Hanoi we will visit today will be the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hanoi Hilton, and the Temple of Literature. Continue on to the train station for your overnight train connection to the Northern Vietnamese mountains. Overnight VICTORIA EXPRESS TRAIN (B, L, D)

September 10-11: Sapa - City and Village Tour - Trekking
Tribal Dress

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Arrive at Lao Cai train station, enjoy breakfast, and drive to Cao Son hilltribe market. Then drive (45-60 minutes) on to the beautiful mountain town of Sapa. This afternoon will be free, and Joel will announce the timing for your first group critique.

The next day, trek through terraced rice fields to the scenic villages of Lao Chai (approx. 2km), home to the Black H’mong hill tribe people, and Ta Van, (4km) home to the Zay hill tribe people. You will discover the lifestyles of these welcoming people who are proud of their culture, still continue a traditional way of living, and speak their own language. Zay women still wear traditional shirts of purple, blue or green. The Zay houses are built of wood and bamboo with a clay floor. The Black H’mong women wear traditional indigo blue clothing. In the afternoon continue your trek (3km) to Giang Ta Chai village where the Red Dzao live, discovering the unique hill tribe culture. Then return by foot to Ta Van village to meet your driver and return to the hotel. Overnight VICTORIA SAPA HOTEL (B, L both days)

September 12: Sapa - Hanoi
Temple Urn

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Enjoy a day of relaxing, exploring, shopping, and photography with your photo leader around the Sapa area. Cau Cau market is the liveliest and less visited market in the area. It’s a wonderful place to witness the many different colorful ethnic groups in Vietnam, as they come together to trade. A short distance away is Hoang Yen Chao Palace and the Ban Pho Village (home to the flower hmong). Along the way you will visit the Thuong Temple. Given time this afternoon visit Ta Phin village, famous for the beautiful brocade weaving done by Hmong and Dzao hill tribe women. After dinner, return to Hanoi via train from the Lao Cai train station. Overnight VICTORIA EXPRESS TRAIN (B, L)

September 13-14: Hue

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Arrive at the train station, then travel one hour drive with your guide to the Noi Ban airport for your flight to Hue. Your Hue guide will meet you in Hue airport and transfer you to your hotel. After checking in, visit the Citadel and Imperial City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Have lunch at a restaurant specializing in Hue pancakes. Photograph the beautiful leaning tower of the famous Thien Mu Pagoda, given time we will have a one-hour trip on a wooden dragon boat along the Perfume River. After sunset visit Tha Om Ancient House located in Kim Long Village. This is a beautiful home with gardens exemplifying the use of Feng Shui in ancient architecture. Enjoy a personal tour and enjoy a home cooked meal with the owner.

The next day you will be able to have a leisurely morning, relaxing at the hotel, followed by an afternoon drive to DMZ and the nearby tunnels. Your guide will explain the importance of the tunnels in Vietnam history, and how they helped the villagers of Vinh Moc to survive. Start your drive back to Hue in the late afternoon, stopping along the way at the fishing village of Cua Tung Beach, photograph the fishing boats as they head to sea at the end of the day. Overnights LA RESIDENCE HOTEL & SPA (B, L, D; B, D)

September 15-17: Hoi An
Winding Road

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam


Southeast of the Citadel in Hue, on both banks of the Perfume River, are seven royal tombs. Two of our favorites celebrating the rulers of the Nguyen dynasty, include Minh Mang, and Khai Dinh. Most of the tombs were designed by the emperors themselves, see how they both differ from each other and learn what their design tells you about the ruler. After lunch your guide will accompany you on your transfer to your next destination, Hoi An in Central Vietnam. The route will take you along the spectacular central coastline and the edges of the Annamite Mountain Range, where it finally meets the sea. Marble Mountain has Buddhist temples built in to caves on the side of the mountain. The spectacular China Beach, famous as a landing ground and later relaxation spot for American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Given enough time we can drive the Hai Van Pass providing another photo opportunity. After checking in to your hotel accommodations enjoy dinner with your guide.

In the morning meet your guide, who will take you on a walking tour of this well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port and UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Visit the Ancient Town including the beautiful Chua Cau, or roofed bridge, Hoi Quan, the ancient meeting places, ancestral family homes, and some of the lovely and hidden pagodas. Early the next morning you will tour the Hoi An market, followed by a boat tour to a local fishing village, and pottery village. This afternoon will be free to relax and enjoy time on your own. In the evening we meet for a photography discussion and group critique. Overnight HOI AN HOTEL (B, L, D; B, L, D; B, L)

September 18-19: Halong Bay - Bai Tu Long Bay - Cap La - Cong Dam - Cond Do
Halong Cave

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

It will be a very early morning, for a 6AM flight to Hanoi, where you will then travel to Ha Long City. Your journey will take around 3.5 hours through the historical countryside of the Red River Delta peppered with hundred-year-old villages. Stop along the way to experience the interesting history and daily life of the local farming activities and rice fields.

Arrive at Ha Long City by midday where you will transfer to the Prince Junk Cruise. This 11-cabin boat is modeled on the Chinese junks that used to sail these waters in earlier times. Enjoy a welcome drink and fresh seafood lunch while cruising in the magnificent Halong Bay. There are nearly 2,000 limestone islets in the emerald waters of this massive UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is time to kayak, swim, or relax before dinner.

The next morning wake early and enjoy the fresh air, the peace of the bay and the beautiful sunrise. Breakfast will be served outside on the deck. Then cruise to Cong Dam, where we have another opportunity for an early morning kayak through hidden lagoons and Cong Dam Ecological park. While lunch is being prepared, indulge in relaxation and photography at Tra Gioi Beach. Where better to enjoy your BBQ lunch but on the deserted beach. Mid-afternoon you will be taken in a rustic rowboat to meet the local people who call Cong Dam fishing village their home. Learn all about their daily life and visit the floating schools and fish farms. Pass through the lagoons as you return. Finish the day with dinner before retiring to your peaceful air-conditioned cabin. Overnight PRINCE JUNK CRUISE (B, L, D both days)

September 20-21: Halong Bay - Thien Canh Son - Halong City - Hanoi
Halong Bay

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

This morning be ready for a swim at Thien Canh Son Cave, then it is time to enjoy your slow cruise and an a la carte lunch on board as you head back toward Hon Gai Harbor to disembark midday back at the pier. You will have a private car transfer to Noi Bai airport for your flight home from HAN, or continue on to Southern Vietnam with your leader (flights may arrive in the U.S. on September 21). (B, L)

Tour Extension

September 20-24: Mekong Delta, 2018 rates to be announced.
Vietnam Man
Photo By: Joel Collins
Photo Location: Vietnam

Extension Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 5 paying participants. All our program prices are based on double occupancy unless noted in exceptions.

Single rooms are subject to availability. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, you will be required to pay the supplement.

Extension Itinerary

September 20-21: Saigon-Vespa Tour

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Saigon, Vietnam

Arrive in Saigon where you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Rest and relax this evening with dinner on your own. The next day we will have photography in the city, visit a museum, and photograph the city's famous pagodas. This evening there will be a night excursion, street photography mixed with local food adventure. Experience the nightlife of Saigon the way locals do, all from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter. Stops include drinks as you watch the world go by, food and drinks at local restaurants (one stop for seafood and one stop for Southern food), samplings of Saigon best authentic street local food, followed by live music. Overnight MAJESTIC SAIGON HOTEL (3/21: B, L, D) 

September 22: Saigon-Cai Bee-Vinh Long-Can Tho
Fishing Boat Mekong Delta

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Mekong Delta, Vietnam

This morning you will be driven to Cai Be Village in the Mekong Delta (approx. 2 ½ hours from Saigon). At Cai Be board a private boat to explore Cai Be Floating Market and visit local families making popped rice, coconut candies, rice paper, and various other local homemade Vietnamese products from the Mekong area.  Then you'll have lunch in a beautiful traditional garden house where you will be presented with local dishes, such as Elephant Ear Fish rolled and wrapped with rice paper, as well as different Vietnamese vegetables and fruits served with tamarind dipping sauce. After lunch, you'll carry on with your boat trip to Vinh Long, passing small and beautiful canals with peaceful tranquil villages.  Time permitting you can even visit a local brick/pottery factory. After this your private transport will pick you up in Vinh Long and will drive you to your hotel in Can Tho. Check in and then relax. Overnight VICTORIA CAN THO (B, L)

September 23: Can Tho-Phung Hiep Floating Market-Ben Tre
Mekond Delta Fishing Boat

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Mekong Delta, Vietnam

You will have a very early start this morning to give you the best experience and photo opportunities at Phung Hiep floating market located in Hau Giang province. Your guide will meet you at 6am in the reception.  Together you will take a private speedboat and we will arrange a take away breakfast for you this morning to enjoy on your way. It will take you around 1 hour as you pass through Cai Ton and before you arrive at Phung Hiep. The market meets all day long, but it is at its most noisy and busiest early in the morning. Enjoy the local sellers’ vibrant displays of seasonal vegetables and fruits: mangoes, durians, bananas, oranges, coconuts... See what the sellers are hanging from their boat poles to understand what is for sale that morning. Your guide will help you to obtain the best interactive experience from your visit. Overnight BEN TRE Homestay (B, L, D)

September 24-25: Ben Tre-Saigon
Fishing Boat Mekong Delta

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Mekong Delta, Vietnam

This morning, wander around the home stay orchard with the farmer and explore the local area on foot. You are completely off the beaten track and will experience the authentic rural Vietnam. Today’s return journey will take you via Ben Tre town. On arrival you will be able to relax in your private local Xe Loi’s and be driven around to explore the hidden gems of the coconuts plantations. Stop along the rice paddies and in the local villages along the way. Your guide is there to help you with your experience and to chat with and get to know local people. Then after the Xe Loi (motor cart) trip, you will have a short walk to your boat waiting on the main river. Your private transport will be waiting for you as you disembark. The estimated time for arrival back in Saigon is around 5pm. You will be taken to your hotel where you can rest and relax for the evening. Those that have an evening flight out this evening will be transferred to the airport. If you have a morning or afternoon flight you will need to depart September 25, and will be transferred at the appropriate time. In either event you won’t land home until September 25. (B, L)

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 8 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 5-7 paying participants. All our program prices are based on double occupancy unless noted in exceptions.

Single rooms are subject to availability. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, you will be required to pay the supplement.


Joel is a natural instructor and "cultural ambassador". My photography has improved tremendously due to his instruction and encouragement. Prior to his trips, I was hesitant to approach people for their photos, but he shows us how to study a scene, be friendly, and ask permission to work with people, with wonderful portraits as the result! Now I can approach just about anyone with my camera and a smile and have a great experience where everyone is comfortable. Joel is always available to work one-on-one with us to address any areas of interest, such as challenging lighting situations, or varying our depth of field for the desired effects. And his critiques are fun and so helpful, challenging us to take chances with awesome results. He's an exceptional photographic leader. 


Joel was a fabulous leader!! He was patient, friendly, and spent huge amounts of his time answering questions and educating. I would definitely go on another trip with him.

L Rose

You could ask Joel anything about photography such as use of your camera, software, or workflows, he would thoughtfully and respectfully give you his opinion and advice. On top of that people just naturally gravitate to him, you couldn’t walk down a street without children following him like the pied piper. I learned a lot of lessons from him that trip, not just about photography, but how to approach life in general. I would be honored to travel with him again.

E. Phillips

Additional Notes

Health and Fitness

Tour participants should be in good health and good physical condition to get the most out of the trip. You will find that every day includes walking in a hot and very humid climate, with one day devoted to a hill tribe trek. Although we will not be running marathons, we will be taking long walks in order to reach the prime photographic locations. We will be at various altitudes with the highest peak being at 6,000’. While you will not be required to climb these peaks, some of the best scenic views are from the tops of these formations. There will be a few long drives on very winding, narrow roads.

Terms and Conditions

Unless otherwise noted, this information applies to all tours.


Contact Strabo Tours if you would like rates on International Airfare. Please note on your trip application form if you would like us to assist you with your airfare needs, a charge is added for this service. If making your own arrangements, it is important to discuss flight times with Strabo Tours before booking any airline tickets. This will avoid you having to pay airline cancellation penalties. Please contact Strabo Tours for destination airfare estimates, specific flight time arrivals, and departures.

The land cost includes:
  • Group transportation for tour events in the tour van.
  • Accommodations based on two people sharing a room, singles are assigned on a first come, first served basis.
  • Services of driver, English speaking cultural guide (if applicable) and photographic leader, during the tour.
  • Meals as listed in itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner).
  • Park entrance fees, day tours and excursions as shown in the itinerary.
  • Extensive pre-departure information and services.
The land cost does not include:

Domestic or International air fare; other airfare if noted in exceptions; air fare tax; airport departure tax; airport transfers; additional transfers or accommodations that may be required by those not traveling with the group; excess baggage charges; meals not included in itinerary; activities taken on your own; passport/visa expenses; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature, such as room service, laundry, beverages not included with meals, medical expenses, photographic equipment, any activities not specified in tour itinerary or listed as optional, or any items not listed in what is included; fuel surcharges; exchange rate surcharges; upon the completion of your trip, modest gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary; tips for meals not included in itinerary.

Fitness and Health

The majority of trips are not strenuous (see exceptions below for particular destinations) and anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to take part in most of the activities. You may experience general fatigue due to the long flights and the change in time zones. You will need to be sufficiently agile to climb in and out of the tour van and be able to carry and manage your own equipment. We will frequently hike trails ranging from easy to moderate. Some hotels do not have elevators or air conditioners.

If you have any special needs or any physical condition that you feel might prevent you from fully participating, please contact Strabo Tours with your concerns (607-756-8676).

You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication.


The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

Deposits, Cancellations AND Refunds

A deposit of $750 ($500 on domestic tours) per person is required. Specific tours may require an additional deposit due to accommodation bookings or transportation requirements. If applicable these will be noted on your invoice. Payment in full is required when bookings are made less than 120 days before the departure date. Space is subject to cancellation by Strabo if payment is not received when due.

If a passenger wishes to cancel they must send notification in writing to: Strabo International Tour, Co., P.O. Box 580, Dryden, NY 13053; fax 208-545-4119. At the time we receive your notification, the following per person charges apply:

  • 91 days or more before departure: $300 cancellation fee ($150 fee on domestic tours), plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation.
  • 61-90 days before departure: $500 ($250 on domestic tours) minimum cancellation fee, plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation. Fees may range from 25% to 100% of tour costs.
  • 60 days or less before departure or anytime after departure: NO REFUND.

Refunds for services that are voluntarily not used by you cannot be made.


Each participant must be covered by medical insurance that is valid overseas.

We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out insurance on your trip. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum you’ve invested in it (see the section “Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds” in the trip brochure).

Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut your trip short for medical or any other reasons.

There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet, which outlines their program of trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance. Trained agents are available to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to call the toll free number in their brochure. It is to your advantage to apply for insurance at the earliest possible time, so don’t delay in making a decision.

Subject to Change

Itineraries have been carefully constructed to assure participants the best each destination has to offer; however, should events arise that are beyond our control, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. The itineraries summarize typical areas you will explore. Since there is no possible way to visit all of them, your guides will plan each day considering the interests of the group and the weather at hand. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.

Photo Release

Strabo International Tour Company, Inc. reserves the right and permission to use photographs of individuals on tour for use in promotional and publicity purposes. We also reserve the right to use clients photographs for promotional and publicity purposes, when submitted to Strabo International Tour Company, Inc.


Southeast Asia has made great strides in tourist accommodations and services. We have chosen beautiful hotels that are close to prime photography locations. All our accommodations will be clean and comfortable, with private toilet and shower/bath. We encourage packing light to ease the stress of travel. Transportation will be by various means: boat, optional kayak, vehicle, train and internal flights.

This is a photography tour, so much of what we do and when we do it will depend upon weather and light. Flexibility will allow us to take advantage of new photographic opportunities as they arise. Please remember these are still developing countries, so we may experience occasional inconveniences.

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