Vietnam Photo Tour: Treasures of Vietnam

Tour Intro

2018 rates listed. Contact Strabo Tours for private group or future photo tour.

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 in 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 traditional Junk Cruises 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 photograph in the early morning at the bustling and beautifully unique floating markets and the nightlife 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.
• Photograph Saigon at night and the floating markets on the Mekong Delta Extension.

Tour Itinerary

September 6: Depart U.S.
Vietnam Girl

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

A day is lost en-route, landing tomorrow evening (September 7) in Hanoi, Vietnam (HAN).
If you ARE NOT taking part in the extension your flight will be booked round-trip Home/Hanoi, if you ARE taking part in the extension your international flight will need to be multi-city (Home/Hanoi - Saigon/Home).

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 ESSENCE HOTEL & SPA (meals on plane)

September 8: Hanoi
Vietnam Artist

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Hanoi, originally named Thang Long or "City of the Ascending Dragon," was the first capital of Vietnam and is situated in the center of Northern Vietnam. Among Hanoi's sightseeing highlights is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, National Art Museum or Fine Art Museum; the Hoa Lo Prison; central Hoan Kiem Lake where Hanoians enjoy their early mornings with Tai Chi and “Vietnamese style” aerobics in the peaceful atmosphere; the Old Quarter where streets are named after the trades practiced here since the 15th century; the Hanoi Hilton museum; the Ethnology museum; and the Temple of Literature which serves as an excellent example of Vietnamese architecture. This morning Joel and your guide will discuss options based on the interests of the participants and your tour begins. You will be transferred back to the hotel to freshen up before you head to dinner. Overnight HANOI ESSENCE HOTEL & SPA (B, L, D)

September 9-10: Hue

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

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. 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 both days)

September 11-12: Hoi An

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Hoi An Vietnam

Your guide will accompany you for your private transfer to Hoi An, the route will take you along the spectacular central coastline and the edges of the Annamite Mountain Range to where it finally meets the sea. Before reaching the Hai Van Pass, with spectacular views, you will stop in Lang Co. This beach and lagoon are known for their oyster farming, fish and rice, where you will enjoy lunch. Marble Mountain has Buddhist temples built in to caves on the side of the mountain, the hike takes an hour and half, but there is also an elevator for those who may find the steps a little challenging. After reaching Hoi An check in to your hotel accommodations and enjoy dinner with your guide.

The next morning rise early, traveling an hour to Bich Hoa village. Korea and Vietnam have joined forces to found an arts project, working through art to bring benefits to this community. Together, the local community and Vietnamese artists are painting murals that adorn this colorful seaside village. Starting early today means that you will capture the best light and community feeling of the village before other visitors arrive. A family owned coffee shop welcomes you before exploring the village and capturing photos amongst the murals. Your guide will introduce you to some of the villagers so you can learn more about their stories and plans for the future. Return to Hoi An where your guide 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.
Overnight HOI AN HISTORIC HOTEL (B, L, D both days)

September 13: Hoi An - Hanoi
Temple Urn

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Early the next morning you will tour the Hoi An market, followed by a boat tour to a local fishing village, and pottery village. You will then be transferred to the airport for an afternoon flight back to Hanoi. There should be time to meet at the hotel this evening for a photography discussion and group critique. Overnight HANOI ESSENCE HOTEL & SPA (B, L)

September 14: Noodle Village - Lao Cai

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Today you will be met by your guide  and taken to the interesting village of Cat Que. Here you can learn about the process of making noodles, something that the village is well known for. After spending some time here learning about the industry, you will continue on to Duong Lam Ancient village in Son Tay province. In this agricultural village, known for its surviving laterite brick houses, you will learn about Vietnam’s culture and traditions while photographing the ancient houses and wandering narrow alleyways. On arrival you can take a walk through the village to visit the Mong Phu Temple where you will find dedications to some of the national heroes. Also spend some time looking around the King Ngo Quyen Temple and King Phung Hung Temple. After an interesting morning, you can enjoy a traditional Vietnamese lunch in an ancient house and learn about some of the traditional ways of preparing and cooking food. After lunch head back to Hanoi, stopping along the way to visit Mia Pagoda, a 15th century pagoda which houses 287 beautiful statues, all of different sizes. Continue your drive on to Lao Cai. Overnight SAO MAI HOTEL (B, L)

September 15: Sapa - Lao Cai
Winding Road

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Vietnam has 54 ethnic minorities and amongst the most colorful are those in the northern highlands. Today, you will visit some of the markets and terraced areas to the north west of Bac Ha. Your guide is on hand to help you to meet local people and learn more about their stories and traditions. It is the people and customs that make this such a vibrant and exciting place to visit. Every Saturday evening the town hosts a show at its night market in the square culminating in dancing around the bonfire together. It will be a terrific evening for photography and to spend time with the villagers. Overnight SAO MAI HOTEL (B, L, D)

September 16: Bac Ha - Sapa
Tribal Dress

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Every Sunday, the local ethnic people come and join Bac Ha Market and eat Thang Co (traditional local food). You will have the opportunity to watch the village come to life, starting with your early morning photography. A short distance from here is Hoang Yen Chao Palace, and Ban Pho (Flower Hmong). Further along the way you will visit and photograph at Thuong Temple. In the Le Dynasty the temple was constructed to show respect to General Tran Quoc Tuan, and his protection of the Vietnamese land. Late in the day there may be time to visit some of the Lao Cai highlights – the Nam Thi River, 300-year-old Banyan tree, and Forest Mother Saint. Overnight AIRA BOUTIQUE HOTEL, SA PA TOWN (B, L)


September 17: Sapa - Tai Van - Giang Ta Chai - Hanoi

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Today you will see, learn and photograph how the ethnic communities in the area differ; from the traditional clothes that they wear, to the houses they live in and the skills they specialize in, make these indigenous groups unique. The minority groups living in this area are very welcoming and proud of their culture, working hard to maintain their traditional way of life. Each ethnic group has its own language, but your guide will be able to communicate with them and give you the chance to ask about their fascinating way of life. Observe the basic architecture of the buildings, like how the houses of the Zay tribes are built of wood and bamboo with a clay floor. Your day will begin with a drive about 20 miles south of Sapa, where the road becomes not suitable for vehicles. You will then walk about 1.5 miles down to Lao Chai village, commonly called the Black Hmong, located at the base of the Muong Hoa Valley & River. Once you’ve had a chance to explore this community with your guide, your trek will continue another 2.5 miles, past rice paddy terraces as you approach Ta Van Village, whose people are referred to as the Dzay hill tribe. Here you can stop for some lunch with a local family. This afternoon you will wander along the valley trail for a further 1.5 miles to Giang Ta Chai village where the Red Dzao live. This village is also not accessible by car, so after you have finished your tour you will return by foot back to Ta Van village to meet your driver and return to your hotel in the late afternoon. Overnight HANOI ESSENCE HOTEL & SPA (B)

September 18-19: Halong Bay
Halong Cave

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Vietnam

Leave hustling Hanoi behind, as you 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 and photograph the interesting history and daily life of the local farming activities, water buffalos, and rice fields.

Arrive at Tuan Chau Island by midday where you will transfer to the Bhaya Classic Junk Cruise. These boats are modeled after the Chinese junks that used to sail these waters in earlier times. Enjoy a welcome drink and fresh 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 enjoying a traditional cooking demonstration and dinner.

The next morning those that wish to rise early can take part in a Tai Chi session on the sundeck. After breakfast cruise towards Vung Vieng Floating Village. You have the choice to explore the village by kayak or rowboat. This traditional village once housed hundreds of residents, and is now a museum of floating houses, a school, and a pearl farm, which allow a glimpse into the floating lifestyle of its past residents. Return to your vessel for a delicious lunch in the dining room or on the pristine beach of Cat Ba Island (weather permitting). This afternoon will see you on a cycling adventure through the inlands of Cat Ba Island to visit Viet Hai Village, which is located in the Cat Ba National Park. If cycling is not your thing you can opt (small optional fee) to use the island trolley service to explore the island. Once you return to your vessel for the evening you may participate in the onboard cooking class as you cruise to your evening’s anchorage. Overnight BHAYA LEGEND CRUISE (B, L, D both days)

September 20: Halong Bay - Hanoi
Halong Bay Vietnam photo tour

Photo By: Joel Collins

Photo Location: Halong Bay Vietnam

This morning be ready for a swim at Surprise Cave, one of the biggest caves in Halong Bay, with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Then it is time to enjoy your slow cruise back to shore, and transfer back to Hanoi. Returning 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

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 6 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 4-5 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.


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. 

K.  Hornsby

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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