Call us if you would like to plan your own small group tour to Vietnam or Laos....
- 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.
per person, double occupancy*
This tour is not currently scheduled. Contact us if you want details when tour dates are announced, or if you are interested in running a private trip for your group.
*U.S. dollars based upon minimum of 6 participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 4-5 participants. 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 (subject to availability), or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, there is a single room surcharge of $1095.
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...
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.
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.
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.
Photo Leader TBD
September 6: Depart U.S.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
September 20-24, 2020
* Based upon minimum of 6 participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 4-5 participants. Single room surcharge is $475.
September 20-21: Saigon-Vespa Tour
If you are taking part in the extension your international flight will need to be multi-city (Home/Hanoi Saigon/Home)
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 (9/21: B, L, D)
September 22: Saigon-Cai Be-Vinh Long-Can Tho
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 having time for another photography session. Overnight VICTORIA CAN THO (B, L)
September 23: Can Tho-Phung Died Floating Market
Can Tho is the largest city on the delta and considered to be the “economic capital” of southern Vietnam. It also boasts the largest floating market in the region. This morning will start with a 5AM vehicle transfer to Phong Dien. On arrival enjoy a morning fruit drink, tea or coffee and explore the area. Your return journey will be by private boat to catch the hustle and bustle of both Phong Dien and Cai Rang floating markets. Watch the poles on the boats to see what the traders are selling today. Ask your guide to stop and step on board some local traders’ boats to sample some of the fruits they can freshly prepare for you, or to enjoy some banter with local sellers and learn of their stories. We can request a take-away picnic breakfast along the way if you wish, or some snacks to tide you over until you return for breakfast, and after some more exploring we’ll head back to the hotel for some leisure time. You may like to enjoy the spa or relaxing pool time during the heat of the day. Mid-afternoon transfer by road to explore the local waterways (small canals) by local sampan where you can hop and off to see rice paddies, gardens and fruit farms in the fertile countryside. Return to your hotel to freshen up before meeting for your evening foodie tour. Head out on foot with your guide for a fun evening. Overnight VICTORIA CAN THO RESORT (B, L, D)
September 24: Can Tho - Saigon
Enjoy your morning at leisure amidst the hotel amenities before setting off on your return journey to Saigon. It is about a four-hour driver so there will be stops along the way for photography and comfort breaks. You will be taken back to the airport in time for your departure flight. 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) *An additional night hotel stay will be added to your invoice.
Note: This itinerary has been carefully constructed to assure participants the best your destinations have to offer. However, should events arise that are beyond our control, itinerary, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.