We shared Friendly Planet Travel reservation agent Liz Hutchins’ first-hand account of her trip to Vietnam last year in a blog post, and more recently, her review of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. But Liz is also an amateur photographer, and took many pictures during her trip, so we thought it was fitting to ask Liz to share her five favorite photos of Vietnam with our blog readers. Scroll down to see her choices.
“As I was preparing for my first trip to Vietnam, and my first trip to Asia, I bought a 32-GB memory card. I was determined to take as many photos as possible to make sure I’d remember my fabulous experience, and I surpassed 1,500 images. Of course, I still wish I could have seen more, but that just gives me an excuse to revisit this beautiful and culturally astounding country. Allow me to share with you my favorite moments:
Everyone always asks me, “What’s the strangest thing you saw someone carry on a motorbike?” This picture shows just one of the 12 locals I saw transporting TVs on their bikes. I think 40 inches was the largest TV I saw, but the biggest cargo I saw being transported via motorbike was a full-size mattress! Sadly, I did not capture this. Other extreme cargo included a stack of cages with chickens, a 6-foot-tall pane of glass, and a family of four.
I really enjoyed riding on the back of a vintage Vespa myself on our Vietnamese food tour. Taking pictures while holding on for dear life was a bit difficult, and they all turned out blurry. But the one thing that I’ll remember from the ride is that my face hurt from smiling so much. It was amazing!
The outdoor markets of Vietnam are a sight to behold, and they have surprises tucked in every corner. Here, we visited one early in the morning in Ho Chi Minh. The selection was plentiful, including things I had never seen or heard of before. To the left of the man with the fan is a pile of durian fruit. If you didn’t read my last post about my experience trying durian-flavored ice cream, durians are the stinkiest fruit in the world. Even Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods doesn’t like them. But I of course had to be adventurous and try some.
I had a bite the size of a dime, and at first, I thought it wasn’t that bad. The fruit was creamy in consistency, but definitely tasted rotten, like mushrooms and bad breath. As the evening progressed, the aftertaste lingered and made me very sick. They say you either have a gene that makes you like durian or you don’t … I know which one I am now!
One of my more memorable experiences was a visit to Paradise Cave outside of Hue. It’s the largest cave in Asia, and has the Guinness World Record for the longest bridge built underground. I learned that the cave has only been open to the public for the past two years, and only accepts 150 visitors per month.
You have to climb 527 steps to get to the entrance, and, boy was I tired when I got to the top! It was certainly worth it though. As we made our decent into the cave, the temperature dropped to almost 60 degrees, which was a welcome relief from the constant heat and humidity.
I knew a little bit about Buddhism before I went to Vietnam, but I was not familiar with the tradition of ancestor worship. Everywhere you go — including stores, homes, hotels, and restaurants — there is a shrine to protect the building and encourage good fortune. I noticed many shrines had cigarettes along with incense, like pictured above. I was curious about the cigarettes, so I asked our guide why they were there. He said that people leave them for their ancestors, and once the cigarette is spent, it means they are done smoking.
Tea, fruit, and other offerings are also left at the altar. I asked our guide if people are allowed to eat the food left at the altar, and he said they are allowed to only after the incense is burned.
Halong Bay was one of my favorite places, not just in Vietnam, but in all the places I’ve seen around the world. I was most looking forward to seeing Halong Bay, and it was the last stop on our tour. Each day on the tour got better and better, and what a way to end it with this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We stayed on a beautiful ship, or “junk” as they are called locally, for one night. My room had its own balcony, and at sunrise, I took this picture of the bay and the limestone islands. The lens kept fogging up though, due to the climate change between the air conditioned cabin and the humidity outdoors. Here’s a tip I learned along the way: keep your camera in a plastic bag to prevent it from fogging up. I’ll have to remember that for next time! Either way, I took many photos of these enormous limestone islands. If you have the chance to visit Vietnam, Halong Bay is a must see!
Once again, thanks Liz for sharing your photos here on our blog.
If you want to see all the sights Liz has mentioned, plus more, be sure to read up on our current tour offerings to Vietnam. Have you ever been to Vietnam? What was your favorite sight to see there?