Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Saigon – Cute and Crazy

Saigon, renamed to Ho Chi Minh City by the communist North after they won the Vietnam War, is a city of anomalies. Beautiful French buildings are interspersed with communist concrete. Here’s Reunification hall, which used to be the palace of the President of the south part of Vietnam (before the communists took it back). The glorious 60’s live again…

Reunification Hall in Ho Chi Minh City

Amazing high-class eateries (like classy French patisseries) share space with sidewalk restaurants where patrons sit on plastic footstools. And there’s this… the rich Saigon Zoo, an oasis of calm compared to the bustle and buzz of motorbike traffic just outside its gates. (Admission: only 8000 dong, or about 40 US cents).

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Granted, the zoo is not as nice as others I’ve seen in Asia (Taipei for example). It also has its contradictions: some of the pens are beautiful and spacious, while others (like the elephant pen) are pretty depressing. Don’t let your kids wander alone in the reptile area, or they’ll happen upon dead rabbits floating in the pools near the bored (and over-full) pythons.

Friendly lizards at Saigon Zoo

They’ve taken the odd step of putting glass in front of many of the cages instead of wire: ostensibly so you can see the animals with less obstruction. But it’s sunny when you go to the zoo, so between the reflections and the dirty glass, you can barely see some of the animals (much less take photos of them). At least in a few cases where the reflections aren’t bad you can get amazing photos, like this white tiger, shot from less than a meter away:

White Tiger with blue eyes at Saigon Zoo

Even though I wasn’t in Saigon long, I got a good feel for what it must have been like in the glory days of old. It makes me wonder what things would be like there if south Vietnam had remained independent from communism. Government styles aside, it’s a beautiful place with a rich culture and heritage that definitely warrants a visit!

Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 7:52 pm.

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Hue Imperial City

Nguyễn Phúc Ánh took control of Vietnam in 1802 and named himself Emperor. Of course, like every great man with great ambitions and hundreds of concubines, he needed a palace in his capital city! Within the Imperial City was the Purple Forbidden City, where only the Emperor’s family was allowed.

Unfortunately it was mostly destroyed during the American bombing that followed the Communists’ takeover of Hue in 1968. What can you do?

Imperial City, Hue

Here’s a short video showing a few areas of the Imperial City. Gardens with locusts/loud insects, koi ponds with hungry fish, restored (and some not-yet-restored) buildings. Oh, and I threw in a night timelapse of Hue from the top of the Romantic Hotel – you can see the city lights coming on as the clouds tower high.

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The imposing Citadel guarding one entrance to the Imperial City:

Hue Imperial City Citadel Gates

The walls themselves are guarded by a dragon. Vietnamese do love their dragons, I’d say more than any other Asian culture I’ve visited!

Hue Imperial City Dragon

I’ll leave you with one final (gold plated?) dragon guarding what look to be some Imperial living areas. Don’t mess with the Emperor!

Hue Imperial City perspective

Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 5:30 pm.

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Da Nang Music Festival

When walking around Da Nang looking for a restaurant, we happened upon a music festival. With a restaurant across the street. Which had a free table on the upstairs balcony overlooking the festival+river. Nikon D7000 timelapse awesomeness!

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I used a mini-tripod with the Nikon D7000 and (if I remember) around a 4 second exposure, taking a photo every 5 seconds. Between the motion of the lights, the people, and the cars, it makes for a cool scene.

Da Nang, Vietnam Music Festival

Anyone have some cool crowd timelapses to share? Link ’em in the comments section!

Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 4:19 pm.

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I took a cooking course at the Sapa Boutique Hotel in Sapa, Vietnam – here was the result of one dish!

Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls

These tasty fried spring rolls were made with a chicken & vegetables filling, wrapped in rice paper, dipped in egg and bread crumbs, and then deep fried. One of the best spring rolls we had on the trip!

For those making your own deep-fried Vietnamese spring rolls, here’s a short how-to video showing you how to roll the filling in the rice paper:

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Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 2:50 pm.

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Phu Quoc, Vietnam

I’m just back from a 3w trip to Vietnam. Let me tell you, Vietnam is the country of adventure! It seems relatively safe, if you manage to avoid the touts, cheats, and duplicitous taxis/motorbikes.

The final stop on my journey was Phu Quoc island in the ocean off the southwest tip of Vietnam. As it had been a long and stressful trip (avoid night trains!!), this last stop was just for relaxing on the beach. The choice was Bo Resort with their long private beach.

Bo Resort Beach

It’s a bit more pricey than some other resorts, but in my opinion worth it (we paid $64/night with breakfast for a bungalow for 2). The grounds of Bo Resort are well kept, the beach is much cleaner than most areas of Vietnam (only some trash washes up from the ocean), and it’s a nearly deserted private beach belonging to the resort. There’s a limited number of guests allowed, around 40. During my timelapse videos (several hours), only 2 dogs and 4 people crossed the frame.

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(filmed with a Nikon D7000 and some filters like the Tiffen Variable ND and a circular polarizer to get 5s+ long shutter speeds in full sunlight)

One note about Bo Resort: the bungalows are open (think geckos and mosquito netting) and have no A/C. If this really bothers you, think twice. But if you’re there in a cooler season (temps *below* 30C at night), the lack of A/C wouldn’t be a big issue. When I was there it was HOT.

The Bo Resort restaurant is a bit pricey ($4-8 for most entrees which is a LOT for Vietnam), but it’s very high quality ingredients and beautifully prepared in a French-Vietnamese style. Way better than almost everything else I tasted in Vietnam. They clay pot caramelized shrimps were one of the culinary highlights of my 3 week trip.

Here’s a gratuitous distant thunderstorm with stars above the clouds… photography junkies may now start drooling…

Bo-Resort-Thunderstorm

Thanks to Bo Resort for helping to relax a bit at the end of a long adventure vacation!

Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 2:45 pm.

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