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Trip report: North Vietnam photography tour 2016

For Pics of Asia’s 5th photography tour in the mountains of North Vietnam, we have been exploring whole new areas. Instead of heading towards Ha Giang I decided last year to run the tour around brand new locations, very far away from the main tourist destinations. The idea behind this change was to photograph locations where we could find much more human activity.

Ha Giang is a real stunning area but it is covered with black rocks, which is great for landscape photography but less for people. There are great villages but it is more difficult to find activity in the fields, as there are fewer fields.

This new tour was the perfect combination between landscape photo opportunities and people photography, as we traveled there right during the rice harvest. Every day we could find countless opportunities to photograph ethnic minorities working in rice fields. Also, the fact that 5 on 6 of the participants were friends (people who previously attending other tours) I just felt like I could easily put everyone out of their comfort zone, allowing us to explore more interesting and photogenic areas.

Hmong harvesting rice in North Vietnam


So after a nice welcome dinner in Hanoi, we headed straight to the mountains on Day 1. After half a day drive we arrived at our destination, very impatient to go shoot given the landscapes we saw en route. So we barely had time to throw our bags into our homestay when we headed to a village, home of the Red Dzao minority. And of course, we found people working in the fields đŸ™‚


Red Dzao minority harvesting rice

Day 2 and 3 of the tour were just as spectacular as the first day: we visited some of the most impressive terrace rice fields that Vietnam has to offer, visited a lot of remote villages and met incredible characters, crossed under water roads (which got us stuck for an hour as our car engine got flooded!). By the way, a good opportunity to get up close to a family working in a field in the area.


We then headed towards Bac Ha to visit a morning market. I won’t mention many details about that morning as it is still a little fuzzy in my head but I can only tell their rice wine was pretty strong! Mostly at 8 in the morning!

Red Dzao mother and daughter

The remaining 2 days were spent around Mu Cang Chai, with its stunning scenery and friendly villages. There I saw most of my group jumping on terrace rice fields like mountain goats, and I must say I was quite impressed with them! There has been a huge amount of creativity and great discussions about photography that I feel I came out of it a richer photographer.


I myself got the opportunity to visit for the first time the windy valley of Thanh Uyen as we rushed out of the car when we saw a group of people working int he fields. Its superb rock formations were perfect backgrounds and the Hmong there were even friendlier. We may actually spend a night in this valley for the tour in 2017!


What was quite different with this tour is the fact that because we were mostly staying in homestays all together it has allowed us to organize photo review (or critique) every evening. And everyone mentioned to me that it was one of the things that made them learn the most, seeing what everyone did on the day of the shoot in the same location. A real learning experience!


Of course, there are things I won’t talk about, as what happens on a tour stays on a tour. The only thing I can say is that we experienced some pretty unique things that will stay with us forever. This group of great friends was one of the best group I have ever had and the whole group dynamic allowed everyone to enjoy and relax. I have had some of the best fun, personally and I would be spoiled if I could only run tours like that!


Thank you guys, you made this tour one of the best I have ever done!

Hmong children playing with buffaloes

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Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.


  1. Duncan on October 1, 2016 at 11:08 am

    It was great !!! What else can I say !

  2. Nancy on October 2, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Thank you Etienne for a great and fantastic workshop!! Cheers to new found friends, too!!

  3. Sylvain on October 2, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks Étienne, it was really awesome!

  4. Olivia on November 3, 2016 at 10:12 am

    What an incredible experience to explore the wonders of North Vietnam with your and our group of photographers. I feel grateful for the learning, exploring and new friendships. Thank you. I look forward to going again.

  5. picsofasia | North Vietnam photography tour 2018 on December 13, 2018 at 11:45 am

    […] You can also found a wrap up from the 2016 tour here. […]

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