Vietnam – Day 4 – The crazy market of Binh Tay and the taylorman of Hoi An

Long day of traveling this, departing from Vinh Long to begin the ascent toward the center of Vietnam, going from Ho Chi Minh and final destination, Hoi An. The trip is in stages, with several changes of means of transport: scooters, minivans, taxis, bus, plane!

Back to Ho Chi Minh City, in the Chinese district of Cholon.

A few hours waiting in Ho Chi Minh, before taking the domestic flight to Danang, gave us the opportunity to visit the Chinese district of Cholon and the Binh Tay market, one of the largest and most chaotic in the city. Arrived by taxi, we immediately dive in this circle of hell, with the usual and noisy swarm of scooters. Of course, here, I enjoyed it a lot to photograph and interact with merchants, always smiling and helpful.

Flyimg with Vietnam Airlines

After the tour in the chinese district, with the convenient local bus, number 152, we reached the airport to get the flight to Danang, lasting an hour. Vietnam Airlines has proved to be a really good company, excellent service and high-end aircraft. Top!

Hoi An, the Kimmy tailoring and a fabulous homestay

Arrived in Hoi An with a pickup from the airport and a trip of about 30 minutes, we were immediately greeted by the beautiful smile of Miss. Anh, manager of the beautiful Tea Garden Homestay structure. A colonial mansion in the historic center, within a huge room for us, with large windows, king size bed, clean and nice furnishings. Write down this name, if you come to Hoi An, this is a classy accommodation at very low prices.

But before dinner, i had an important appointment: Hoi An is famous for its tailors who make custom clothes in less than 24 hours, at very affordable prices and with excellent quality. So we went to the near shop, Kimmy, where thoughtful women immediately took care of me and, after an hour of choosing styles, fabrics, colors and sizes I chose clothes, shirts and coat!

Back to the hotel, starving, even though the restaurant was already closed, the beautiful Ahn, manager of the Tea Garden Homestay, has re-opened the kitchen just for us, and prepared to us a fabulous soup noodles, served directly in our room! An impressive kindness and hospitality, what you would expect from a sweet careful mother.

It was a long and tiring day, but this time too rich. I love Vietnam!


How was my photography?

Today I photographed “only” during the walk into the Chinese district and the crowded Binh Thay, I think I’ve made some excellent photographs. Now i finally begin to master my Leica M and to make good use of the  “zone focusing” techinc. Basically, I try to predict the picture, establishing a priori, the focus distance and letting the scene fall in that area, where everything will be in focus. With this technique, I can capture scenes with impressive speed, with the certainty of the focus and even without seeing in the viewfinder. Now finally, I fully appreciate the beauty of the Leica rangefinder system!


Useful information

  • Transfer to Phu Dong (Vinh Long) in Ho Chi Minh Kim Ahn bus: 100.000VND per person (4 hours)
  • Motorbike ride from bus stop to the center (District 1): VDN 25,000 per person (20 min.)
  • Taxi Vinasun from Ho Chi Minh City center (district 1) to Bin Tay Market (district 6) 130,000 VDN (25 min.)
  • Local bus # 152 from Ho Chi Minh City center (district 1) to Airport: VDN 10,000 per person (40 min.)
  • Flight Vietnam Airlines Ho Chi Minh City – Danang, economy: 679,000 VND per person (1 hour)
  • Minivan from Danang airport to Hoi An Center: 350,000 VDN (30 min.)
  • Hoi An Accommodation: Tea Garden Homestay

The day in pictures (iphone 6s)

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Vietnam – Day 3 – Life on Mekong delta

This third day of travel, we will discover the life that takes place all around the Mekong and among his dark and dense waters. Obviously markets (Cai Be), but also small handicraft factories, such as bricks of clay and daily life that we observed in the slow and pleasant navigation along its canals. All very nice, a tour lasted about 4 hours and made tailored just for two of us.

Total tour cost: 600.000VDN (25 €)

Cai Be market

Maybe because we arrived late here, at 10 am, the famous float market was predictably, a few boats, a few colors, pretty anonymous. Or maybe it was a good thing, because the atmosphere was not that touristic, and so perfect for my photos.

Hellooooo, what’s your name?

Finally, in the afternoon, we ride an old bike, on the narrow road along the river, until we get to the main village, Dong Phu, where, a the time when kids goes out from school, we were literally overwhelmed by the warmth of the locals, the smiles and the continuing “helloooo, what’s your name?” shouted by all children, to us foreigners. Pure life, simple but wonderful people!

The famous Elephant fish

For dinner, we tried the famous Elephant fish (because of its similar shape to the ear of an elephant “, fished in the pond outside our room, fried and served “standing “, as is traditional.

My photography, how was?

Today I enjoyed it very much with my Leica, lots of street (or water) photos and so many people, in markets and villages. 90% of the time I used the wonderful Summicron 28 f2 ASPHS, because it allowed me to include in the composition much more of the life I had in front of me. I bless the day I decided to sell the 35mm f2 ASPH to take this 28, because it is of a much higher quality level. Every so often, from the boat, I used the excellent the 90 f2.8 Elmarit, to capture some distant scene or detail.

Now I leave you with the day 3 summary for images, taken with the iphone.


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Vietnam – Day 2 – Vinh Long

We leave Ho Chi Minh City after a quick breakfast to literally jump into the saddle to the motor that brings us to the stop of the local bus to Vinh Long.

Motorbike ride in the chaotic traffic of HCM

The experience of riding a scooter and go through the city is an experience that I recommend. The speed is low but it is amazing the capacity they have to drive, even against traffic, in a river of scooters. The race allows me to see that part of the city off from the tourism and much more real. In fact, I saw wonderful scenes but I had to take pictures of everything only with my eyes.

Bus Ho Chi Minh City – Vinh Long – Dong Phu (100,000 VDN – 4 €!)

If you are also going to Vinh Long, I recommend this local company: Kim Ahn Bus. The Bus is small and spartan, but traveling with the locals, it is not a tourist bus.

The cost of one way is 100,000 VND per person (4 €). The trip takes at least 4 hours with a stop of 15mi. in a village, for refreshment. The seats, in leather, are clean, and in the background, sounds Vietnamese very relaxing music.

Village of Dong Phu – Home stay Thuyan (Air Bnb) € 17 per night!

We arrive at the village of Dong Phu, where another motorbike will take us to our accommodation, a homestay (at the home of local) right on the Mekong Delta.

The place is very nice and relaxing, in the countryside, including mango trees, jackfruit and bananas.

That evening we eat on a wooden deck overlooking the river and the noise of the boats that pass in front makes a truly magical atmosphere.


IMAGE GALLERY

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Vietnam – Day 1 – Ho Chi Minh

The first contact with Vietnam I loved it, I found all those armosfere and situations that made me fall in love with Asia on my trip to Thailand.

Ho Chi Minh, love it or hate it

Ho Chi Minh is a messy box but contains all the classic elements of Indochina: the street food, markets, scooters, the heat and humidity, the smiles of the people, good and less good smells, the organized chaos, and life … so much life.

Ho Chi Minh is not particularly beautiful, but it’s alive, it’s a constantly moving creature, a long snake that crawls, twists on itself, but sharp and slippery.

Ho Chi Minh you love it or you hate it, but to appreciate the best should not  live it as a tourist taking all the conveniences and comforts. You have to mingle with locals, take local bus, eating in the markets, walk as much as possible.

I have lived so intensely, and for that I really liked.


GALLERY IMAGES OF THE DAY

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#Vietnam – Day 0 – The flight

Alarm clock. 5:15 in the morning. Did I slept? Not really, too many thoughts in my head, the mind is already on the road since several days. Ok, out of bed now, I take a good espresso, an italian morning coffee , precisely, after which the long day can begin.

Latest check the suitcases.

It is always best to pack twice, the first tend to put everything I can, all my favorite T-shirts, pants, shorts and more, it seems that the I’ll change me 10 times a day during my trip. Therefore it is better to redo the suitcase the following day, when the emotional part is less decisive.

Then, shortly before the flight, I open the backpack as is too full, I absolutely i need to take off something. So, off beach towel, off a T-shirt, or rather two. If I’ll need something, I will buy it on the spot, here. So off even trousers. Ok, now all is in place, the suitcase is lighter and half the space is occupied by spare pens, notepads, balloons and dolls to give to children. This to me is an essential ritual in every trip. I love children and I love to see them smile and play.

Luxembourg-Paris-Ho Chi Min

Is a very long 17 hour journey all over, and to relax, despite a very quiet flight without turbulence, I’m torn between jazz & blues and episodes of “The big bang theory”!

AirFrance it is really demonstrated great company, impeccable and professional service, new aircraft with a cool infotainment service, with touch screens and lots of content. Only disappointment, the food, pretty bad.

I leave you now to the summary gallery of the day.

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Itinerary, bookings, notes: here the journey begins

Now that the destination is fixed, It ‘s time to define the itinerary, book hotels, domestic flights, trains, buses, in practice, as the famous quote “Every journey begins with a single step”, this is already the first step of a journey just begun , my trip to Vietnam.

Where do I find all the information?

First of all, searches begin with a nice reading my favourite guide, Lonely Planet, from which I take ideas, suggestions and references to the places to visit, itineraries, hotels reviewed. I find it very useful the chapters of generic information on the country, where I find all the practical information about the culture and tradition as well as numbers and useful addresses, health and technical information (currency, electricity, telephone connection etc.).

At this point, to start defining the route, I continue the search in the vast sea of the internet, and this requires a lot of patience, experience and time. I start from the famous search engine and choose the results that come mostly from other blogs and travel forums, avoiding the agencies sites. Nothing against them, but I prefer to read real travel experiences and articles written by travellers like me.

Disentangle from the thousands of quotes and reviews it is not easy, so I try to find original and realistic advice, which is not very easy, but also catch the emotions and feelings, both positive and negative that the author lived during the journey. Of course, it remains entirely subjective, so take everything with a grain of salt, but it certainly helps to extricate me a thousand questions.

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Which site to book hotels?

Once defined the route, I need to book accommodations for the night. I take the Lonely Planet again, and I note down the names of reviewed hotels that hit me somehow. After that, I do a search on TripAdvisor to read all the comments and reviews it has the structure. I do not trust completely everything, of course, there are many variables in the judgments, starting with the personal tastes, so I try mostly to read between the lines and figure out if there are recurrent criticisms or compliments. For example, if the majority of comments refers all to a particular subject, like positive or negative comments on the cleanliness of the room or on the quality of the breakfast, it will mean that something in it is true, and this affects my choice.

At the same time, I always do a separate research on Trip Advisor and Booking (filtering for higher rating review), to select other structures that have a high-grade average and good reviews, and finally, add it to the ones taken from the Lonely Planet.

In short, the end of the research I have a selection of 5-6 structures which then reduce again until you get to have only 3.

At this point, a step at Booking.com, where I check rates and availability and, based on these, I book the structure.

One last very important factor in the final choice, is the option that allows to cancel your reservation free of charge until a few days before arrival, ideally until the day before, because I want to have the ability to change itinerary and program for any reason and that, during my travels, it happens quite often.

Why Booking.com? For loyalty … In practice, I use it since ever and my account has become “Genius”, which gives me the right to discounts or special promotions. I always felt comfortable with them, professional and efficient service, so I’m very happy as well. Of course, in some cases, I give a look to Airbnb, especially if looking for a truly local accommodation.

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How do I organise and I keep all reservations, electronic tickets and useful docs?

At the end of each trip planning, I end up with lots of documents such as flights, train, bus tickets, hotel reservations and more, so it is very important to always have them available at any time and, above all, in the same place. Storing everything in digital, it is certainly comfortable but could be a problem if, for instance, I do not have an internet connection available and then any document would be accessible.

Therefore, I organise all the documents in two formats: paper and digital.
For digital, I use Google Drive, as I already have a Gmail account, everything is connected and fast, such as transferring an attachment by email to Drive. So I create a folder with the name of the destination (in this case Vietnam) and inside I copy all files.

For the hard copy, I simply print everything in A4 format and store in transparent cases, like those used in folders.

Finally, a good old notebook

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Last but not least, I always carry a notebook and a pen, where I can at all times, pinning a thought, a useful number, address, and this is very helpful when traveling, because pen and paper at the end, it is always the fastest method and does not leave you never on the ground, like the iPhone does…

Grazie per la lettura,
a presto,

Sabino

 

Back(pack) on track! Ready to travel again…

It’s been almost 20 months since my last big trip outside Europe, in Cuba, March 2015, an eternity ‘for someone like me mad to travel, but you know, life often asks for breaks or delays, for whatever reason. Today, finally, I’m ready to put the backpack on my shoulders and go smell the road, the noise of the markets, the humid, sticky air, long walks, smiles and street portraits.

And my next destination is?

All this can only bring me to one place in the world, Indochina or South East Asia, that wonderful land which includes Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. I have already visited two among them, Thailand and Malaysia, I probably miss the most ‘fascinating. I love these places, so ‘rich in humanity and spirituality’, smiles and amazing food, and I decided, to a week of departure, to cancel the already scheduled trip to Japan. No, nothing against Japan, indeed, but i’ve already been there, and photographed far and wide, and beyond this, I felt a great need of a warm place and above all to escape from the city ‘, from megastore with subway , and from the heavy clothes and grey clouds. No, it was not the right time to return to Tokyo. and Kyoto…

And so the next destination will be: Vietnam

 

I have too much desire of street food and genuine people, long slow trips on the old local trains, stunning natural landscapes and relaxed evenings sipping a local beer.

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15 days in Vietnam

it came back the “wanderlust“, the adrenaline for traveling, the curiosity ‘to new places, and insane desire to photograph.
The itinerary is ‘yet to be determined but the main idea is to start from Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon, and end in Hanoi with a visit to Hoi An, Sapa and of course to Ha Long Bay. 15 days in total, a beautiful intense trip.

Next step: preparing the camera bag

Defined the destination, now begin the thousand doubts phase about what to put in my camera bag, which lenses, which accessories, and so on.. The only certain thing  is my Leica M. Thus, in the coming days, as soon as I decided this, I will reveal my camera bag, which equipment will I take with me.

Hence, stay tuned because the next will be an intense period, and beautiful rich of photos !!!

Ciao ciao,
Sabino

 


Here are some pictures from my trip to Thailand, just to show the kind of trip i meant before, which kind of experiences i’m looking for…

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Malaysia and Singapore: itinerary, photography bag and some news

Here we go, we leave in few days, ready to write another chapter of my beautiful book called world”new pages to be filled with images and emotions. Destination East, again, after Thailand and Japan, because it’s a land rich in history, culture, humanity and contrasts. Singapore, Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, a long journey of 16 days where I’ll see a little bit of everything: big cities, small villages, idyllic beaches and wild jungle.

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The Itinerary

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We (me and my beautiful wife) starts from Singapore (2 nights) and then take a bus to Melaka (1 night). The following day bus to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Here we stop one day but will return and have more time at the end of travel. After a short stay in KL, off to the Malaysian Borneo, with a domestic flight (Air Asia) to Kuching, in the Sarawak region. Here we will stop for 6 days, during which we will explore the virgin jungle, visit and sleep in the village of headhunters, Iban longhouse, and spend a few days with them, living the life of the village. After the hard and tiring experience in the jungle, we’ll returns, with domestic flight (Air Asia), in the Malaysian Peninsula and relax for 2 days on the beautiful beaches of the Perhentian Islands. Found the well-deserved rest, we will then return to Kuala Lumpur on a short flight (Air Asia) to pass the last 2 days of travel and do the deserved shopping!

My Photography Bag

lowepro-urban-reporter-350

Completely satisfied after the last trip to Japan, I will use ‘for this new journey the beautiful Lowepro Urban Reporter 350. Sober, discreet and with many useful pockets. There are few changes from the recent trip to Japan, but important ones. This time i carry only fixed lens, no zoom, so to continue my growth in photography that will lead me to reduce the equipment to the essentials: one, maximum two lenses. In the last few days I decided to send back the Fujinon XF 56mm to replace it with the Fujinon XF 14mm for two main reasons:

  1. I missed an hi quality fixed wide-angle lens
  2. found I could get the same results as the Fujinon XF 56 with a very small and old Pentax Super Takumar 55 f1.8 , bought for a few Euros at a flea market !

My main and indispensable lens is the Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4 , the one I use more ‘and that I find extraordinary. It will be fixed on the X -T1 and with this combo i will shoot mainly street and portraits, while the XF 14mm, mounted on the Fuji X -E2, will help me when I’m gonna ‘ shoot landscapes and large scenarios. The Super Takumar 55 f1.8 will be useful only in the case of closer portraits and as it’s really small and lightweight, does not take up too much space in the bag. I also have a 135 f2.8 lens, an old Olympus Zuiko bought for a few Euros at the flea market, a focal length that I not use that much, but that could be used in case I can not get too close to the subject … and in the jungle, this can ‘ easily happen. In fact I would leave it at home, but I will decide at the last minute … Another big news for this trip is the portable printer Fuji INSTAX Share Sp-1, a desire I had for some time and now will follow me on all trips because I love the idea of printing small “polaroids” right on place and maybe give it away to someone or keep it as a souvenir. Surely I will use it a lot in the village in the Borneo, with the children. I already tried it and it works great in combination with the iphone. Another thing totally new for me is the Aquapac case that will allow me to do some photos diving in the beautiful waters of the Perhentian islands, or at least I hope so. I’ve never done underwater photography and I do not know if this case really works well, but I’m curious to try it. There will be a lots of turtles and colorful fishes so i want to give it a try.. Of course I will test it before putting the X -T1 in and dip into water … Finally I added another 2 to 4 batteries that already had to be quiet especially during the 3 days in the jungle where we will have no electrical connection and will have to ‘ measure out the use of the devices.

Here is the detailed list

I’m looking forward to dip myself again in the smells and colors of the street food and crowded street markets. For sure it will be another important step in my growth as a photographer of people and cultures.

Salut, Sabino