View Full Version : Travel in Vietnam in July
I'm going on a holiday for 12 days in Vietnam in the first two weeks of July. Arriving in Hanoi, going to Halong Bay, and down to Hoi An, not going to Ho Chi Minh city.
More than likely I will only take my Bessa R with CV 35/2.5, Canon 85/1.9 (heavy) and maybe a J8 (or Industar 22 if I can make a stop thingy so it cannot collapse onto the curtain). I really want to take my Rollieflex but I want to keep the weight and bulk to a minimum. I am considering taking my Iskra if I can sort out the light leak in the bellows.
I'm hoping to find a Novoflex LEIOM adapter so that I can use my OM24mm lens (probably not take a 50mm then) but they are pretty hard to find.
So, now the questions:
Film - is it easily available? i like Fuji Reala 100 asa. How about medium format?
Looking at other people's photos there appears to be lot of haze. Should I try using a filter? What type?
Any advice would be appreciated.
The haze you've seen is probably just the humidity, not excessive UV. Air pollution in Hanoi is visible as well. I was in VN last July (and followed an itinerary very similar to yours: Hanoi, Hue, Ha Long Bay). Temperatures peaked at 40-42 degrees every day and the humidity must have been near 100%. Air conditioning is not universal by any means. I think the inclination to keep your kit to a minimum is very wise.
All of that said, the trip was wonderful in more ways than I can relate. The country is beautiful and people were unfailingly kind. We had the great fortune for much of our short trip to be guests of the family of a colleague of ours, but even our stays in hotels were very pleasant.
I did not have any problem with spoilage of film. I didn't buy film there, as I'd stocked up in Tokyo, so I'm not much help there.
I think you'll love the trip.
Vietnam is a wonderful country to travel to and is always the first I recommend to anyone travelling to that part of the world. I've travelled in the north as far south as Hoi An. Here are the images from my trip:
These were pre-RF days for me, and I travelled with a Canon F-1, + 24, 35 and 85mm lenses. I shot 400UC and Reala. I should have stuck with Reala because it's much better film. Don't expect to find a lot of film while you're there, particularly not 120. There are better stores in Hanoi that may have good film, but you can't always trust it to be cold stored.
I always throw a couple of packs of silica crystals (from vitamins) in my camera bags when I'm travelling in SE Asia to keep the humidity down.
Halong Bay is gorgeous, but it can be hazy. I shot with a polarizer, which unfortunately is not so much of an option on a RF. If you're shooting B&W, consider an orange or red filter.
An Iskra would be a great bet if you can get it fixed.
Have a great trip, and feel free to contact me if you have specific questions.
July is a pretty hot time of year in Vietnam. Bring as little clothing as you can to save you weight ... you can buy anything you need at very cheap prices. Also bear in mind that it is also the start of the rainy season .. which means an hour or two of rain in the late afternoon. You should be prepared to go out and shoot straight away after the rain stops, the light at this time, is really nice and everything has a nice saturated wet look. If you want to brave the rain, you can make some really interesting shots. When in Hanoi, mingle in the tiny street stalls. Just sit and sip a coffee or two and you'll get plenty of chances to shoot street life and the people there. P.S. Hue is a nice little town to explore, especially in the old quarter along the river.
Film wise, best to take what you need with you. Not many film shooters in Vietnam, so the rare films that are available are more than likely out of date. Dont process film in Vietnam also. The expertise there is slowly getting worse due to the experienced people going out of business because of digital. I've used pretty much a wide range of slide film and B&W in Vietnam but processed outside of Vietnam. I lost about 20 rolls of Velvia due to incompetent processing. That hurts.
Haze wise, I've never needed to use a filter but then dont I shoot much landscapes. If you can get up early, 5am or so, the light is quite nice.
Have fun ...
Anhtu has some of my favourite Vietnam shots on flickr:
He doesn't post often enough, though!
Sockeyed and Anhtu,
Great photos! and so many. Makes it hard to comment but my favourites were "closed" and "manual labour".
I really need to sort out a wide for the trip.
I can't say I'm looking forward to the humidity, I think Brisbane is too humid, let alone the tropics. I hope the Bessa is sweat resistant.
Not many film shooters in Vietnam, so the rare films that are available are more than likely out of date.
How quickly things change! This afternoon I asked my Vietnamese colleague what kinds of film were available in Hanoi. She said she never had trouble getting Kodak or Fuji, but as she hasn't been back too much in the past few years it sounds like that's changed since, say, five years ago. (She did say that no one used medium-format cameras any more... I suspect there were probably quite a few from the USSR in the days when they were Vietnam's closest ally, but they must seem like antiques to people now.)
Anhtu, Sockeyed -- I'm looking forward to spending a little time with your photographs soon. From the thumbnails, they look wonderful.
I'm keeping tabs on this thread! I will be there and in Cambodia for two weeks next March (before Angkor Wat gets closed down for cleaning). :)
You'll be sweating like a dog to say the least. Be mindful when you're going in and out of air conditioned cars into the humidity, condensation is inevitable. I wouldn't trust the film in a hot, humid place like that; I'd bring as much as I could carry on the plane. The silica gel idea sounds pretty good, stop by your local shoe store and they'll have plenttttty of them, I know I work at one.
Eat as much of the food as you can. It may smell disgusting and fishy to the American palate, but it's oh sooo good. I'm Vietnamese and I often get that same reaction from all my friends. I've been wanting to go to Vietnam, in the future I definately will. Table manners are extremely loose, feel free to burp, blow your nose, slurp, or do anything else that's considered 'rude' in America. hahah
When you go into shops, especially in the morning, DO NOT just look around and leave. They hate this. It's their belief that the first sale of the day reflects the rest of their days sales. So if you go in, buy some stuff, or avoid shops in the morning. If you happen to do this, come back in 10 minutes or so and the people will have closed shop and left.
You'll be sweating like a dog to say the least.
Do you mean from my tongue? oooey.
While on the weather, the guide books suggest that to be polite you should wear long pants not shorts. Is this still true? I'm not looking forward to 42? and high humidity AND long pants. How about long shorts?
Don't buy any fake designer label clothes there--your country's customs might confiscate them. Also you might want to have proof you bought the camera stuff BEFORE you left the country or they can nail you w/ an import tax when you return. IT HAPPENS!
Tarzak: shorts are fine. Unless you want to go to special government places (parliament building, courts etc) ...
Hey ray_g, if you are heading to Angkor, I would really recommend the guide I used: Phlong Ret. He will be able to set you up with a program for the amount of days you would like to see the temples. He can also help you find a good, affordable hotel, restaurants, and so on. I really recommend this guy - he did a great job for us. His email is:
Here is his website:
There's even a picture of me on his site:
Feel free to contact me if you have more questions about travelling to Angkor.
Well, I got a Novoflex LEIOM adapter off the bay for a reasonable price. And I was SO happy. Put a roll of 24 through with my Bessa R and my Zuiko 24mm (scale and hypofocussing). Took the roll to the lab, told them of my experiment, returned and they said; "you did bad". Every shot was totally out of focus. Somewhat deflated (I usually get compliments from them) I had a look at the adapter then at how deep the adapter should be for the back of an OM lens to film distance and it is only 7mm short of what it should be.
I knew that there was an OM to LTM adapter for some macro bellows but I thought that it was an LIEOM. who knows.
Anyway I leave for Vietnam in a week and a bit and I now have to try and make an adapter for my adapter.
Or just live with a 35 as my widest.
Bring the Rollei, you won't regret it. I am travelling around the same time, to a very hot a humid place as well. I will be bringing 2 35mm, 1 medium format, 1 4x5, a few hundred rolls of film and 3 boxes of 4x5 films, not including the 4x5 neg holders.
I only bring two or three sets of clothes, and the rest is all gear, and I use it all. If I need anything, I'll just purcahse it on the way. I also don't smell to great, but that is another issue . . .
I'm keeping tabs on this thread! I will be there and in Cambodia for two weeks next March (before Angkor Wat gets closed down for cleaning). :)
Hey Ray drop me an email when you are going to be in Cambodia :)
Hooly dooly that's a lot of gear!
I would not be able to get away with that and still keep my relationship with my significant.
I'm probably not taking my Rolleiflex because I think it's too heavy and will take up too much room. Different strokes...
Sisyphus, you must have spring loaded legs and a spine of steel.
but i do want to take the Rollei
I am leaving the wife at home . . . so that helps . . . as far as the rest, it's all passion carrying that stuff, persistance, and the love of photography.
It is a lot, but the results are wonderful . . . I select days to work to work with each camera, so it works out!
Bring the rollei if you can!
Sounds like a great trip!
.... I am travelling around the same time, to a very hot a humid place as well. I will be bringing 2 35mm, 1 medium format, 1 4x5, a few hundred rolls of film and 3 boxes of 4x5 films, not including the 4x5 neg holders.
Why so many types of systems?
I can understand the resulting quality of 4x5, but why both medium format and 35mm?
Is it a technical aspect or is it just that you love to use all these specific cameras?
hy so many types of systems? I can understand the resulting quality of 4x5, but why both medium format and 35mm? Is it a technical aspect or is it just that you love to use all these specific cameras?/Erik
This is a complicated answer, as for, there are many reasons why I bring so much gear.
I don't where to begin, and I do not want to make this a long post, by chance I might just ramble on and bore people.
35mm: I like to bring the 35mm format so that I can work quickly. My systems are designed with this much in mind. Often times I also photogrpah from the hip, looking at the action on the street, but not necessarily through my view finder. Not always, but sometimes. This system allows me to photogrpah fluidly, and without much thought--sometimes the photos show this lack of thought, but other times, there is that serendipidious moment, where it all comes together.
I feel I can often times capture a fleeting moment, that can be difficult to capture with medium or large format.
Also, my method of working is to go to a place and photograph from sunrise to sunset, and well into the night. So, I primarily work with the 35mm cameras at sunrise and late into the night.
Medium Format: I work with this system, for several reasons. I think it is a wonderful system, that is between 35mm and 4x5. I need to slow down and think more than compared to a 35mm, but I can also be a little bit more fluid than a 4x5. A great deal of my work is also going inside people's homes and photogrpahing them or their houses. In some cases their house are in such horrible conditions that they want there living spaces to be documented, however, they feel so ashamed and so disgraced they do want to be photographed.
The medium format does an incredible job picking up details that a 35mm cannot, and since I like to use slight wide angle lenses, I am able to photograph, pick up the details, work rather quickly, and leave.
Another thing I need to consider, some people are very welcoming, allowing me to come into their lives, photograph them as long as I want, and often times inviting me for dinner. Other people, will allow me to photograph them for a few seconds, or their places for a few minutes, but they don't want me hanging around them, invading their lives, for a long period of time. I don't want to ware out my welcome, or make anyone feel uncomfortable. So when I am allowed to photogrpah someone in their home or their home, I sort of assess the situation, moving through room to room, photographing what I am allowed to photograph, and go from their. The medium format allows me to capture more detail, higher resolution than a 35mm, but still being able to work quickly and not being to intrusive.
4x5: I love large format. This brings us back to the nature of photography of Eugene Atget, Jackson, Nadar, Emerson, to name a few; To be able to even attempt to work in large format, gives me that sense of adventure, of thinking about setting out on an expedition, pretending that I am carrying glass plates, preparing them right before I photograph, and having to develop them on loaction. This idea, this feeling, grounds me in the long history that photography has, that all of these people prior to me, made certain discoveries of logistic in trying to figure out the mundane, like what to pack, to exposure, to lighting, framing, and the discovery of the accidental. It makes me feel like that I am apart of this history continuing this documentation, for people to hoepfully, see what life was like in the 20th and 21st centuries. To continue to follow in the tradition of making plates (Black and White and Color Negatives in this case) and being apart of that long tradition.
Set aside from the historical aspects, their are few technical disadvantages that I have. I have one lens, which is an equivalent to 40mm in a 35mm camera system, which is very difficult to use especially if you want to document a wider array of people in their environment without being scrunched together, and forced to pose in awkward positions. It is also difficult to sometimes use this camera for interiors, inorder to really to define and establish the space, they way I can with the medium format or the 35mm camera. It is possible if I want a very narrow and specific view of something.
the second technical difficulty is that it takes a little bit of time to set up, frame, figure out my letting, remembering to change my settings on the camera, and remember to correctly expose the film, using the film holders, removing. It is so easy to make mistake, or forget to do soemthing, like close down your aperature.
But there is also a sense of magic with this camera, the sense of what you see comared to what you record, that one moment where soemone accidently walks into the space of the frame to add another intriguing layer to your image, or the one person frozen in the frame, while the others are moving so rapidly that they become mere ghosts, and to see this after you process the film, make your contact, to your prooof print, to the exhibition print, is exhilarting! And to think that some of it is everything that you learned how to do through experience, yet there still lies a little bit of unpredictability, a little bit of magic, and I need this in my life to balance the desparity I see in the everyday living of life either as a witness or throught the news--I am too old to believe in fairy tales, this is the next best thing!
I also am able to soemtimes gain access to certain people, who usually do not want to be photogrpahed, until they see the 4x5. It is also more magical to them. And for those families who have graciously welcomed me into their lives, I am often times able to go back to them, and ask them to photograph them agian, knowing they will have the patience to sit through and watch my clusminess at work.
I hope this sort of answers your question or fills that void of they why!
All the best
Thanks for the thorough answer!
I guessed a little wrong then, as it seems the backbone in your work is 35mm and medium format and 4x5 is the emotional add-on.
One thing that i find difficult is to find the time and creative effort to use the different systems that i have on hand. You seems to do fine regarding this.
Have a good and rewarding trip both of you, Sisyphus and Mark T.
Hi, I'm in central Vietnam now, in a town called Kon Tum. There seems to be a lot of colour film around (stacked up in the glass counters at photographic shops), I haven't checked it out thoroughly but a lot of the time the packaging looks faded and I haven't noticed what film it is. I'm carrying a lot of film (mainly using b&w, which I haven't seen anywhere) so I don't have to worry for a while, If I can make it to Thailand before I run out I might get more there, otherwise get some sent maybe.
As for lenses, I'm carrying CV 25 snapshot, 35 classic, and 50mm J8. In the crowds of HCMC 25mm is great because some of the time I can't get far enough away while still seeing the subject, 35mm is my 'zoom' lens (zoom by walking forward or back, a compromise a lot of the time) and works well in a range of situations, and 50mm for the more open streets and because a lot of the time I like it.
The most major piece of advice I can give is to look after your eyes (and health in general)! It seems obvious now, but in a warm and humid environment hygeine is important at more than meal times. Somewhere along the way I got an adenoviral eye infection, usually limited to outbreaks in schools etc. in the West, but more common here apparently (the doctor I went to said she'd been having a few in). It seems I could have got it from being around someone with an upper respiratory infection, from the water getting in my eyes, or from someone else with an eye infection, and rubbing my eyes with my hand might've helped it in there (actually, I've also wondered if it might've come from my camera after letting a kid look through the viewfinder).
Whatever it was, I was in a dim hotel room for two weeks with sore, light sensitive eyes, swollen eyelids, and blurry vision from corneal damage. I'm just over it now, but despite precautions my partner now has it, so more waiting.
All that being said, I think provided you take a little precaution, all the hype over health concerns isn't as big a deal as it's sometimes made out to be. So don't forget to have an amazing time! :D
This is a better way in describing, why I bring so many systems. It is very much how I feel. I will be off soon . . . still preapring.
Thanks for the info. Sorry, you have been held up for a while, I hope you and your SO are feeling better so you can continue photographing! Enjoy the rest of your trip!
I'm leaving for Ho Chi Minh City this weekend. Any particular points of interest around there? I'd appreciate any suggestions about interesting and "uniquely Vietnam" things to see (and point a camera at)
I was there for 2 months last fall and regret bringing 50 rolls of fuji 100 with me. I found 100 too slow most of the time and every shop sells fuji 400 for the same prices as back home. They even will scan negs and give you cds too for 20-30,000 VND, not to bad.
I stupidly took everything I owned, M3, Canon P, 50 nokton, 50 heliar, 35 2.5, 35 1.2, 90 lanthar, 21/4. I only really used the M3 with 35 skopar and 21/4 with minifinder. If I went again I would only take my M6 ( I sold the M3 and canon p) and just the 40 cron and 21/4.
Oh check out Minh's Jazz Club in the back packer district, great music, you can talk to Minh who plays sax along with his son, they both went to Berkley School of music and have great bar food and cheap beer.
Also try Bia Hoi, it's a really neat low-to-the ground friendly beer drinking experience.
And of course you've got to check out
Mai Bai B-Lam mouy Hai, (lake B-52) a concrete pond in the middle of a few flats that the wreckage of a B-52 fell into thats still there.
Unless you like extreme heat and humidity, July or August is certainly not a good time to visit Vietnam. I visited in early November a few years back, and while the temperature in Hanoi and Halong Bay was a reasonably comfortable 25C to 30C, the temperature in Ho Chi Min City was a hot and humid 30C to 35C every day. I shudder to think what it'd be like there in July and August :eek::eek::eek:
I had no problem buying extra film and batteries there, though I took most of my film with me. I agree 110% with the suggestions to travel light!
Guess it depends what you're used to. I don't mind the heat, but don't much like the humidity.
Okinawa is another hot and humid place I'd avoid in July. Once was enough.
Out of interest to those of you thinking of a trip to VN. This year in October they are celebrating the 1000th "birthday" of Hanoi. I think somewhere around the 23rd.
I figure with all the inevitable celebrations that could be a good time to visit.
I'll be there!
Heat - you wanna try where I am. Currently 43 degrees, 100% humidity and the hot season hasn't arrived yet!
Why do you think I leave every July! I hate the humidity here. I was just down in Deep-southern Thailand and it was insane in February. I had to ditch my drawers because they wouldn't dry out. No swamp ass for me!
Haha, that explains a lot then.
I was scratching my head trying to think of somewhere more humid and hot than Okinawa in July :rolleyes:
This is like the U.S. debate on health care reform: everything's been said and everybody has said it. My 2 cents USD ( = 373 VND): weather-wise, it will be like living in a dog's mouth 24/7. There is virtually no black and white film in any format in VN, and I never saw any 120 of any kind. Lots of Fuji 35mm color negative film, pre-baked in shop windows. Gearwise, unless the Sisyphus metaphor resonates for you (cf. Greek myth), I would prioritize then focus (ahem). Traveling heavy in the tropics without porters is an existential misery (cf. Camus). Keep your gear close to hand (another reason to pack light), and attached to your person when on the street (motor-scooter gear-snatchers abound in cities). Food is sublime, never pass up an opportunity to eat.
vBulletin® v3.6.8, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.