Posts by Huong Nguyen

Go Explore Vietnam Travel Photography Exhibition – Breaking Down Boundaries

Go Explore Vietnam Immersive Art Exhibition presents a selected collection of photography and videography artwork, featuring different destinations across Vietnam, to create an immersive art space, combined with diverse visual and sound effects such as lighting, experimental/electronic music, and art performances. Surrounded by interactive images and Ultra High Definition (4k) videos shown in dark room with rich sounds, the space offers an amazing immersive and sensory experience in the realm of art and entertaining. Massive displays shown from projectors combine artistic, informational and promotional content. Travel to these immersive art experiences on view across the country.

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Embracing the mission to bring the image of Vietnam as well as Vietnamese people, art and cultures closer to the world via creating creative photographs and videos, the exhibition aims to make social and community impact. Through this art and cultural event, we want to create a chance to experience art for everyone, including both art lovers and travel community, organize an educational activity – a learning experience from the art of travel photography, and introduce and connect local and international artists with the community.

3 concepts of the exhibition are: Immersive art exhibition, meaning experience being ‘inside the artwork’ by letting the sound and visual elements take you to different places across Vietnam, Digital storytelling, or telling stories of the life and people in Vietnam behind the filming scenes and photographs and creative learning – studying geography and tourism of Vietnam in a fun and innovative way

3 main art spaces in the exhibition includes ‘Landscapes of Vietnam’ – landscape photographs featuring gorgeous travel destinations of Vietnam shot by drone cameras, Humans of Vietnam – portraits of Vietnamese people, photographed by international artists who have travelled throughout the country and ‘Life in Vietnam’- typical daily life filmed different regions throughout the country, reflecting a mixture of traditional and modern influences.

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The exhibition display many artwork of multiple local artists such as Pham Phu Nghia and Nguyen Tan Dung, and international artists such as Cristobal Ascencio from Mexico, Chévon Leo from South Africa – illustrator having worked with Hollywood films, Anna Paniagua & Matt Kiefer – the founders of Hostelgeeks brand with over 29.2k followers on Instagram, and one of our guests of honour Réhahn. He  was ranked one of the top 10 portrait photographers in the world and the 2nd most popular French photographer on the internet, having been to over 35 countries and is currently living in Hoi An, Vietnam. Some of his most famous works are the ‘Hidden Smile’ photograph and the ‘Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrasts’ photobook, including 150 photographs inspired by his past 6-year long journey encountering 45 of the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam. His works have been featured on Conde Nast Traveler, The Times and National Geographic.

The grand opening also welcomes the well-known performing artist Vu Nhat Tan. Known as one of the pioneers in the contemporary music scene of Vietnam, composer Vu Nhat Tan has gained success in music events across Asia, Europe and Australia. In 2002, Vu Nhat Tan turned to experimental electronic music on computer platform, electronic equipment and music instruments. These works were introduced during his performances in Europe, America, Australia, China and Vietnam in collaboration with many classic and contemporary artists. Tan has lectured on composition and musicology at the Vietnam National Academy of Music since 1995.

The event was officially sponsored by Traveloka.

Hai Van Mountain Pass – Experience the Spectacular Train Ride from Da Nang to Hue

There’s something about traveling by train that somehow always catches my breath away as passing through the forests and mountains on the train is adventurous, thrilling and soul-stirring. Traveling by train in Vietnam is a unique experience. One of the best train journeys in the country, which I must always encounter when recommending to my foreign fellow travelers who like to visit my hometown, is the ride between Da Nang and Hue through Hai Van Mountain Pass. The spectacular 21-kilometer long pass, Hai Van, one of the most gorgeous mountain passes in central Vietnam, is located just 500 meters above sea level.

Hai Van Mountain Pass - Da Nang station

I started in Da Nang from the train station. Da Nang’s train station is, interestingly, well designed with a mixture of contemporary and vintage interior. This resembles Da Nang city, shifting itself from a previously less known destination to one of the fastest growing city of Vietnam. Nevertheless, the station was very crowded and rather unorganized. The entrance was full of taxis flooding in all directions. Our friend dropped us in a random spot in front of the main door.

Hai Van Mountain Pass 2

In order to avoid the queue and common exhaustion of waiting for train ticket officers, I booked our tickets on Baolau.com. They sent me a voucher which is also the e-ticket that can be used straight for boarding on the train. Vietnam’s train seems very old from the outside, but the modern cabins have specifically been renovated, are clean and organized. Considering the facilities, some of the most high-end train routes in Vietnam are Sai Gon – Phan Thiet with Vietnam Railways or Hanoi – Sapa with Victoria Express.

Hai Van Mountain Pass 1

Our train was departing from Da Nang for approximately 15 minutes till our arrival through the pass. You will be amazed through the whole journey, passing through dark halls, led to bright and thrilling hills above the blue and tranquil ocean, repeatedly.

The whole journey lasts for only about 15 minutes. I went to the windows in between cabins to take photographs. Since the windows aren’t clear to actually capture the breath-taking scenes, I went to the canteen carriage for better views. An ideal spot to enjoy Vietnam beer and immerse yourself in the stunning ride.

Omega Mountain Pass – A Scenic Bus Ride From Da Lat To Nha Trang

Da Lat and Nha Trang are some of the most beautiful travel destinations in the South of Vietnam. Whilst Da Lat’s famed for its striking French colonial architecture throughout the central area, surrounded by gorgeous mountainous areas and brightly flower fields spreading throughout one of the greenest towns of Vietnam, Nha Trang’s stunning and diverse shorelines will take your breath away. There are plenty of bus connections between the two cities. I booked mine online via Baolau.com from Da Lat to Nha Trang with Phuong Trang Bus – one of the largest bus provider in Vietnam between these two destinations. The journey went through Omega  Mountain Pass, one of the longest mountain passes of Vietnam. 

Phuong Trang bus Da Lat to Nha Trang - Da Lat station

Our group arrived at the station about 30 minutes before the bus departure. Surprisingly, Da Lat’s main bus station seems to be taken over by Phuong Trang. You can notice their massive number of buses here from the signature orange colour visible from miles above. Baolau previously sent us an email with all the e-ticket, which we exchanged at the station for physical tickets within only a few minutes. The staff were very friendly to us and profession, all dressed in uniforms, and ready to stuff our bags to the storage room and let us board.

Phuong Trang bus Da Lat to Nha Trang bus station 1

Phuong Trang runs bus from Da Lat to Nha Trang almost every hour or two throughout the day from 8AM to 5PM. Once you arrive at Nha Trang, skip the typical tourist sights and make your way to Ninh Van Bay – one of the most soul-stirring natural seaside landscape of the region, yet an undiscovered hidden gem near Nha Trang.

Da Lat to Nha Trang through Omega Mountain Pass to Ninh Van Bay

Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort – A Backpacker Getaway To the Rural Seaside

Lying just about 1 hour away from the famous UNESCO Heritage cultural town of Hoi An, Tam Thanh is an undiscovered art and cultural gem, a one-of-its-kind destination worth taking a look. Tam Thanh is the home to untouched seasides, local villages, and amazing countryside landscapes. Our trip to explore Quang Nam province in the central Vietnam was a great getaway, thanks to awesome accommodations like Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort. That was a great place to just sit down, chill and relax with a bicycle ride around the beautiful Tam Thanh Mural village.
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Location – how to get there

We took the train from Dieu Tri station in Quy Nhon, and arrived at Tam Ky station within less than an hour. Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort is in the middle of Tam Thanh village, close to the famous Tam Thanh Mural Village, an art project for the community joint by Korean and local artists. From here, take a taxi to the resort. If you travel in a group or find someone going in the same direction to tag along, it’s much more affordable. The taxi ride will take you around another 30 minutes to get there or 45 minutes if he gets lost in the area like ours did.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 3
Book you train from Quy Nhon to Tam Ky with Baolau (recommended by Lonely Planet).

Atmosphere

The whole resort area seems very simple and untouched, surrounded by white sand and lines of coconut trees. There are not any fancy services going on like in other high-end resorts. The concept of Gowhere is to create a simple get-away space to relax with just the basic necessities. I love the idea because since I am not going to spend much time indoor anyway, why would I need to pay so much for a fancy resort in the middle of nowhere?
The seafront is just at my doorstep, ideally for waking up with a warm swim in the morning or simply enjoying breakfast whilst sunbathing.
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Facilities

Like I mentioned, most of the facilities at the resort are really simple. We were 7 people, staying in a family room with 3 double beds and 2 single beds. There’s only one indoor bathroom.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 4

Service

Motorbike rental service is available. If you travel in groups, contact them in advance in order to book a short tour around the area. The manager there was very welcoming and helpful throughout our stay. The food provided there was great value for money. There are not many places nearby to eat except for the morning market in the village. Hence eating here is of course recommended.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 1

Getting around Tam Thanh

Lang Bich Hoa – Tam Thanh Mural Village

A small village of more or less 20 households, of which house walls are filled with stunning vivid mural paintings. These artwork reflect the local life and culture of the people of Tam Thanh. It is a joint project between the Korean Community Art Exchange Program and the Vietnamese People’s Committee of Quang Nam Province.

Tam Thanh Mural Village

Tam Hai Island

Another well-known spot for camping, famed its nearby area of distinct rock topography. Ban Than Reef, lying just a few inches above the sea level along the seaside of Tam Hai village, are like gigantic sets of charcoal rocks of all shapes and sizes.

Tam Hai Island

Discover the Mekong Delta Experience In Vietnam

One of the top must-try when visiting South East Asia is definitely the Mekong Delta experience. Compared to playing with elephants on the river and watch the sunset by the bank in Luang Prabang, my experience with the Mekong Delta in Vietnam differ a lot. I personally enjoyed getting to know local music arts and cultures of Mekong people in Vietnam, always with curiosity and adrenaline. Hence on my trip to go explore Vietnam starting in the South from Ho Chi Minh city, I could not miss the tour to Mekong Delta.

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photo by Phu Nghia

Top experiences – Places you expect to see

Our 2 day 1night tour with TNK throughout the Mekong delta started from Ho Chi Minh city, continuing towards My Tho, Ben Tre, Can Tho and ended up in Ho Chi Minh. I went with 3 friends of mine, and a mixed group of Westerners and some Vietnamese elders. They were all very easy to talk to and interactive throughout the whole tour. Here are the top experiences I had and favourite places we visited.

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photo by Phu Nghia

Floating along the river bank of Mekong Delta

In the beginning of the itinerary, I already got immersed in the fantastic Mekong Delta experience. The first time is definitely always a thrill. I have been to Bangkok already but missed the floating market experience, so this was a must-do for me when getting back to Vietnam from Europe. We took a boat ride along the river, view the stilt houses and the fruit plantation along the river bank, then headed towards the Tortoise island and have lunch in the orchard.

Mekong Delta experience - Asia's Nomad on the boatMekong Delta experience - floating

Listening to Vietnamese folk music

Following the boat tour, we went to visit a family business of making all kinds of products from honey. They also formed a band that play and sing incredible Vietnamese folk music. You will get to watch the performance, enjoy fresh fruits from their garden and drink tea with honey, all at the same time. They do offer honey both as food and beauty product, at a good price.

Mekong delta experience - folk music

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I did not buy the honey there because though they seem like very green and clean local home-made products great for either souvenir or self-use, their trademark and hygiene certificate didn’t really seem trustworthy to me. But I supposed that’s the common case for most of the traditional home-produced products in Vietnam. Plus, I am very sceptical with the products I use for my facial skin. And I easily get skin allergies from time to time. Just make sure to test their product first before buying. 

Mekong delta experience - play with bees

Hanging out with a new friend, or more like a new friend hanging on you! 

After lunch, you will get quite a long break and time to meet up with a new friend – the local home pet!

Out of the all the reptiles, I hate snake the most. Those creepy creatures without leg could kill you instantly within just the blink of an eye. And I did let them hanged on me, unbelievable. That was probably one of the funniest and most extreme experiences of the entire tour. Would I never do it again? Nah.

Mekong Delta experience - scary snake

Watching the locals of Ben Tre making coconut candies

Coconut candy has always been one of my childhood delights. And to actually see how they were made from fresh coconut to a creamy and thick mixture, and eventually the end-product of square-shaped candies wrapped within eatable thin rice papers.

Mekong Delta experience - making candy in Ben Tre

Mekong Delta experience - drinking scary alcohol

Making Vietnamese noodles by yourself

The tour guide decided to put me in the spot to be his ‘free labour source‘ in demonstrating how to make Hu Tieu – a sort of local Vietnamese noodle. The machine ran extremely fast, and fortunately neither cut off my hand or messed up with my work. I made my first hu tieu ever! Success!

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Mekong Delta experience - making hu tieu

Food

Lunch provided by TNK was okay, not a highlight though.
Dinner by choice – We went for the popular Da Ly Lau Mam (a.k.a fish sauce hotpot), which was great in terms of how much vegetables they served. We almost finished all the vegetable, and trust me, we do eat a lot! Many people told us it’s gonna be super crowded there but it was empty as we arrived pretty late, compared to the local dinner time, which was probably around 6 to 7 PM.

Mekong Delta experience - breakfast on Cai Rang floating market
Breakfast on Cai Rang floating market was excellent. We had bun thit nuong (Vietnamese noodle with grilled pork, herbs and dipping fish sauce) and soy milk, literally on the boat floating in the middle of Cai Rang market.

Mekong Delta experience - old lady on the boat Mekong Delta experience - boat selling watermelon

Accommodation

In the evening, you will have 2 options of accommodation, meaning either staying in a hotel in Can Tho city or a riverside homestay in Cai Rang rural district. Both of these are great. For foreigners coming to Vietnam, I’d recommend going for the latter option, which is more authentic as you will get to experience cycling around the suburb, sharing dinner with a local family from the Mekong Delta and enjoy perhaps even an evening of traditional folk music.

I was travelling with a group of 3 Vietnamese guys. We then decided to stay in a hotel downtown so as to explore the city’s cuisine and check out some impressive modern buildings and construction of Can Tho. We walked through the night market, had some dessert and fortunately even found a local boat driver who offered us a great deal for the group so we can leave to Cai Rang Floating market earlier than the tour group on the following day.

Mekong Delta experience - man on the boat

Tour guide

Our tour guide was extremely funny, supportive, and fluent in English. One of the best tour guides I have ever met in Vietnam so far. He was very calm and experienced with a good self-presentation.

You would be surprised how many tour guides in Vietnam you’d come across, who are really bad in English, having a terrible accent or just no charisma at all, not to mention the lack of knowledge about the destination. Please keep in mind that tour guides in Vietnam must be certified before working with any company.

Mekong Delta experience - TNK Travel guide

Customer service

All of the customer service arranged by TNK was excellent, in contrast to a couple of situation I have experienced in Vietnam so far (which I will dedicate another article to write in Vietnam). Book your Mekong Delta experience with TNK Travel here. 

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photo by Phu Nghia

Top Destinations to Seek Art In Vietnam

If you asked me if I would ever quit travel blogging, the answer was probably yes. A few months ago, I slowly stopped blogging on my own site, meaning not to produce any content of good quality, gradually switching to travel writing on different companies’ websites, simply to make money, which was a big motivation back then as I needed money to travel. Being constantly on the road makes it such a huge challenge to keep the blog updated.

Till now, it took me quite awhile to get my writings back on track. Plus I was never close to a tech person, making it brutally difficult for me to run a blog, whilst maintaining my presence on social media. After launching the ‘Go Explore Vietnam’ Project, traveling throughout my home country for a month, which was initially to find out if travel blogging was really for me, as a surprise, I found out how much I was into arts and cultures while traveling instead of running blogging businesses and keeping the site commercial.

So here’s my list of the top destinations to seek arts in Vietnam. And I mean really cool arts, music and cultures!

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1. Hoi An – the top-rated art hub

I love slow and peaceful vibe in Hoi An. Suddenly after few hours train ride from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, you are completely taken aback away from the noises, crowds and traffic jam, all of sudden surrounded with lots and lots of art galleries, old vintage coffee shops, ancient French and Japanese architecture, authentic design and craft shops. Rehahn’s fine art photography gallery – COULEURS D’ASIE is one of its kind. His award-winning portrait photography style will take your breath away.

Hoi An is also famous for the 3 craft villages, specializing in producing local pottery, silk, and wood. These traditional products are amazing authentic souvenirs, convenient to carry around. You can see, and even learn how to make our own product there.

Art in Vietnam - Rehahn Art Gallery

2. Tam Thanh – the beautiful mural village

Situated in a rural area, only about an hour bus ride away from Hoi An, Tam Thanh is another must-see art hub, famed for its mural village created by the Korea-Vietnam joint project – Art for a better community. For some reason, the Koreans have discovered the isolated town of Tam Thanh and probably loved the village so much that they dedicated a massive amount of stunning artworks on the walls surrounding the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the quality of the paint was deteriorating so bad due to the weather that some of the walls were forced to crash down.

Art in Vietnam - Tam Thanh mural village

3. Hue – the ancient art capital

The peaceful and quiet town of Hue may look a bit boring at first glance, nevertheless wakes up at night as the Imperial city is lightened up with tons of musical and performing activities. You can even play traditional Vietnamese games with the local students at the main yard of the Imperial City. Make sure to arrive on time between 7PM and 10PM in order not to miss any arranged show. If you have already visited the Imperial city during the day time, keep in mind to get the 50% discount by night.

Art in Vietnam - art in Hue

Art in Vietnam - Hue Imperial City by NIght

4. Hanoi – the communist-influenced capital

Tons of friends asked me if Vietnam is still in communism regime, or simply assume such fact since there’s only one party in the government. Yet we are a socialist country, living with the diverse culture strongly influenced by a mixture of the East and West, of the past communists and present westerners. You’d be either excited or surprised to see many propaganda stores on Ly Quoc Su street in the old quarter of Hanoi, lying beside plenty of fine art galleries. What I love most about Hanoi is probably the vibe from entering the 36 old streets of Hanoi, which was recently turned into a pedestrian area every weekend, nowadays filled with a bunch of performing and playful activities at night.

5. Phan Thiet – the impressive Fisherman show

The one and only fisherman show happening every evening in Phan Thiet is breath-taking and soul-stirring. The story-telling theatrical acts of the local performers are well combined with a water show and a wide range of international artists are great values for money.

Art in Vienam - Fisherman Show in Phan Thiet 1

Art in Vietnam - Fisherman show in Phan Thiet 2

6. Da Lat – the place to rest your soul with art

XQ Su Quan Art Gallery is famous not only for its handmade sewing fabrics and artworks, but also the culturally unique arrangement of outdoor space and architecture style. The way local culture is presented with different artistic spaces here is one of its kind.

Art in Vietnam - XQ Su Quan Art Gallery

7. Ho Chi Minh – the chaotic & dynamic art hub

Despite living in the most dynamic and fast-growing city in Vietnam, strongly affected by the Western culture, the people in Ho Chi Minh (a.k.a. Sai Gon) has their own way to show the love for arts. À Ố Show is one of the best performing acts in Ho Chi Minh city, embracing Vietnamese culture with a strong combination Live Music By Folk Instruments, Acrobatics, and Bamboo Cirque. A must-see theatrical show in Ho Chi Minh.

À Ố Show - Art in Vietnam
Source: Divui

Despite being located in South East Asia, which is well-known for cheap travel, getting around Vietnam to genuinely explore arts and culture could be expensive due to high accommodation fare during peak season, high tax and service fee for airlines, overpriced entrance fee to tourist sights. I’d highly recommend booking your flights at least 4 weeks prior to your departure in and around Vietnam via Traveloka, as they offer incredibly tempting discounts from time to time. Accommodations can be booked few days in advance via Agoda, Booking or Airbnb.

 

4 Quarters Homestay in Da Lat – Simple & Happiness

If I have to choose one top unique destination in Southern Vietnam to visit, it takes few seconds to pick Da Lat from the endless list of beautiful places to see in Vietnam – from the western part along the Mekong Delta to stunning seaside resorts in Nha Trang, from adventurous sand dunes in Phan Thiet to the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh.

Da Lat is famed not only for its breath-taking natural landscapes filled with gorgeous mountains surrounded by lush forests and flower fields but also its interesting mix of architecture and culture, strongly affected by the French colony influences. Due to the booming of tourism, there’s a wide diversity of homestays and hostels in Da Lat. One of my favorites so far is 4 Quarters, a hidden gem located in a town corner just a few minutes ride from the night market and city center.

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With simple design and the happiness concept, 4 Quarters would let you feel like home here. TV, kitchen equipments, scooter and laundry service are fully available!

July Homestay Tuy Hoa – Vintage Design. Where Asia Meets Europe

On our way to go explore Vietnam from Nha Trang to Quy Nhon, where lies the famous beach of Ky Co, we had a quick stop at Tuy Hoa (Phu Yen) to discover Bai Xep (a filming location of the famous movie ‘Tôi thấy hoa vàng trên cỏ xanh’) and Ghenh Da Dia. Spending the night at July homestay (rather than Nau as planned since it was fully booked), we were amazed by the hospitality and interesting interior design of the homestay.

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Life’s A Beach Guest House – A Luxury Backpacker Paradise

Nestled in the heart of a traditional Vietnamese fishing village on the seaside of Bai Xep Beach, about 13 kilometers (8 mi) away from the city centre of Quy Nhon in southern Vietnam, Life’s a Beach is one of the best guesthouses in the area. This exceptional accommodation is suitable for a wide range of travelers, from families and couples to solo travelers and backpacking groups. Here at Life’s A Beach, you neither need to pay such an extravagance for a high-end family resort, nor worry about squeezing the budget for a value accommodation. You can have all the comforts of home in a room that is set on a beach surrounded by breathtaking mountain views. Wander around the village and see daily life unfold around you. Speak with villagers, eat street food around the village well, and socialise in one of the small local restaurants. Head here for a perfect getaway at Life’s A Beach guesthouse and experience the following. Read more here. Read More

Victoria Sapa Hotel & Victoria Express Train – Explore Northern Vietnam On A New Level

I have never been a fan of luxury travel. A good amount of comfort when being abroad excites me, but too much of that would bother me. I am more of the ‘exploring and experiencing’ type of traveler, but not necessarily adventurous I believe many solo female travelers out there share the same situation. I believe to have a much more fulfilling and happier life if I’d pay for flight tickets and authentic low-budget accommodations rather than saving for houses, cars, clothes or 5-star hotels.

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