On Location
International Expeditions

Vietnam: Land of the Blue Dragons

with Jennifer Spelman

April 4 – 15, 2025

  • Package Price $7650.00
  • International Deposit $1500.00

Course Description

In an ancient myth, the Vietnamese people are descended from a dragon king and a magical fairy. The dragon is a positive symbol of rain, agriculture, strength, and good luck. Additionally, the country’s coastal location and stunning azure waters are embodied by the “blue” dragon—giving even more cultural meaning and significance to the name “land of the blue dragon.”

Join renowned world-traveling photographer Jennifer Spelman and embark on an immersive journey through Vietnam’s vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes on this 12-day photographic voyage. From the lively markets of modern cities to the tranquil rice paddies of the countryside, from ancient temples to colonial monuments, Vietnam offers a diverse tapestry of culture, landscapes, stories, and traditions waiting to be experienced and seen through your lens.

Our journey begins in Ho Chi Minh City, where colonial landmarks blend with modern skyscrapers along the Saigon River. On the first day, we dive into the vibrant excitement of the Ben Thanh Markets and experience colors, aromas, and bustling activity rich with inspiration. We also participate in a heritage tour, providing opportunities to photograph iconic monuments and historic sites. Jennifer shares initial insights regarding cultural and historical awareness and adjusting to a new sense of place.

The next day we leave bustling Ho Chi Minh City and take a 1.5-hour flight to Hue, a city known for its relaxed pace and deep historical roots. After lunch we visit the ancient Citadel that was once a forbidden city consisting of palace and temples. Later we embark on a private boat cruise on the Perfume River, a perfect way to photograph the stunning riverside scenery during the golden hour and enjoy the sunset.

Today we set off on a day-long journey through Hue’s countryside by van or on the back of a motorcycle (your choice). We stop to experience the beauty of rice paddies and photograph the simplicity of rural Vietnam landscapes, while also taking opportunities to interact with the locals and document their way of life. We also have the wonderful opportunity to explore a Buddhist monastery, a peaceful retreat where we enjoy a local lunch prepared by monks. As the day unfolds, Jennifer shares creative strategies for quickly developing rapport with subjects and building a human connection that translates into your photography. We return to Hue this evening for dinner.

Over the next two days, we immerse ourselves in Hoi An’s storied past, exploring centuries-old merchant houses and winding streets, and enjoy a traditional cooking demonstration. An early morning bus trip to Cua Dai provides the unique opportunity to witness the lively start of the day in the local fishing community, and photograph fishermen bringing in their boats and hauling their catches to shore. We then return to Hoi An for a visit to the Precious Heritage Museum and to view its remarkable collection of photographs, traditional costumes, and artifacts that celebrate the different ethnic groups of Vietnam.

We continue on to Ninh Binh, stopping along the way to explore the dramatic scenery of Van Long Nature Reserve, defined by towering cliffs and tranquil waters. We arrive in the evening and explore the city the following morning, photographing limestone karsts and winding waterways that offer spectacular views. Ventures into local villages provide opportunities to document the daily rhythms of village life and the ancient temples hidden amidst the verdant countryside.

Our expedition concludes in the dynamic city of Hanoi, Vietnam’s energetic capital. We arrive in the afternoon and spend the sunset photographing at Hoan Kiem Lake. On the final day, we embark on a guided tour and visit some of the city’s most important landmarks, including the Temple of Literature and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We explore markets and street food stalls and savor the local delicacies, including the famous egg coffee. Our final night concludes with a farewell dinner of North Vietnamese cuisine.

Join Jennifer on this extraordinary photographic journey through Vietnam, rich with opportunities to document the cultural and natural beauty of this enchanting country. We return home having created once-in-a-lifetime photographs and unforgettable memories from our time in the land of the blue dragons.

A trip extension to Bai Tu Long Bay, one of the country’s most remarkable natural destinations, is an option for April 15 – 17. View this PDF for details: VietnamTripExtension_2025

Additional Information

WHO SHOULD ATTEND:

This program is open to all photographers at all levels who are passionate about travel and improving their image-making.

What You Should Know:

Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. This a photographic tour, not a photography workshop and there isn’t structured classroom time. There will be group image review sessions with Jennifer, as well as help with photographic ideas and techniques on location.

Special Notes:

Participants make their own air travel arrangements to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) to arrive in time for the opening reception and dinner on Friday, April 4 at 6:00pm. To avoid jet lag, it is advised to consider arriving a day in advance to rest before the tour begins. The tour operator can book additional nights in Saigon or in Hanoi if travelers choose to arrive early or stay longer. NOTE: Departure at the end of the trip is from the Hanoi airport (HAN). 

It is required that you purchase trip cancellation/travel insurance for this trip. Once the trip is confirmed, additional information and travel details will be provided. Enrollment is limited to 12 participants.

Activity Level:

To get the most from this international experience, participants should be in good physical (mobility, stamina) and mental health. In general, arrive prepared for long days and seasonal weather including variable temperatures. You must be able to carry your own photographic and personal gear at all times. You are responsible for being open and honest about your physical fitness, and we reserve the right to remove you from the workshop if we find your fitness to be less than that which you have described.

While this particular tour itself is not very strenuous, please note that it can involve the following: somewhat long days, walking tours, being outside in potentially diverse temperatures, a couple of long journeys, and early morning wake-ups.

Policies:

View Payment, Refund, Withdrawal, and Transfer Policies for this International Program.

Package Price INFO:

$7,650 includes double accommodations for eleven nights (ideal for couples and friends traveling together; a single supplement is available for an additional $795); all breakfasts, eight lunches, and eight dinners; all ground and air transportation in Vietnam; airport transfers; and all entrance fees. Airfare to Ho Chi Minh City as well as required travel insurance, meals and activities not mentioned in the itinerary, gratuities, and passport/visa fees are not included.

If you are interested in the trip extension to Bai Tu Long Bay, view this PDF for details: VietnamTripExtension_2025

Categories
Nature & Landscape, Portraiture, Storytelling, Street Photography, Travel Photography
© Nerissa Escanlar
about
Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.

Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.

A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co-instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Morocco, India, Turkey, Romania, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.

A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Instagram: @jennifer_spelman

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