Home > Photography, Travel > In Da Nang and Hue

In Da Nang and Hue

This is third time I am going to visit Vietnam. I have been north and south before so it was time to pay visit to Central Vietnam. With 5 days to spare (including flights) there was not too much time but I was hoping to see some of Da Nang ans Hue. This was also the first trip I solely relied on small cameras, in my case Fuji X100S and Fuji X-E1 with 35mm Fujinon lens. I figured the Nikons are to heavy for street walkabouts and I left them at home.

Da Nang is third largest city in Vietnam. Compared to Saigon and Hanoi it is pretty flat however there are few high rise buildings there and more are in construction stage. In typical Vietnam fashion streets are buzzing with life. Sound of horn is present everywhere. Motorbike traffic is there although not in the scale it can bee seen in two larger cities. I stayed in small hotel near Han river with long paved riverside. Vietnam is big on coffee. There is more coffee shops and coffee bars than restaurants. It didn’t really matter to me because apart from my first meal I solely used street vendors. I like to support small businesses and people who need the income more than big restaurants. And also their food is just so much more better, cheaper and more authentic. Just give it a try once. Pho or Bún Bò from street vendor and you never go back to restaurant. Also having a coffee in “local” coffee bar is unique experience. Great way to rub shoulders with locals. They are very friendly and respond with smile when you try to pull off vietnamese way to say xin chào (hello) and cảm ơn (thank you).

Next day I travelled to Hue with train. I booked a soft seater in air-conditioned carriage. Still, there were only few tourists and mostly locals which I preferred. I sat together with a family with 2 little kids. I had my Fuji X100S at my hand and photographed them all the way to Hue (from waist level) without them even noticing it. Of course I had quite a few misses but some photos turned out very well. I would never be able to do it with DSLR. This is where small cameras are winning all the way.

Hue is a nice little town. Former capital of Vietnam is considerably more touristy than Da Nang thanks to former imperial palace, emperor tombs and other places of historical significance. If you ever visit the city with intention do do photography, do not bother to join a tour. You will spend the day accompanies by annoying tourists and even more annoying spoiled kids. And granted you will likely come back empty handed in terms of good shots. Instead go just by yourself or hire a bike or guy with the bike (easy rider) and go places that are of interest to you. Or just walk around the city. There is plenty of good subjects to photograph. Sometimes you can just sit down and curious locals come to you to talk as it happened to me. I was approached by bunch of young students who just wanted to have conversation and practice their English skills. It is a great experience and you feel you giving back something to people of this wonderful country.

There are more restaurants in Hue than Da Nang, at least that’s how it felt. Nevertheless, I continued to eat at small local shops. And in places like this you get often blessed with great subject to photograph. all people are very kind and return smiles. I have to remember that. I do not smile enough and it gets you a long way.

Weather in Hue was extremely sunny and hot. Quite challenging conditions for photography as dynamic range is usually far bigger than camera sensors can handle. But that is the challenge to overcome, it is not a problem that stops you taking pictures, right? In the evening I took great advantage of 35mm 1.4 Fujinon lens. It is excellent choice for fairly dark scenes. As the depth of field is quite narrow, you need to pay extra attention when focusing. cameras were great and most misses I had were due my incompetence 🙂

During the hot days it was also great to escape the heat in my hotel room. I need to give a special shout to staff of Vina Hotel. They were absolutely great and hotel itself is fantastic value for money. Last day I had to check out by noon and my train back to Da Nang was scheduled at 22:24pm. So I had another 10 hours to spare during which you get sweaty and dusty. Yet they stored my bag for that time and they allowed me to take a shower for no extra charge. That is rather unusual and very welcome.

I took a late train back to Da Nang just to maximise my stay in this lovely city. As my flight was scheduled early next day I planned to spend the night at airport. Even though train was delayed by 2 hours I still had plenty of opportunities to take some pictures at train station. Conditions were quite dark but I managed to take photo of “Uncle Ho” look-a-like 🙂 Train trip was uneventful as everybody was trying to sleep in quite hot and steamy carriage. The only bad experience I had in Vietnam this time around was a taxi driver in Da Nang who took me to airport. Basically he tried to ask for ridiculous amount of money for the ride. If this happens to you, always ask for meter and firmly stick to the amount the meter shows.

Little note about cameras. They were great. I am using Fuji X system cameras but any small format would do. I used DSLR’s on trips like this before and I will in the future where using DSLR would benefit me in some ways. However when doing street photography, a big camera tends to get in a way. It is heavy, big brick that scares people away. I cannot count how many times I observed tourists trying to take candid shots with big camera. Now I could see how ridiculously it looks. I am not saying it cannot be done but it makes so much more sense to use something smaller and inconspicuous. Unless I am going to do hi-res landscape shoot, arranged shooting, fast action or shoot in harsh environment I will leave big cameras at home. Image quality and low light performance is excellent and not to mention you save some money on chiropractor 🙂

So that’s it. If you read the article all the way here, enjoy shooting and wish you all good light.

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  1. August 19, 2013 at 2:24 am

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