We are in Vietnam with Derrick Pereira, a hobbyist travel photographer and writer based in Dubai, UAE. When not in town, you can usually find him wandering around offbeat locations in South-East Asia, covering subjects from the Komodo Dragons in Indonesia and underground caves in Borneo to ethnic markets in Vietnam and sunken World War 2 wrecks in the Philippines. Contributed stories to publications such as the Explorer and Inside Out guides, Air Arabia’s in-flight magazine and Travel + Leisure. You can read more of his travel stories on travellingoffbeat.com or follow him on Twitter/Instagram @DerrickPereira for travel inspiration
Here is his diary
There are two key things I look for when picking my travel destinations. First, it has to be destination that’s off the beaten track; second, there has to be a story to tell either visually in photographs or as an article that I can write about. Vietnam ticked those boxes and more… also there’s a third reason why it’s my favourite destination which I’ll get to below 😉
Stayed at *Stayed budget all through this trip, all comfortable local hotels but none that stood out or would be aspirational. Having said that, there are some beautiful hotels in Vietnam especially in Hoi An.
In your suitcase My suitcase is usually filled with camera gear! So much so that I forget to pack my essentials. For Vietnam I took my Canon 5D MkII, three prime lenses – a 24, 50 and 100mm, a Fujifilm X100 which was great for street photography and a GoPro to record the occasional video. It was summer and Vietnam does get quite hot, so clothes consisted of shorts, tshirts and comfortable walking shoes since we would be trekking. I knew there would be at least one long train ride so I made sure I had my iPad so that I could read some ebooks along the way!
Dined at If you haven’t had the chance to try Vietnamese food then you really are missing out. The best foodie experience we had was in Hoi An on a food tour called a Taste of Hoi An. We walked through local markets, bustling streets, hidden alleyways and old town restaurants sampling around 46 different Vietnamese dishes. I’d highly recommend it.
Shopped My fiance really enjoyed shopping around Hoi An’s old town district for curios and clothes and I liked walking around Sapa’s Bac Ha market where ethic tribes come together on Sunday to sell fresh produce. It’s a great photo op!
Diary Not content with visiting just one or two cities, my fiance and I decided to spend two and a half weeks exploring as much of Vietnam as we could, starting from the South working our way up North. We started off in the capital Ho Chi Minh City, a bustling city that seemed to have more motorcycles than people! We then made our way to Hoi An, its ancient town designated as UNESCO world heritage site, which was filled with charm and history. Oh yes, coming back to that third reason why I love Vietnam, Hoi An was also the place where I asked my girlfriend to marry me! (She said yes by the way). Hue was our next stop, it was the former Imperial capital of Vietnam and is packed with temples, tombs and a walled city with a citadel as its centerpiece. If you’re an architectural buff, then Hue wont disappoint. We then took a 11 hour train journey, up North, to Sapa; a beautiful mountain town bordering China filled with rolling greens hills, rice paddies and great trekking trails. Finally we spent our last few nights in Hanoi sampling some delicious Vietnamese cuisine.
Tips Those conical Vietnamese hats aren’t just for show, the heat can get pretty intense so it’s advisable to carry a wide brim hat if you’re traveling there in during summer. Skip Halong Bay when you get to Hanoi; every traveler we’ve spoken to says it’s overrated and essentially a tourist trap. Dress conservatively when visiting temples and religious sites. Also if you want to take someone’s photograph, be polite and ask their permission first.
Mode of travel When we traveled to Vietnam there were no direct flights available, so we flew from Dubai to Bangkok and then to Ho Chi Minh City. Now Emirates and Etihad both fly direct to Ho Chi Minh City.