I will be travelling to Vietnam this summer and would appreciate your advice on taking photographs over there. What is aloweed, what not allowed etc.? Also, is it generally a safe country, i.e. I will not be mugged as soon as I pull a camera out of my bag etc.?
I have never been to Vietnam - but know plenty of friends that have. Never a problem taking pics - except of military areas and officials (Police Officers, soldiers, politicians, government buildings etc. etc.). It's always advisable to ask about taking a picture if you're not sure. I was in Odessa awhile back and took a pic. of a naval ship in the harbour.... Silly me. A guy that made Popeye look like a matchstick, came up to me and made it very clear that I was out of order. The story is much longer than that, but you get the point - I'm sure.
As far as the safety of your camera goes, if you just want excellent scenery shots and aren't bothered about 10 frames a second, buy a camera that fits in your inside pocket. Take it out, do your shot, then put it back. Far safer than carrying around an SLR with all the lenses in a case the size of a bag of potatoes.
Have a great trip.
I've never had problems with taking any pics in Vietnam. First of all, you will see very very few military (people keep asking - "where's the Communism" because a tourist sees almost nothing except for a mural or two). Because it is a poor country, some will ask to be paid for having their pic taken - very very few of them too!. In Hanoi, there's a scheme where pineapple sellers will come up to you, place their pole carrier over your shoulder, ask to borrow your camera, and take your pic - they then demand to be paid. In Sapa, native hill tribes (Hmong and others) will pose for $, but I've never paid even once. Really not all that much different from taking pics at home - don't believe everything you read, because most of it is out of date or totally untrue. A much much BIGGER pain in the neck are the hawkers that will approach with just about every service/product you can imagine, and many don't understand the word "NO" at all. Xe om (motorcycle) cab drivers constantly ask if they can take you somewhere. It can get to you after being asked 5000 times a day! I try to smile and be pleasant, but I'm afraid I now have learned to ignore 99% and simply pretend that I've heard/seen none of them. (I have a friend who tries to talk to each and every hawker!!!) I guess I'm just a terrible tourist, but old habits are hard to break. Shoeshine boys come over to you while you're eating a meal at an outdoor restaurant, beg to shine your shoes for very little. If they do shine your shoes, they'll then return them and tell you that the quoted price was for only 1 shoe, and demand double! Don't fall for that one - don't be intimidated as many tourists are by hawkers or cab drivers.
One more warning - if you should stop and look too long at items for sale, you're expected to buy that item. Learn to be overly cool, learn to bargain well, and when a seller won't meet your price, one sure way of getting that item for a good price is to walk away - the seller/merchant will come running after you and accept your price almost instantly.
If you use a large, expensive camera, be very careful. In Saigon especially, thieves on motorcycles have been known to drive by, slash camera straps, and take off with these items. I like to use a small point-and-shoot that I can slip into a pocket and keep it out of sight.
[ Edit: Edited on 06-Jun-2009, at 08:38 by Daawgon ]
Post #3#.... Apart from the Communism comment - it sounds pretty much a mirror image of countries in North Africa.
Thanks for your comments guys. It seems that I will be leaving my camera in the hostel in HCMC, but since I have a good DSLR and really like taking photographs I really don't want to be taking a P&S camera.
When I traveled there a few months ago, I found that almost universally people in Vietnam, especially kids, were very willing to be photographed. However, I did get scolded by someone in the military once for pointing my camera toward the Hanoi Citadel and learned quickly not to do that again.
In particular, I found that Hoi An, Hue and Ha Long Bay were great areas for photography in Vietnam. Enjoy your trip!!
[ Edit: Snipped unneeded links to photography site. ]
Vietnam opened itself to tourism in the late 80s. At the beginning there were still a lot of red tape and travel restrictions, and the tourist infrastructure was quite poor. Now is a good time to visit Vietnam.
Yes, i will go there this month.
I think photography in Vietnam is a great idea, as the country possesses owesome landscape from North to South and rich in tradition! Yet the country is still developing so there's a lot that none has taken photo of before.
What's your hobby in photography?
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
People don't always like having their photos taken so use a telephoto lens rather than being obvious about it.