Southeast Asia is one of Jim's favorite destinations to visit and photograph. The people are extraordinarily kind, gentle, and beautiful. The photographic opportunities are tremendously varied, from spectacular ruins like Angkor Wat to exotic dancers to classic agricultural scenes. Ancient kingdoms left indelible marks on the landscape and culture of these three countries, and you can see this in the art and architecture of every temple, shrine, and palace. If you like photographing people, you could spend a lifetime doing nothing else and be happy here. The landscapes are also great. All of Jim's photo tours are learning experiences, and on this trip you will learn about portraiture, shooting in low light circumstances, HDR, exposure, and using wide angle lenses for maximum drama. You will also see how Jim set's up models and how he carefully chooses effective backgrounds to make winning shots.
Day 1, 2. Sept 13, 14, Sun-Mon: Depart from North America and cross the International Dateline.
Day 3, Sept 15, Tue: Arrival in Siem Reap. Arrive at Siem Reap International Airport (airport code REP) and transfer to your hotel for check- in and the rest of day at leisure to recover from the long flight. This is a good time to make sure all your batteries are charged. Jim will conduct a discussion of photo techniques so you can anticipate some of the challenges you'll be dealing with in terms of exposure, HDR, photographing children, and more. Overnight Victoria Angkor Resort.
Day 4, Sept 16, Wed: Siem Reap. At 5am we depart for a sunrise photo shoot at Angkor Wat temple. A breakfast box will be provided by hotel. We then continue to visit the monumental magnificence of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmers, with its Elephant Terrace, the Terrace of the Leper King and the stunning Bayon temple. This 12th century masterpiece lies at the very centre of Angkor Thom and is an archaeological wonder of symmetry and grandeur. The exterior gallery walls have extensive bas-reliefs but the highlight are the “faces”, more than 200 of them, silent but with the famous half-smile playing on their lips. We also photograph Jim’s favorite, Ta Prohm, the temple that has been left largely in its natural state since its “re-discovery” by French explorers. Surrounded by jungle, its labyrinth of stone hallways is overgrown with the roots and limbs of massive banyan trees which envelop the stone like tentacles. Overnight Victoria Angkor Resort.
Day 5, Sept 17, Thur: Siem Reap. This morning we drive to Banteay Srei, the citadel of women. Built of red sandstone in the 10th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, the carved male and female figures in the niches are exquisitely executed in both style and proportion. This is the most Indian of all the temples in Angkor. Continue to Banteay Samre, another stunning temple at Angkor that dates from the early 12th century. After lunch we take boat trip to visit the floating village at Kampong Khleang. It is located on the northern edge of the lake about 35 km east of Siem Reap. Kampong Khleang is a permanent community within the floodplain of the lake with an economy based in fishing and surrounded by flooded forest. Overnight Victoria Angkor Resort.
Day 6, Sept 18, Fri: Siem Reap to Luang Prabang. This morning we will photograph a less visited temple site, Beng Mealea. The name means “Lotus Pond”, and it was built as a Hindu shrine in the early 11th century. Beng Mealea is a temple hidden in a maze of jungle, and that makes it especially unique and visually spectacular. It is noted for its innovative construction of hallways. Garuda statues hold up an outer platform, finer in detail than those to be found out in the elements of the Elephant Terrace at Angkor Thom. Surprises of fallen lintels with intricate carvings lay amongst the fallen wall and roofs. Later in the day we transfer to Siem Reap International Airport and board the flight to Luang Prabang, Laos. Upon arrival we will be met by our local guide and transferred to the hotel. This evening, if not raining, we can take a stroll through Luang Prabang's fabulous night market where there is an overwhelming selection of handicrafts on display, much which is produced and sold by locals from the many small ethnic minority villages surrounding the city. Overnight Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel.
Day 7, Sept 19, Sat: Luang Prabang. This morning we start the day early with one of the most memorable sights of Luang Prabang - the Tak Bat. At dawn hundreds of saffron robed monks move silently through the streets to collect offerings of food. Telephoto lenses compress the line of monks while wide angle lenses elongate the scene and include the environment. You’ll want to experiment with both. After breakfast at the hotel, we visit Wat Xieng Thong, often said to be Luang Prabang's most beautiful temple. It is characterized by its several roofs sweeping low to the ground and the impressive "tree of life" mosaic. Next we visit Vat Visoun, the site of an impressive stupa, and Vat Aham, which has a stunning interior. Continue to visit Luang Prabang's National Museum, formerly the Royal Palace. Displayed inside is a collection of personal artifacts of the former Laotian Royal Family. Nearby is Wat Mai, the five-tiered roof epitomizes the Luang Prabang architectural style. Following lunch we go to the river to begin a relaxing riverboat trip on the mighty Mekong River to visit the famous and sacred Pak Ou Buddha Caves that has thousands of Buddhas that have been placed here since the 16th century. En route we’ll stop at Ban Thin Hong, a Lao Loum village to get a glimpse of daily life for this ethnic minority. Overnight Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel.
Day 8, Sept 20, Sun: Luang Prabang - Hanoi. After breakfast, we drive to the Kuang Sii Waterfalls. In addition to the beautiful falls, there is also a butterfly park and a bear rescue center. The falls cascade over many calcified tiers and down several hundred feet into a series of cool, turquoise pools. After exploring the waterfalls return to Luang Prabang by road. If time and energy levels permit it may also be possible to stop to visit the village of Ban Xang Khong, a Sa Paper making village and weaving village. Lao textiles are still woven here in the traditional manner on wooden looms. Onwards transfer to Luang Prabang Airport for your departure flight to Hanoi. Overnight Movenpick Hotel Hanoi.
Day 9, Sept 21, Mon: Hanoi. After breakfast we make a stop at the monumental Ho Chi Minh's tomb, and nearby is a famous 11th century pagoda. We then visit the Temple of Literature, which was founded in 1070 A.D. This is an excellent example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. The symbols of longevity, giant turtles and cranes, can be found in the main red-lacquered temple nearby. After lunch, we experience the charm of Hanoi by 'cycle', Vietnam's traditional form of transport (3-wheeled bicycle taxi). Enjoy weaving through the narrow streets and tree-lined avenues in comfortable style as pass colonial buildings and many lakes. We then explore on foot the Ancient Quarter, a densely populated corner of the city that was once the center of commerce. There are photographic opportunities everywhere. Overnight Movenpick Hotel.
Day 10, Sept 22, Tue. Hanoi. For early risers we can visit the fresh vegetable wholesale market. We can then take pictures in the very colorful flower market, and then continue to the city center to the famous Hoan Kiem Lake to photograph people practicing Tai Chi in the beautiful morning light. We wander around Hanoi's old quarter as the city comes to life and then return to the hotel for breakfast.
We then drive several hours to Sapa (assuming the new road is finished; otherwise we take an overnight train). We arrive late in the afternoon. Overnight Swiss-Bel Hotel Lao Chi.
Day 11, Sept 23, Wed. Lao Chi. This region of Vietnam is populated by many ethnic minorities. With their unique dress, customs, and language, they make wonderful photographic subjects. We visit a market where the people photography is superb, and afterwards the local scenery is beautiful. Rice terraces, waterfalls, and mountains make a wonderful backdrop to ethnic villages that include the Zay, Black H'mong, Red Dzao, and the Lu (Lu ladies have black teeth). We will visit these villages on foot, and this will involve about two miles of walking. Overnight Victoria Resort & Spa, Sapa.
Day 12, Sept 24, Thur. Sapa - Hanoi. We get up early to take pictures of sunrise in Sapa on the top of the Ham Rong Mountain. After breakfast at the hotel, we drive back to Hanoi. Enroute we visit the Red Dzao village of Ta Phin. These people are very shy and reserved; the women are easily identified by their huge red tasseled turbine. Overnight Movenpick Hotel.
Day 13, Sept 25, Fri. We depart Hanoi for Ha Long Bay by private transfer (3 1/2 hours) for an overnight cruise. We meander through the 3000 spectacular limestone outcroppings, cliffs, arches, and coves to photograph the incomparable coastal scenery. We stop to explore an islet that has a series of breathtaking caves and grottoes, and photographing the dramatic stalactite and stalagmite formations makes for impressive pictures. For lunch in Ha Long City, we embark on a traditional junk and enjoy a delicious fresh seafood lunch on board while cruising on the bay. Enjoy the solitude and beauty of the bay, photographing its formations and watching the sun go down from the deck of the boat. Dinner is served onboard. The accommodation tonight is on board the junk boat allowing for a peaceful night's sleep and a memorable morning on the bay.
Day 14, Sept 26, Sat. Ha Long Bay - Hanoi. Enjoy breakfast on board in the still of the morning before cruising the more outer reaches of Bai Tu Long Bay and exploring its numerous caves and channels. We then return to shore and journey back to Hanoi. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight Movenpick Hotel.
Day 15, Sept 27, Sun: This morning is at leisure and then we drive to Noi Bai Airport for our departure home (airport code HAN).
Land cost: $4650. Includes all lodging based on double occupancy, all ground transportation, all meals, entrance fees for included sightseeing, 2 day/1 night package on the Paradise Luxury Vessel, services of an English speaking guide throughout, bottled water, government taxes and service charges, photo instruction, and critiques on demand. Does not include: International airfare from your home to Asia, visa fees (about $120 total for all three countries), drinks with meals, alcohol, travel insurance and expenses of a personal nature.
Single supplement fee if you opt to have your own room: $990.
Airfare within Asia. $311 includes flight from Siem Reap to Luang Prabang, and Luang Prabang to Hanoi (prices subject to change).