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A Photographer’s Journey Through Vietnam

AARON JOEL SANTOS has spent years living in and traveling across the diverse landscapes of Vietnam. Here, we peer into the country through his lens.

Published on Feb 28, 2019


Long and skinny Vietnam is only 50 kilometers wide at its narrowest point, but stretches 1,650 kilometers top to bottom. Over years spent chronicling the country, photographer Aaron Joel Santos has voyaged from hill country up by the Chinese border to its southern tropical islands, taking  in the political, royal and financial capitals; colorful visits with some of the 54 officially recognized ethnic groups; enduring and evolving traditions; and all that coastline.


Sapa, in northwestern Vietnam.

^ Verdant rice terraces are a signature of Sapa, in northwestern Vietnam. Once a French hill station, it is now a popular trekking base.


A bride in Saigon.

^ A bride on her wedding day in Saigon wears a formal headband khan dong, and a  brocade jacket over her traditional ao dai—which evolved from a courtier's uniform in the mid-1700s to common fashion in the 1920s.


A fisherman in Yen Bai.

^ A fisherman in Yen Bai province in northern Vietnam. An agricultural center in the Red River Delta, the area was the site of the Yen Bai uprising of 1930, a key munity by Tonkinese Riflemen against their French officers.


Bac Ha, in the north.

^ Bac Ha, in the north, is the capital of the region of the Flower Hmong, one of the country's 54 official minorities.


Bai Tu long

^ A late afternoon song aboard a traditional junk in Bai Tu Long, a quieter section of the karst- and tourist-filled Halong Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin.



^ A well-decorated general shows his lighter side during celebrations for the 1,000-year anniversary of Hanoi.


Son la province

^ Son la province, home of this washed out road, is a practically visitor-free region that shares its southern border with Laos.


Bun bo Hue

^ Bun bo Hue, a beef- and-noodle soup specialty of the former central capital, served at the nearby Banyan Tree Lang Co.


laughing yoga

^ Laughing yoga is a popular way to welcome the morning beneath Ly Thai To statue on Hoam Kiem lake in downtown Hanoi.



^ On the move in Dalat, a south-central highlands city that was a cool-weather retreat for French colonials. At 1,500 meters above sea level, Dalat is, to this day, known for its flowers, wineries, waterfalls, gondolas and rolling green links—the Dalat Palace Golf Club, Vietnam’s oldest, was established
in 1922.


Nha Trang

^ Nha Trang, a city along the south-central coast, is modernizing and drawing more tourists, but life for women such as this seaweed farmer in her traditional basket boat remains old-school.


Tra Su Sanctuary

^ A scenic stroll through the forests of the Tra Su Sanctuary in Chau Doc, in the Mekong Delta.


Vietnamese spring rolls

^ Vietnamese spring rolls come in three versions on a banana leaf at La Veranda Phu Quoc, a French colonial–style beach resort.


con dao

^ Looking out over the peaceful mountainscape of Con Dao, you'd never know the island was for generations the home of a notorious prison.


Small fishing boats make their way out to sea from con dao

^ Small fishing boats make their way out to sea from Con Dao, which is tucked off the southeastern coast.


Phu Quoc Island

^ The only part of Vietnam in the gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc Island boasts crystal waters, a booming resort scene, highly prized native fish sauce, and the country's best sunsets.



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A Photographer's Journey Through Vietnam.
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