Vietnam in Photos: Instagramming Saigon

hotel de ville saigon

I’m still running around Vietnam taking photos with my micro 4/3ds camera [1] but I find myself frequently relying on my iPhone – an older 3GS, so the camera leaves quite a bit to be desired. But as the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have on you. And these days, Instagram and sister applications like Hipstamatic have been turning up not just in our newsfeeds on Facebook, but also in the news.

Photojournalism features in Foreign Policy, NYT Lens Blog , Time Magazine and others have moved these photo tools into a different sphere of public consciousness, away from the selfie. Of course there are detractors as well as new angles on ethical quagmires. But coupled with the Internet, mobile photography is hard to ignore, and I know I’ve enjoyed my recent experimentation with it as I’ve traveled.

[1] More on my camera and lenses used via the world travel resources page.

 Vietnam in photos: Instagramming Saigon

All of the above background to say: I have taken many, many pictures during my months here, a good amount of them with my clunky iPhone. While much more foresight goes into the photographs I use in my general photoessay posts, there is something to be said for the off-the-cuff captures here. They show not only my daily life in Saigon but also the small snippets of others’ lives too. Taken together, by no means a full story but each a moment in time worth stopping all the same.

In the spirit of my prior Instagram roundups of Iceland and Portugal, I will be posting Instagram roundups of both Saigon and Hanoieach. In terms of process, I take the photo with my iPhone camera and then use Camera+ to edit before uploading to Instagram. Collages are made using Diptic. Whenever possible, I stabilise the camera against a wall or post as it really does poorly to do so on its own.

I know, I know – I could break up this giant photoessay into separate posts but you know me: I’m all for longer, less frequent posts in lieu of part 1, 2 and 3 versions.

Hope you enjoy these 40+ photos! For realtime versions, I’m also legalnomads on Instagram.


Vietnam in Photos Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral in a sea of cottonball clouds.
Vietnam in Photos Post Office Saigon
Post office ceiling in the heart of District 1.
Vietnam in Photos Frangipani
A splash of colour outside the Vincom Center.
Vietnam in Photos coffee
One of many work days at L’Usine in Saigon.
Vietnam in Photos birds
Minimalist bird funsies.
Vietnam mangosteens
Mangosteens are one of my favourite fruits, but I’ve never seen them sold this way elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Back of the bike fruit delivery!
bun mam vietnam
Bun mam, a sour fermented fish soup with all sorts of goodies (shrimp, roast pork, eggplant and more).
Tanh Dinh market Vietnam
Tanh Dinh market ceiling. It pays to look up.
Tanh Dinh church in District 3
The pinkest church that ever was.
bun xeo
Banh xeo dinner, always satisfying.
L'usine Le Loi
Christmas plants in December at L’Usine Le Loi cafe.
tree vietnam
One of my favourite trees in the city, one of many that loom over Saigon’s streets.
urban chicken vietnam
I will do a separate post, I suspect, about my many urban chicken spotting occasions in town. But here’s one to tide you over.
Dave Dean, James Clark and Travelfish's Stu McDonald
Meeting up with old friends in Saigon: What’s Dave Doing‘s Dave Dean, Nomadic Notes‘ James Clark and Travelfish‘s Stuart McDonald
Com tam op la Vietnam
This is what we ate: pork and rice, fried egg and pickled vegetables.
sunset saigon
A crazy sunset over Saigon.
Oricafe, a new little cafe with great, strong coffee and a fun decorative touch.
bun rieu vietnam
Bun rieu soup from the side of the street. Fabulous.
Breakfast nem at a market near Pham Ngu Lao
Breakfast nem at a market near Pham Ngu Lao
Cat cafe Vietnam
One of my favourites from the cat cafe in Saigon. So expressive!
Goi cuon
Goi cuon, fresh salad rolls with herbs, lettuce, shrimp and more. Light and delicious.
Chicken art
Chicken meme courtesy of Simon from Never Ending Voyage, who took it upon himself to add some text to my chicken photo.
Fish vietnam
Fish out of water.
sticky rice vietnam
Xoi, sticky rice, served with pork sausage, curled fried garlic and more for breakfast on the street.
Sunset Vietnam
A fiery sunset over Saigon.
A valentine’s day goodbye dinner for my friend Hung.
Alley way clothesline hcmc
Alley way clothesline.
Vietnam dong
The Dong jokes continue! This was a dong flower I made for my landlady before paying my rent.
vietnam photos train tracks
Train tracks and power lines, District 3.
cat cafe vietnam
Falling for a small kitten at the Saigon cat cafe.
Vietnam in photos fruit
Fruit-filled breakfast at a friend’s apartment. We were 10 people and we pretty much polished off this full spread.
Vietnam in photos banh chung
Learning how to make Banh Chung and Banh Tet during the holidays, with my landlady’s family.
Vietnam in photos urban decay
Urban decay from the roof of my place. Unfortunately it turned out quite blurry, but this is essentially my backyard in Saigon!
Vietnam in Photos Street
I crawled down to pavement level to take this, a shot of flowers against pavement. Passerbys were very confused but I like the result!
Vietnam in Photos flower
Lotus flower at Tanh Dinh market, District 3.
Vietnam in Photos Tree
Tree branch camouflage.
Vietnam in Photos Bun Thit Nuong
Breakfast: bun thit nuong, cha gio and a big smile.
Vietnam in Photos buildings
Buildings off of Hoang Sa, in District 1.
Vietnam in Photos District 1
Alleyway off of Hoang Sa, in District 1.
Vietnam in Photos hotel de ville
The old Hotel de Ville lit up at night.
Vietnam in Photos Tet
Just before Tet, the city started putting up Vietnam flags on buildings, trees and signposts, a sea of red and yellow.
Vietnam in Photos Tet
Tet decorations in my neighbourhood.
Vietnam in Photos alleys
Spending my non-working hours in the rabbit hole of alleyways that spiderweb across the city.
Vietnam in Photos market
Early morning market exploration.
Vietnam in Photos Pho
Pho sign replacement just before Tet. I’ve eaten here so many times that it seemed fitting to end my post with it.

37 thoughts on “Vietnam in Photos: Instagramming Saigon”

  1. Beautiful photos! To be honest I’m not really don’t have the desire to visit Vietnam, but your photos make me want to pack my bags and see it for myself.

    1. Ha, thanks Sheila! I think any place can be worth visiting if you stay long enough to scratch around under the surface. Saigon in a day or even a week is tough; it’s really the day-to-day that makes the city special, so I doubt I’d have been so enamoured if I only stayed here a short while. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed.

  2. Hi Jodi,

    Wow! Those are some great shots! Did you take all of them using only the 3GS? I still have a lot to learn when it comes to taking photos with my smartphone. As always, enjoyed reading your posts. Thanks!

    Ba Nguyen

    1. Glad you liked the post. Most of them are with the 3GS. The one of me holding the cat is my friend Hung’s iPhone5 and the one of the hotel de ville at night is also not the 3GS (it takes terrible night photos).

  3. I loved exploring all the alleys of Vietnam. It’s so easy to get lost, and then be found again! I ‘get’ that photographers hate all the instagraming, snapseeding, and iPhoning that goes on but I LOVE that we can all take amazing and inspiring photos to share. There will always be room for ‘art’ – this just takes the holiday slideshow to a new level. Great work Jodi!

    1. I’ve had a reader meetup once – surprised to see so many here. But it’s always great fun to share some soup and learn about my readers and what they are doing. Perhaps next time! Safe travels!

  4. Your photos are always the highlight of my Instagram feed! Loved seeing them all together. Great seeing L’Usine too, I stumbled across it last month and loved it :)

  5. Great post, Jodi! Amazing how you can take awesome photos using an iPhone 3GS! Just followed you on Instagram. I especially love the shots with kittens and food. :)

    About to start my backpacking trip in SE Asia in 2 week’s time. First stop: Hanoi then Saigon. Would be nice to meet you.

  6. This collection really brings the city to life. I teach ESL in California and have many Vietnamese students (at least 50% of the students are from there), and many are from Saigon. They clearly love their city and speak about it with nostalgia. I will share this post with them!

  7. Love these photos, Jodi! The pink church is awesome. And the buildings have so much character. Mike and I want to go check out Vietnam sometime this year… What’s the best time to go, do you know?

    1. Depends on where you are headed. Rains start in the south around May, and January is quite cold in Hanoi, but it’s a long country vertically so seasons differ from North to South. Safe trip!

  8. I love reading travel writers’ impressions and reflections on Instagram; Cheri Lucas’ recent post on “How Instagram Ruined Me” especially pops to mind. These are beautiful, evocative, vivid photos and they make me crave that egg coffee and the colorful life by which it is surrounded.

  9. I think you’ve persuaded me even more to visit Vietnam now – looks epic!

    Some great iPhoneography too – I love shooting with my iPhone 5 (the camera is now my preferred over my 7D!) – it’s got so many advantages! I did a degree in documentary photography and it’s perfect for that kind of shooting!

    Have you checked out the OlloClip attachment too? Fish Eye, wide ngle and macro. Makes it even more fun to shoot with :P

  10. Wow, what a great photographer you are! Very nice array of pictures. We haven’t been to Vietnam yet and are very much looking forward to going. The pics here make it that much more inviting.
    Also, we love mangosteens too – so incredibly sweet.
    Thanks for taking us on a photo journey of Vietnam. :)

  11. These are beautiful – looks like a fascinating place! I’m always really impressed with the quality photos that these little devices can capture…

  12. Wow that’s with an IPhone 3? Impressive! Sometimes I get mad at myself for not having the energy to lug around my SLR and relying on my phone, but Instagram makes it acceptable!

  13. What I like about Instagram pictures is that they look so raw. Ther is nothing fake or photoshopped about them. Just like real life. I am hoping to get an iPhone next months, so am looking forward to start using Instagram as well.

  14. Jodi, these are stunning photographs! I think i am falling in love with you. You do have an eye for beauty. I had no plans to visit Vietnam anytime in the future, but looking at the place come alive through your pics, I would really have to rethink my plans. Keep sharing!

  15. Wow! I’m seriously considering a move to Vietnam at the end of the summer and your photos and posts related are simply glorious! I’ve just stumbled upon your blog and I just love it. Thank you for sharing your photos and words.

  16. You’re kidding me! your smartphone shots are marvelous, well done Jodi. I love your smartphone stability ,thanks. I need to get in the loop here as I am far left behind with my iPhone being stolen upon travels. I am certainly going to get Instagram and edit on Camera+ the day I get a hold of a new smart phone, cheers for sharing

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