Photo Essay: Discovering Vietnam through Smiles

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Trupti Devdas Nayak

Traveler . Writer . Photographer . Artist . I write about outdoor adventures at and my travels at
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In Vietnam, for every smile you give, you will receive two in return. From the friendly smiling faces of street food vendors calling out their wares from every sidewalk in the city to locals eating a bowl of steaming pho or indulging in fresh fruit with coconut milk for dessert, genuine smiles light up everybody’s faces. Smiles are the default expression on statues in pagodas and temples, from Confucius to Cham sculptures. Here are some slices of life in Vietnam, as seen through the beautiful smiles of the Vietnamese people.

Laughing Buddha Smile

The Laughing Buddha at the Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda near Mỹ Tho in the Mekong Delta. It is impossible to not feel joyful after seeing this Buddha.

Corn On The Cob in Vietnam

A vendor selling freshly roasted corn on the cob on a street sidewalk in Hội An Old Town. She was fanning the hot coals to cook the corn as I crossed the street. She saw me looking at the corn and beamed at me before asking if I wanted to try some.

Smiling Children in Mekong Delta

Children waiting for their lunch (being prepared by their mothers) in the Mekong Delta. Walking through several villages that make up the Mekong Delta, I passed a house where two women (I presume they are the children’s mothers) were preparing food. It was lunch time and these children were waiting for their meal. When they saw me walk by, they waved and smiled, with pure joy.

Cham Ruins My Son Vietnam

A beautiful smile adorns the face of a handsome man carved into the pillars of the Cham temples at Mỹ Son. The Champa people ruled Central Vietnam from c200AD to c1700AD. The temple complex at Mỹ Son is one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and a famous heritage site in Vietnam. Mỹ Son in Vietnam is considered to be of the same historical importance as temple complexes in Southeast Asia, like Borobudur in Indonesia, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar and Ayutthaya in Thailand.

Canoe Mekong Delta in Boat Vietnam

Experiencing the lush Mekong Delta by boat is a must-do experience in Vietnam, especially when the myriad chocolate-brown rivers and canals are lit up by sunshine and brilliant smiles like this one.

Temple Of Literature Teacher School children

A smiling school teacher looks on proudly as her students come out of the main entrance of the prestigious and historic Temple of Literature in Hanoi. The exuberant children kept coming up to us to practice their “Hello” and “Goodbye” with pure glee.

Sidewalk Fruit Salad With Locals Vietnam

Smiles like these greet you when walking down the streets of Vietnam, whether it is in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or Hanoi. Locals can be found enjoying a dinner of pho or banh mi or indulging in dessert like fresh fruit salad with coconut milk and shaved ice. After asking this young lady if the fruit salad she was having was good, we ended up eating at the same place. Needless to say, the bowl overflowing with jackfruit, mango, pear, pineapple, guava, jelly, tapioca and coconut milk with shaved ice turned out to be deliciously refreshing on a warm Hanoi night.

Mekong Boat River Crossing Vietnam

Boats are the main mode of transport in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where hundreds of rivers, canals and swamps criss-cross across southern Vietnam, creating lush fields to grow rice and fruits while also providing for an endless supply of seafood. Boats like these are the main way to get around between islands in the Mekong. Even while rowing, the lady had a smile on her face as her boat crosses the river.

Traditional Singers Mekong Delta

Dressed in the traditional Vietnamese clothing called the Ao Dai, these beautiful Vietnamese women sang some of their traditional songs for us when we visited their village in the Mekong Delta.

Market Vendors Hanoi

Walking the streets of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), market vendors greet visitors with big smiles, asking if we would like to sample some of their wares or perhaps buy some fresh fruit, meat, vegetables, snacks … there is always an endless variety of choices. And bargaining is welcome!

Guide Mekong Day Trip

Our guide wears a traditional Vietnamese bamboo hat as he poses with a friend in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) before we get onto our boat to visit the islands in the Mekong Delta.

Donut Vendor Hoi An Vietnam

A street food vendor in Hội An smiles as he showcases his wares, from delicious fried donuts to shrimp pancakes and more. So much of life in Vietnam can be experienced just by walking down a street and stopping at a food vendor’s cart. Or asking a local for their favorite place to eat that authentic Vietnamese dish you’re seeking. And it always starts with just a smile.

Have you been to Vietnam? What was your favorite experience? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Exploring!

~ Trupti

4 thoughts on “Photo Essay: Discovering Vietnam through Smiles

  1. Turpti maam, very pleased to see this website. thanks for pics of Vietnam. I liked it.
    It seems you are Indian and from Maharashtra/Karnataka/Goa. please provide more details . I may publish an article on your adventures in some Marathi language publications. I am a freelance journalist from Mumbai.
    thanks & best wishes for the Hindu New Year which startrs from tomorrow i.e. 8th April Gudhi Padva or Ughadi or Varsh Pratipadaa.

    1. Hello Ravindra Sir, great to hear from you. Yes, I am from Bangalore, India and I speak Konkani. I am delighted to hear that you are a freelance journalist in Mumbai. I have relatives in Mumbai and Goa as well. Apologies for my late reply, I had not checked my inbox for sometime and I’m happy to see your message and hope you receive this reply in time. Please let me know if you have any specific interview questions to publish an article for the magazines you write for. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment here and I wish you and your family a very happy and prosperous 2016 ahead!

  2. Beautiful pictures. Loved the descriptions too. Thank you 🙂

    I also visited Vietnam and just published a photo essay. If you love Vietnam, do visit my blog and have a look. Let me know if you like the photos and if something reminded you of your experience there.


    1. Thank you for stopping by Priyanka! I’m so glad to hear you liked the post and photos. I just visited your blog and read through your post. Great descriptions and photos on your blog too! Loved the way you’ve captured the colors, energy and sights of Vietnam in your photos and words. I wrote a Food Guide for Vietnam for National Geographic Traveller India, wanted to share it here so you can check it out – I’m browsing through your blog and am amazed by the diverse topics you’ve covered in your posts, very interesting to read – keep it going! 🙂

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