Thanks to an increase in films and documentaries shot in Vietnam over the past few years, many locations will benefit from increased attention from production companies. But there is still plenty for location scouts to discover, and in this article, Eilis Williams and Tran Thuy Hai highlight five lesser-known locations that should also be on the radar.
The mysterious splendor of Halong Bay, offering myriad beautiful views of limestone formations rising out of the East Sea, has entranced film and TV audiences for many years. The karsts of Ninh Binh – sometimes referred to as “Halong Bay on land” – and the caves of Quang Binh will also be stepping into the spotlight and featured in Hollywood blockbusters and documentaries over the next few years. But what about the rest of the country? Here we highlight five more locations that shouldn’t go unnoticed by location scouts, production companies, and local fixers.
1. Mekong Delta
The sprawling waterways around the mouth of the Mekong river in southern Vietnam cover 15,000 square miles. This vast water network could be an ideal setting for period dramas or epic romances but right now the area has its own story to tell. The Mekong Delta is facing environmental issues as the river beds have become drier in recent years. There is less fresh water mingling with the salt water; this is causing serious problems for fishing and the people whose livelihoods depend on it. Trung Trinh, founder of Local Fixer Vietnam, has filmed with Sue Perkins and Gordon Ramsay in this region and describes it as perfect for documentary makers because its own story is sensational.
“TV needs drama and a great location for filming: there is a lot of drama in the Mekong Delta at the moment so it’s a very interesting place to film.”
2. Ha Giang Province
The most northerly province in Vietnam comprises otherworldly mountains with rice paddies and winding roads clinging to the sides. If you are looking for isolated beauty then this is the place. Critically acclaimed Chuyen cua Pao was filmed in a remote village in Ha Giang in 2006. Be aware that filming in outlying locations presents logistical challenges but with sufficient time, a suitable budget, and a capable local fixer the rewards of filming here can far outweigh the inconveniences. Bien Nguyen, photographer for Dulichable, explains that Ha Giang is worth considering because of the variety it offers.
“In a small area you have rocky mountains, lush jungles, vast valleys, and vibrant rice paddies. There are also distinct seasons in Ha Giang so it looks different at different times of the year: in spring the landscape is dotted with flowers and in winter the mountains are engulfed in fog. It’s a spectacular setting for photographers and filmmakers alike.”
3. Ban Gioc Falls, Cao Bang Province
While you’re in the north, why not consider the magnificent Ban Gioc Falls. This spectacular waterfall straddles the northern border where Vietnam meets China, though it wouldn’t look out of place on an alien planet or in a fantasy dreamland. Nicholas Simon, a film producer at Indochina Productions who has been working in Vietnam since 1995, said this is one spot he’s been eyeing for a while.
“I haven’t filmed there but scouted it many times. One main reason not to [shoot in Cao Bang Province] has been logistics but there is now a large hotel one hour from the falls, which wasn’t there when we scouted, so it could work now.”
4. Dien Bien Phu Province
In 1954, the French army was defeated at Dien Bien Phu and the city’s historical narrative is rich for documentary and feature filmmakers alike. Documentary director and cameraman Vincent Baumont said many people living here are happy to share their moving and important stories.
“The area around is very nice and the weather is more seasonable because it’s not as humid as other places. You have a city that’s not too big and has great contact with history because of 1954, as well as beautiful nature all around.”
5. Danang and Hoi An, Quang Nam Province
These adjoining cities offer the best of all worlds to visitors and film crews. The modern architecture and bright lights of Danang is juxtaposed with the ancient streets and twinkling lanterns of Hoi An. It tops Trung’s list of filming locations.
“[This is] the best location for filming – Hoi An and Danang together have nice landscapes, the big city, the old town, a beach and even great food in this region, which is the perfect mix. Of course it depends on the story, but for me it has everything.”
This content is also available in: Vietnamese