Instagramable Vietnam part 1 – Quang Phu Cau

Quang Phu Cau – a hidden gem!

If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam and wondering what the hidden gems and photogenic, must-see spots are, look no further. PIN this post, SUBSCRIBE and read on for a series based off my recent 21-day trip traveling through the country.  I’ll be sharing insider tips, recommended photographers, and tons of photo inspo! The mesmerizing incense village called Quang Phu Cau for instance, needs to be on your must-see hidden gems list.  Quang Phu Cau is a village nestled in the heart of the countryside on the outskirts of Hanoi with such rich heritage.  And it promises to provide a unique, culturally immersive experience for those looking for photogenic spots off the touristy track.

YES! This is an incense farm that you’re looking at (not a garden).  (Incense is popular in Vietnam because of their religious practices and the practice of lighting them at their ancestors’ altars). We were there at peak incense production time right before the Lunar new year celebrations making it the perfect time to go.  They say about 50,000 incense sticks are made per day during this time. And this traditional craft is passed on from family to family, artisan to artisan. 70% of this village in fact, is involved in making incense sticks!  When they say it takes a village, I’m pretty sure they were referring to this place!!  There are such intricate steps to the process such as stripping and chopping bamboo bark to sorting, bundling, dyeing and drying; it’s really a fascinating art form


Of course, there are several English speaking tours available for those interested in seeing and learning all the production details. But given I had already read all about it, was limited on time and was mostly interested in getting those coveted Instagram-worthy shots, I opted to arrive early with my photographer ready to capture all the angles (making sure to arrive early also allowed me to shoot before the tour groups got there).  And as you can see, I basically had the whole place to myself.

Book my photographer

So I decided to hire a local photographer who was recommended through the last photographer I worked with in Sapa, Vietnam. (As you can see from these photos it was totally worth it)!  For 3million dong (roughly equivalent to 118$ I got the photographer (and his private car + driver to helpfully pick me up from my hotel (and drop me off), and shoot with his stylist / assistant + the nominal $5 admission for each of us. The stylist brought traditional Vietnamese clothes to shoot with, helped with hair and helped with  translations. I had an entire team to myself for 4-5 hours. What a dream, right? Tiem Anh Nguyen (you can contact him through FB HERE).  I could never afford a package like this in the states. Tell me in the comments how much you would have paid in the states for : a private driver, photographer, 200+ digital images + 30 edited images, a stylist and rented clothes and 5 hours of everyone’s time.

While the venue did have a small selection of rentable Vietnamese clothes (and thankfully, dressing areas on site), I did not have to pay extra for mine or worry about the ones on site fitting. My stylist took my size needs and prepared a suitcase full of Vietnamese dresses shoes and accessories to perfectly suit me! She even brought her hair kit and changed up my hairstyle for one of the shoots!! I was not expecting this!!  And it was so fun to shoot in the authentic Vietnamese clothing and accessories.

I also highly recommend hiring a professional photographer because this is one of these unique spots that you’ll basically have one chance in your lifetime to ever shoot. Moreover, it is really a challenging shoot to get right. The photographer has to be comfortable shooting from the top of ladders, be willing to climb onto the terraced areas and then know how to compose the shot all while directing you from above. Let’s just say, I was thankful I was there with the professional and not my insta-husband!

The angles have to be just perfect. And yes, an amateur can stay for double the time to figure out through trial and error how to shoot from above , utilize the staircases the professional photographers are using, all while trying to shoot without other people in the background. But the Instagram husband or even average social media friend won’t have the experience and skill to properly account for the varying walls of incense, lighting challenges or be able to speak to the farmers in their language to adjust placement of incense etc.  Plus that person’s patience is likely to run out fast given the weather in Vietnam is often blazing hot and not ideal.  

Normally, I’m sweating and busy running back and forth to my tripod or insta husband framing and composing shots and then hoping my tripod doesn’t fall over or praying my husband doesn’t move out of frame and ruin my perfectly pre-composed shot. Being photographer and subject would have been impossible here. You can’t be running back and forth: through the narrow pathways, up the ladders and traversing through the overhead walkways. Besides, the subject really needs to concentrate on getting the pose and his/her angles right while sitting in the hot sun here.

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My photographer seemed to have known everyone there and was even able to arrange for the farmers to be a part of certain overhead pictures. I love how he captured the tops of their Vietnamese hats which made for an interesting graphic against all the floral-like mounds of incense. And despite not knowing English well, he did a great job communicating his vision, new pose ideas and moving me to where he needed me to be -all with a gentle smile. He is quite affordable and great to work with. I highly recommend him!

What To expect:

The great thing about this incense farm is that they readily welcome visitors. You don’t feel like an intrusion into their work day. They seem pretty happy to see you, and will even help move incense around for you, as they continue on with their work day. They even have an entire wall posted with inspirational photos. I always research the hashtags of the places I plan to visit and basically :have screenshotted or saved certain angles, locations and poses I want to remember to find and try. But this wall provided reference photos already.  Note it’s not a large space.  So while the photos may have you believing these incense rows go on forever, they do not and there are trusses, ladders, other unphotogenic areas usually cut out of most photos.  Here is an example of an uncropped photo that shows some of the metal framing around the area.

Overall tips for when you go:

Getting There:

Quang phu cau is a little over an hour away from the main city of Hanoi (in the Ung Hoa district). And while it is accessible by car, motorbike or bus, it is still a challenge for tourists to find their way out there, deal with the notorious Hanoi lawless traffic and navigate their way over then find this specific spot on their own.
The easiest way to reach this picturesque village is by hiring a taxi / photographer package like I did. If you’re more adventurous and comfortable navigating the crazy chaotic streets of Hanoi, then a cheaper option would be to rent a motorbike or car through the trusted Grab app. Travel along National Road 21B then onto Provincial Road 429. You can supposedly easily navigate the detailed route from Hanoi to Quang Phu Cau on Google Maps.  Good luck if you go that route!  Please come back and let me know in the comments how that went for you!

Ticketing and Open Hours:

Avoid rainy days as the incense cannot be displayed in the rain and will be pulled back in.  Expect to pay around $4 USD depending on the exchange rate. Opens 7am-4pm

Avoid the weekend and mid day periods. You don’t want crowds interfering with your picture. And the place is not so big so you’ll need to go in the morning right at opening or at least plan to be finished by 11-12 when the tour guides tend to start rolling in with their groups. This will help you avoid photo bombers.


Bring your own water, and a change of clothes, and have FUN! Enjoy the moment and relish the gorgeous surroundings!

I was so grateful to be able to experience and photograph this amazing place. It really is a photographer’s dream and being immersed in such vibrant color just made me so happy.

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The Latest and Greatest Travel Products You Need But Probably Don’t Already Have

11 of The Best Travel Products You’ll Need To Get in 2024

Traveling to new places is fun but sometimes the getting there is challenging. After traveling to 28 countries and countless U.S. cities with our now 10 year old daughter we’ve learned a thing or two about how to make travel more comfortable and packing more space efficient.  And after trying and testing out all the latest travel gadgets and sometimes useless travel products out there nowadays, I can confidently share with you only the best that have made it past the rugged travels, the test of time and comparison shopping. And I’m not talking about my favorite little candle, scarf or blanket here.  I’m talking about the latest advances, upgrades and inventions that you probably don’t already have! Here are the fab finds that should be on YOUR travel shopping list for 2024.

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1).  Rydir wraps 

Don’t you hate when you’re taking a turn with your rolling suitcase and the bag you had on top falls over spilling all its contents?  To prevent this, and to prevent the clumsiness of having to carry all the extra things you want to carry onto your plane (but that won’t fit into your carryon suitcase), you might think buying that clip, the cup holder, or baggage straps are a good idea.  But those only specialize in holding one thing.  The Rydir wrap will hold it ALL and more.  travel hacks, travel products, best travel productsIt holds weirdly shaped items like the Vietnamese cone-shaped hat I bought while traveling Vietnam (pictured above for instance).  And it will keep your hands free of having to carry the blanket,  the neck pillow, and the water bottle at the airport.  It’s such a simple invention with its stretchy tube top-like design. But it brilliantly holds so much while also packing away into a weightless, bundle when you don’t need it.  AND did you realize, it doubles as cover for your precious designer bags?  I always found it so cringy that you end up having to stowe away your bag under the seat.  This will protect your purse.  Simply wash the Rydir afterwards.  

2).  Universal power adaptor

Back in the day, you might have had to purchase and collect separate adaptors based on whatever country you were planning to visit.  No need to stock a full suite of power adaptors anymore.  Buy this all-in-one and just store it in your suitcase and you’ll be ready to safely charge up at every destination.  Every frequent flier needs this!  Here is the best-selling, highest rated one that covers more than 200 countries.  It’s on sale now here. 

3).  Upgraded packing cubes 

Upgrade your old packing cubes to the latest compression packing cubes with hanging hooks and you’ll never look back!  Pack more in with the zipper compression and layering system. Then at the hotel, forget individually transfer items into the closet or cabinets.  Just pull this out and hang.  Instantly, you’re unpacked AND organized. You no longer have to throw around all the contents of your luggage to find what you were looking for!  It makes repacking so quick and mindless too. travel hacks, packing cubes, best packing cubes, pink packing cubes, compression packing cubes

IDEA!  Add 1head-to-toe fully styled outfit for each tier.  Or use each layer to easily organize each family member’s beach/swim items….or maybe it’s the underwear/sock drawer for each person.  Tell me in the comments how you’d you use this convenient system.  It’s 20% off right now, so add to cart ASAP here!

4).  Amazon FireTV stick 4k Max streaming

My husband showed me the joys of this remote and magical USB stick so I have to give him credit for this fab find.  You know how when you travel, you have to either sift through all the shows in another language, or if you’re in your country, you miss getting to skip through all the commercials and having access to your favorite streaming services?  No need to splurge on expensive on-demand movies. No need to pine over your missed favorite shows. This small USB-powered device gives you access to all your favorite pre-recorded shows and movies wherever you are in the world. It’s currently on sale here.

5).  Digital luggage scale

Overweight baggage fees are bound to happen when you stuff your baggage, shop at your new destination and then have no way to weigh your check in bags. Save yourself the overage fees at the airport and the embarrassment of having to unload your suitcase in front of everyone by buying this cheap, portable luggage scale. Just $6.99 hacks, travel must haves, weigh our luggageYou’ll use this every trip!

6).  Noise cancellation headphones and earplugs

No matter whether it’s a crowded, train or bus, a crying baby on a plane or too thin hotel room walls, there will be a time when you simply want to drown the noise out. Concentrate, sleep and rest better with these noise cancelling headphones which of course will double as your personal speakers for that music, podcast or ebook you are into.  BONUS!  You can tune out the kids when at home too! best travel hacks, best travel products These pretty blue ones are currently on sale with amazing reviews and are on my list!

7).  Best neck pillow

Do you still have the standard, U-shaped neck pillow?  Then you know the frustration of it not offering enough support to keep your head neck and chin in place and/or the discomfort of the back of the neck being so full that you end up having your head pushed forward because of the position of the airplane seat.  Time for an upgrade!  This Bcozzy is a total game changer for stability, versatility, and comfort.  I attribute my full night’s sleep to it in fact during my last international trip!  Trust me and the almost 29,000 fans who’ve reviewed it positively!  It’s also machine washable, and it comes in variety of sizes and colors too. I’m getting an extra one in a kids’ size cuz it’s perfect for car rides too! Shop here. TRAVEL HACKS, TRAVEL PRODUCTS, AIRPLANE PILLOW

8).  Hanging amenity case

Hotel counter space is notoriously small especially when you’re traveling with others.  Avoid having to fight for space on the counter to lay your toiletries down with the latest hanging models.  Hold all your hair, beauty and skincare needs without taking up any valuable space.  You can easily hang it from the bathroom mirror or any door and all the little compartments will make getting ready so much easier.  Here is a chic one at an affordable price with clear lining so you can easily spot what you need.  What color would you pick?   Beige, black, pink, mauve, grey or this blue (my favorite)?travel hacks, makeup organizer, amenity case, chic amenity case, toiletry organizer

9).  Best portable charger + electronic organizer

The organizer is a must with all the cords, chargers and adapters a family needs these days.  Never get all your cords and chargers tangled again and never fumble around trying to find your airpods at the bottom of your bag.  It is waterproof in case of spills too.  Pick your favorite color here. organizers, cord organizer, travel tips

10).  Just 1 cordless, rechargeable toothbrush for the whole family

No need to bring the toothbrush charging attachment anymore, and no need to pack separate toothbrushes for everyone, just different heads.  Pack one of these battery operated toothbrushes that come with its own cover instead and one charge will last 90 days. It’s on sale and comes in a variety of colors here. trAVEL HACKS, MUST BUY TRAVEL ITEMS, BEST TRAVEL PRODUCTS, CORDLESS TOOTHBRUSH

11).  Collapsible water bottle

Leakproof, BPA free, and saves room.  Never have to waste your money on single-use plastics at the airport or while traveling again.  Hurry and catch the 33% off sale going on now HERE.

Would you like a part 2 for best travel items for road trips?  Did I miss any of your favorite travel items for international trips here or did you see anything in this list hat you’ll be adding to cart? If so, I’d love to have you let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading and as always, you can follow me for daily adventures and more tips and inspiration on Instagram where I post daily in stories.  @stylishlystella

To read more travel tips, click here. 

Some items in this post were gifted to us by brands for us to review and consider for this post.  Many did not make the cut..  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.







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