Clients’ Travel Experience
Vietnam is a place of such interesting contrasts (and food) that it is difficult for me to say which trip I enjoyed most, our first or our second.
We were two families, 4 adults and 4 teenage children. In our first trip we confined ourselves to the North, which we liked so much that we decided to come back and start from the south, ending up in Hanoi again.
The first trip was just magic. Hanoi was a very easy city to get to know, the food fabulous and the Army Hotel was a quiet escape from the noise and action. The scenery at Halong Bay was magnificent, added to by the excitement of having our own boat and own crew to look after us. Lunching on the prawns and squid as we pulled out from the dock and cruised in between the islands was something to remember.
The train up to Sapa after that was a bit ordinary, but the only way to get there. It’s worth paying a bit more to upgrade to a nicer carriage. A trip first to the Flower Hmong markets was just stunning, the people, the colours, the activity and so far relatively untouched by tourism. And Sapa itself was incredibly beautiful. We stayed in a home stay at one of the little villages further up the valley, experiencing their almost self sufficient lifestyle, and their wonderful cooking.
We left our first trip with some nostalgia so decided, after 18 months, to go back and explore the rest of Vietnam. The 13-15 year old teenagers had become 14 to 17 year olds, more independent and more adamant about what they would and would not do.
So Saigon, with all it’s busy-ness and activity seemed to suit them. As did the Cu Chi tunnels and the experience of firing with an AK47 (3 of them were boys). They even seemed to like the Mekong Home stay (more memorable food, especially the whole fried fish) and wander through a nearby town seeing how spring roll cases are made, how soy sauce is made.
But the highlight for them was staying at the Vin Pearl 5 star hotel at Nha Trang with its huge swimming pool and willingness to serve them cocktails while parents were not looking. The mothers also especially enjoyed being pampered at the beauty salon, another experience not to be forgotten.
The luxury lifestyle was continued at Hoi An at the Vinh Hung resort hotel, where the teenagers seemed to be content to watch their newly acquired dvd’s in their room with occasionally ordering room service (and cocktails by the pool). Parents in the meantime discovered the clothes and shoe shops and the cooking classes where we learnt how to make those delicious spring rolls so hard to get in Australia.
Next stop Tam Coc, lovely scenery but don’t buy the linen, it shrinks when you get it home and wash it. Cuc Phong National Park and Endangered Animal Rescue Centre were lovely but we were getting a bit tired of the travelling by then. Another home stay in Mai Chai would have been another memorable experience except for the bus loads of tourists who descended on it in the evening and left early the next morning.
Last stop for us was the Army Hotel in Hanoi and revisiting familiar haunts, shops, markets and restaurants.
Travelling with Tuan and his company made everything so incredibly easy for us. He would pick us up from the airport, take us to the hotel, make all the transport bookings, take us wherever we want to go and sort out all the problems for us. We felt quite spoiled by his attentions, and when, after the first trip we went to Hong Kong on the way home, it was quite an adjustment to have to make all the arrangements ourselves.