I have just returned back from our two-week ‘Inside Vietnam’ tour and I have to say I had the most fantastic time. This was my first time to Vietnam (and Asia) so when I was told I would be joining this tour I was very excited. When I think back over it now, it was amazing how much I saw and did in two weeks – I really felt this tour gave me a great insight into this country and its people.
The tour started in Hanoi (in the north) and then visited Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, the Mekong Delta, with the last stop at Ho Chi Minh City (Old Saigon, south Vietnam). Similar to the Top Gear Vietnam special a few years back, this tour included pretty much the same route and stop points, but in reverse order. Each city we visited along the way was completely diverse yet equally fascinating. I must admit two things did surprise me; the first was re-learning to cross the road while watching mopeds drive around me – it was always an amusing experience. The second was how westernised Ho Chi Minh City was with its range of hotels and designer shops.
What was great about this trip for me was that it gave the perfect balance of seeing the cities and the countryside whilst learning about the history and culture. One of my highlights (one of many), was an afternoon my group spent in a countryside village outside of Hue. We strolled along quiet footpaths, waving back and saying hello to the locals as we passed by their homes. It was a vastly different experience to the “organised chaos” of Hanoi, where its streets (and footpaths) were filled with motorbikes! After a little break sitting and admiring the views from Thanh Toan Bridge, we made our way to a large wooden building. At its entrance we were greeted by a 79 year old lady who demonstrated the process of rice production to our group. To watch this elderly lady act out elements of this labour-intensive process with such energy and enthusiasm, using the traditional handmade wooden tools, was completely remarkable. She also sang away to us, as the locals would do while working, which made us all smile and laugh. She was such a loveable character, and I definitely came away thinking I will never moan about ‘back-breaking’ work again!
On the subject of rice … of course the food was another major highlight. As a group we got to try so many different things and learn how to cook a few of the specialities too! Our Tour Leader Tho (aka Theo), recommended some great authentic restaurants so that each evening we got the chance to try something new … along with some good local beers! Some restaurant menus included 30+ pages of freshly cooked food …so it was nice to have a few set menus to enjoy the recommended dishes.
Vietnam far exceeded my expectations - a myriad of experiences, lovely locals, great travelling companions, and a fantastic and knowledgeable Tour Leader, I came away not wanting to leave.
View the full tour details here >>