Loved Vietnam, beautiful food, stunning scenery, fascinating history. The trip was hectic, perhaps too hectic at times and does not allow enough time in each place to really soak in the local atmosphere or to explore on your own. Felt like we were on a strict schedule which could not be altered – too 'organised' and too much 'tour guide chat' for my liking.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Despite appalling weather and the cold, Halong Bay was spectacular and the boat we were on was excellent as was the food provided.
Trekking in the hills north of Hanoi was tough but brilliant – the flora was amazing and witnessing the incredible hard work needed to grow rice was quite humbling – I'll never complain at the price in the supermarket ever again!
The mopeds. Sheer entertainment, you never knew what you were going to see next transported on one the thousands on the road – could be dozens of eggs, chickens or even someone with his leg in plaster and crutches!
The food everywhere was terrific and I am definitely converted to this style of cooking – bring on the fish sauce!
Cycling was fun but quite intensive in the Mekong Delta, especially if you're not so young or fit!
- What did you think of your group leader?
Our guide was full of information and history which was good but it was a case of information overload at times. Added to this, being a local (which is good) however, his English was not always understandable which did not help. His instructions about the next day's schedule and arrangements was often lost in translation leaving some members of the group confused as to what was needed or happening.
This all sounds a bit negative but he was a very nice person who was trying to please and show off his country. I feel the culture difference e.g. his and our expectations, was a bit of a barrier.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
- If you don't like package holidays, don't do this trip, too much herding. In 14 days you only get 2 days in the same hotel so make sure you have an easy access suitcase! On the plus side, things are very cheap - food, clothing (get shoes, suits, shirts made to measure in a day or less in Hoi An). We stayed in some great homestays which I found the best accommodation. Some of the hotels were a bit characterless but to be fair you don't get much time in them as most days have a very early start. Fun night on the train to Hue – was like the scene out of Some Like it Hot!
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
By special request, we were taken to a 'snake farm' which turned out to be an appalling zoo. The concept of animal welfare is completely alien here and our guide just did not understand why we were so horrified by what we saw at Ve Tham Quan Trai Ran Dong Tam. Bears in tiny cages without a blade of grass or any form of activity, snakes in concrete boxes again completely bare, otters with minimal water to swim in and monkeys with metal collars round their necks with only a metre or two of chain to allow movement fixed halfway up a tree. Totally depressing and inhumane.
The trip is a whirlwind tour and it certainly gave you a flavour of the country. Would definitely go back but under my own steam so I could spend more time exploring at my own pace.