Vietnam is a true up-and-coming destination that is really making a great name for itself! An authentic culture, relaxing way of life, unforgettable scenery and a fascinating history are a few of the countless reasons to visit this country in Southeast Asia. We caught up with Ryan, a Gate 1 Travel employee who recently traveled on the 12 Day Classic Vietnam tour, and got the inside scoop on his trip. Ryan tells us his highlights of the trip, some must see spots and what to pack if you are planning to go to Vietnam yourself.
Why did you choose this trip and what had you heard about these places that made you decide on it? I chose Vietnam, as I have always wanted to experience the other side of the world, specifically Southeast Asia. My dad served in the Army in the Vietnam War, and thought it would be cool to visit the same destination, obviously for very different reasons though of course.
Vietnam is becoming a very popular international travel destination, how was that reflected in your trip? Vietnam is a beautiful country and culturally diverse. Many of the locations we visited catered to tourists. We witnessed many other touring groups throughout the country side.
What were some of the highlights of your trip? The biggest highlight for me was Hoi An, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with lots of history. It was by far the easiest to get around (the cities were so packed with traffic), and just had a great personality about it. It was also very close to the Eastern Sea (South China Sea), with great beachfront venues and gorgeous scenery! Halong Bay was fantastic as well! The huge limestone rock formations jutting out of the water were a spectacular sight. The cities of Saigon, Hanoi and Hue, although very congested, had so much to offer. There were dining venues along every street, shopping and nightlife as well. Having lunch prepared at a Buddhist Monastery by Buddhist nuns was also a highlight. It was such a serene location and wonderfully cultural experience! Hanoi is considered the most Asian city, it had lots of culture. Also, close to a hotel where guests stay at, is a lake that people can walk around. It’s full of people doing yoga and meditation. It’s very peaceful. I’m also an avid craft beer fan, and both Saigon and Hanoi have a couple of new craft breweries that are not to be missed!
What was your favorite meal or what food did you have that you really enjoyed or felt was authentic? The meal prepared by the Buddhist nuns was definitely the most authentic to me. I’m not a particular fan of many vegetables, but all the meals I had there were quite tasty! Pho is the local dish and not to be missed, as well.
How was the shopping and did you visit anywhere specifically great for shopping? I am not a big shopper, but there were plenty of areas to shop, all over the country. The cities obviously had many small shops and vendors, along with big malls. There were markets that sold arrangements of local crafts, and knock-off designer ware.
What travel tips would you give to someone preparing to go on this trip? Prepare for a very long journey to get there and back. If possible, book Business class for a more comfortable ride. If that’s not possible, bring a couple of good books, movies, and ZZZquil! Also, prepare for the heat. Bring comfortable clothing and walking shoes and a hat for this trip. Sunscreen is your friend…apply liberally and often!
How did you prepare for this trip? I packed accordingly with the hot weather. Lots of shorts, sandals, loose t-shirts and a hat.
Would you go back? I would definitely go back! I would surely stay in Hoi An longer, and go to Da Nang, where there are many beach resorts being built.
How was your tour manager and what were they like? In what ways did they affect your trip? Our tour manager Tom was from Hanoi. He was very knowledgeable (a former teacher), and conducted all the tours himself. He was very informative and kept us entertained on the longer bus rides. He gave great perspectives from the Vietnamese perspective on everything from ancient history to modern. And of course, the Vietnam War.
What did you feel was the overall theme of your trip? Culture, history and culinary exploration.
How did being on an escorted tour affect your trip? It was a great experience, as there were many things, if not all, that I would have missed if I were to try and book this trip on my own.
Would you recommend this trip to family/friends? Definitely! It was a great insight on life in Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese are very friendly, accommodating, and eager to share their country.