Dear Luong and Friends,
I’m attaching the questionnaire with my comments. I’ve emailed our friend Anh Co, but have not gotten a reply. I hope all is well with him. Thanks for everything. Jane
- Guide (s):
Mr. Luong (Guide in the North): Excellent! I don’t believe we could have had a more even-tempered, sweet-natured, friendly or kind tour guide. His level of service and dedication to seeing that our group felt at ease and special (especially on birthdays!) made our time in Vietnam wonderful and educational. Mr. Luong is knowledgeable, hard-working, fun, kind, and dedicated. What more could we ask for?
Mr. Co (Guide in the Centre): Fabulous! We were so lucky to have had Anh Co as one of our local guides. Not only did he compliment Mr. Luong’s style with us, but he proved to a bunch of teachers that he too was all about learning and teaching. His “Story Time” and love of American idioms enriched us all, and his deep feelings about Vietnam and his countrymen showed us the heart of kindness and the difficulties many have living in the present, looking to the future, as they struggle with the past. His range of knowledge was incredible, and I particularly appreciated that he interviewed people along the way for us, since we could not do that ourselves, giving us the benefit of many opinions and voices beyond his own. I loved the guy.
Mr. Tung (Guide in the South): Excellent! The guy was fabulous with remembering dates and details of history. Mr. Tung has this wonderful edge to him, a relaxed and easy way of guiding us through the South and getting us from one venue to the next. Although he seemed reserved, a few good questions led him to share with us far beyond the wheres and whens of guidebooks. He taught us, led us, and earned our respect and affection.
Mr. Sovan (Guide in Siem Reap): Excellent! From our arrival in Siem Reap, Mr. Sovan gave us wonderful information about the temples and history of Cambodia, ancient and modern. He made those hot hot days look cool and started us early enough that we didn’t get caught in the worst heat of the day. His easy smile and willingness to share helped us understand not only what was but what is in Cambodia, even sharing a bit about his family’s struggle during the Pol Pot era. I very much enjoyed knowing him and learning from him. His English pronunciation needs a little work, but he was fine once we got an ear for his accent.
Sofitel Plaza Hotel (In Hanoi) A beautiful and helpful hotel. Everyone was comfortable and ready for our time in Vietnam, feeling we were just lucky dogs to stay in such a lovely hotel on that lovely lake.
Imperial Hotel (in Hue) My favourite. I loved Hue itself and the view from my window made me want to sit there and drink tea all day;-). I only came down for Mr. Luong and Mr. Co.
Golden Sand Resort (In Hoi An): This resort spoiled us, truly. It was just too tempting to stay there and swim or walk on the beach rather than touring and learning. The meals were lovely, the rooms great, and the pool and bars, well, we could have stayed in Hue and Hoi An for a long time. Maybe next time…
Equatorial Hotel (in Ho Chi Minh City): While this hotel was very nice and the staff efficient, the rooms often smelled of smoke, even though there was to be no smoking in them. Those allergic to smoke and mold had to change rooms. The best feature of this hotel was the shuttle, the wonderful concierge, the restaurants and bar, and the classy look of the staff. We heard that the serving staff in the restaurant downstairs were to begin wearing short skirts and halters, about the silliest change I can imagine. Tourists to Vietnam are enchanted by the lovely women in ao dai and traditional clothes. Shorts and halters are for the beach, not the dining room. I hope they won’t implement this change.
Victoria Hotel (In Can Tho): We hardly had time to appreciate this hotel. I can say that the pool was lovely, the restaurant accommodating, and the meal there fantastic. We were too tired to register its beauty beyond this.
Angkor Palace Resort (in Siem Reap): This resort was wonderful, the most beautiful landscaping and grounds, the kindest staff, lovely rooms, and a great restaurant. We bonded anew at the pool and bar and really enjoyed our time in Siem Reap, no matter how hot the weather.
- Transport (Land, water, and air):
We had the most death-defying bus drivers in Vietnam who did wonderful jobs of getting us to where we needed to go safely. Air and water transport was also good.
Although I won’t discuss each meal, suffice it to say that we did not have a single meal at any venue that was not wonderful. We all gained weight, even with walking miles in the heat! All of these choices were just fantastic and we took pictures of the meals to preserve them in our memories.
- Places you visited:
Whenever we had free time, we sampled other restaurants and sites along the way, but none of them could beat those that were selected for our group by our tour company. One restaurant in HCMCity/Saigon that we loved was Lemon Grass, and, of course, we had to make our way up to the Caravelle Hotel to Saigon, Saigon bar, just for a bit of music and déjà vu. But tours can do this on their own, really. If anything, I would build in a bit more free time for people to explore on their own, for that is also a good way to make a place your own and to meet Vietnamese and Cambodian people on your own.
One component I wish we had added in both China and Vietnam is meeting with educators, business people, and/or museum curators who can speak English well enough for us to ask questions and learn more, perhaps setting up links with their classrooms in America. Not every group would want this, but our group of teachers really would have loved this contact with those who do what we do and can add insight into what we are learning about each country
- Design and management of your tour:
I have to say that the Vietnam and Cambodia segment of our trip made the Chinese component look poor indeed. The attention to service and learning, the allowing of free time and no-pressure shopping, the kindness and friendliness of the people—all this made our time valuable.
I’ve no idea whom I should thank for putting together such a lovely overview of Vietnam and Siem Reap, but it changed the way we all think about tours in a positive way. Our local guides were each wonderful in his or her own way. The restaurants and hotels were always surprises we loved, the sites we saw and activities we enjoyed were, as many of the teachers said, “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” I think Gia Linh Travel made each of us hope that this was NOT once, but many times in our lives.
- Are there any recommendations or criticisms of services, restaurants, shops, visit sites and so on that you’ve visited on your own?
You may want to warn groups about taking pedicabs/cyclos except for short, nearby trips. Also warn them of the cowboy thieves one more time, reminding them not to carry purses or wallets that are easy to grab.
I’m glad to share my comments by posting them to your websites, if it will help advertise Gia Linh’s services. They were first-rate.
Thank you for a wonderful introduction to Vietnam and Cambodia. I hope to return with my husband and other groups one day.
Oh, and thank you for the lovely flowers on our arrival. We were so exhausted after plane delays, but that just made our day that you had thought of such a nice detail in welcoming us. The rest of our trip was made up of just such nice details provided by Mr. Luong. We loved our trip with you.
All the Best,