Small Group Touring - G Adventures

Joy travelled to Vietnam last year with Gap Adventures on her own with her two Daughters, Courtney aged 11 and Amanda aged 8. She joined two other families on Gap’s 12 day Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh led by local guide, Lap.

Joy describes the tour as a great adventure experience. We had the opportunity to see more of the country than we usually would when travelling on our own. With the sudden unexpected change in weather, I was so glad we had Lap with us to look after all the logistics; his local knowledge was invaluable at every stop and added heaps to our vacation.

We spent the trip with two families who each had three children (2 boys & 1 girl in one and 1 boy & 2 girls in the other) all around about the same age as my girls. They all got along surprising well and it was great for the girls to have someone other than just each other to talk to, especially on the longer bus and train trips. This was our first organised tour, I was a little concerned before we left in case we held up others, or the girls were too slow walking etc, but as this was offered as a family vacation I hoped we would be fine, and in the end I couldn’t have wished for a more enjoyable trip. We are all looking forward to the next one.

Joy kindly offered to share the following excerpt from her travel blog with us, we join Joy and the girls on Day Five of their trip, taking the sleeper train from Hanoi to Hue.

 

'I woke a few times during the night and checked the girls were all still asleep and in their beds. I found the bed very firm and whilst I know I slept soundly for hours, I also recall waking every time I needed to roll over. When I woke at 6:30am I got up and dressed and packed up our things. The train was not moving, so I assumed we were stopped at a town waiting for the departure time to arrive. Eventually, the girls all woke up. Still we were not moving, Lap then came in and let us know that we had not moved since 3am. We later found out there had been a landslide up the track a bit and we had had to wait for it to be cleared.

We only had Oreo cookies and fruit with us, so that was breakfast. We started moving sometime later, and were able to look out through the rain and see the central Vietnam countryside, rice paddies, rural communities and the Gaing River which was flooded several metres high. We saw many boats out on the swollen river, but we also saw people standing on their window sills and roofs of houses completely flooded. Lap said it was an annual event around this time of year, although a bit early. It is one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam so the people who live in the flood areas have limited choices. The flood brings valuable nutrients to their farm land though and they would have already harvested their rice and removed their possessions before the water arrived. I hoped he was right.

Our delay extended further, as we stopped for long periods again and moved along more slowly at times. The delay allowed us to see a lot more than we would have otherwise though. It also gave us the time to learn some more Vietnamese words and to practice what we had learned. We played 'Go Fish' card game in Vietnamese... 'Ca Vang'. It was a fun way to learn.

We arrive in Hue at about 1:30pm with time for a quick lunch after checking into our hotel before we were off for some sightseeing. We were staying at the Asia Hotel which was lovely, a large room with a lounge area, king bed plus a king single, a vanity room and a huge bathroom with a large corner bath. Lunch was toasted sandwiches for the girls and a chicken salad for me. Our original plans for the day needed to be altered due to our late arrival. Lap managed to reorganise everything smoothly though and we were soon on the bus to the Tu Duc King tomb. On the way, we stopped at a store that makes and sells incense sticks. The girls had the chance to have a turn at making their own sticks, rolling the thin wood into the wet clay mix and then through the powdered mix of cinnamon, incense and fragrance. We bought a pack of sandalwood and cinnamon scented sticks.

The Tu Duc King Tomb was not quite what I expected. As it turned out, the site we went to see was very large and included a number of buildings where the King and his queens came to reside on occasions. It had a poetry house and a lake with an island. There was a tomb of his Queen and her son, however the actual location of the King is still unknown.

We took a bus back and across the river and up onto a hill to the Pagoda. A current home to the Buddhist monks and nuns, the Pagoda has a number of halls, some used for history and tourists, and others for the day to day activities of the residents. It was a calming place, though unfortunately the weather did not allow for further exploration and we had to depart quickly to the river boat to avoid the sudden downpour. We just made it down and onto the boat as the rain came down and the fog descended. The mist made the first half of our little cruise a bit hard to see, although the sales lady aboard took the opportunity to show us her wares while we had no other distraction. After trying on some of the items, the weather cleared enough to see the river until we were back close to our hotel.

For dinner tonight, some of us opted to go to a Royal Banquet. As soon as we arrived, we were taken off to a costume room where we were all given royal robes and head dresses to wear. We then entered the building with a full escort and were seated at our tables in a smallish round room, richly decorated. Our meal was served as musicians and singers entertained us. The food was great, beautifully presented and plentiful. The music was traditional and told a story of the life in ancient Vietnam.'

Joy your trip sounds amazing, we are very jealous and TWT would love to hear all about your next trip with the girls so keep in touch!

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