From Vietnam’s culture and cuisine to its incredible history and idyllic landscapes, Val Wex discovered that this fascinating country has a way of energising weary of travellers…
“After three months overseas, by the time we were on the plane to Kuala Lumpur on our way to Hanoi I honestly felt sorry that we were doing the Vietnam trip, as I wanted to come home. But as is often the case, when you don’t want to do something it turns out being the best thing ever.
Many Intrepid travellers have been introduced to the dining delights of KOTO Hanoi. Now such culinary pleasures, while supporting deserving young people, can also be had in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)!
Established in 1999, KOTO has grown from a small sandwich shop in Hanoi to an internationally accredited hospitality program. In January 2010, KOTO was able to replicate its successful Hanoi model with the opening of KOTO Saigon training centre and has recently celebrated the opening of a restaurant in HCMC. Same great service from trainees who prepare and serve the food. Plus a menu that celebrates local ingredients and utilises the international culinary techniques the trainees are learning, resulting in an array of innovative fusion dishes.
How do you gauge the value and enjoyment of your holiday? At Intrepid we have ‘passenger feedback ratings’ so you can get an idea of how much previous travellers enjoyed each trip, but recently Yaffa Gould and her group came up with a unique rating system while they feasted their way around Asia, and we think could take off…
“We recently completed Intrepid’s Best of Vietnam & Cambodia – 18 Days. Our Vietnam holiday was wonderful for its scenery, its people and hearing the recent history first hand. Individual area guides shared with us their personal stories: for example at the Killing Fields, our guide, only five years old during Pol Pot’s reign of terror, told of working as a scarecrow in the rice fields for 12 hours a day.
When passing through Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport, you may notice posters of animals, including a bizarre-looking scaly anteater. The animal in question, a pangolin (te te in Vietnamese), is one of six species featured in the “Don’t Buy Trouble” anti-wildlife trafficking campaign in Vietnam.
This unusual looking creature is covered in protective scales that are reminiscent of an artichoke and feeds on ants and termites. Pangolins are found throughout Southeast Asia, with two species native to Vietnam, but sadly they are heavily threatened by habitat loss and excessive hunting.
There’s so much to see in Hanoi that you’d be struggling to do it all in 24-hours without the help of a local. Then in addition there are the outlying provinces that also have so much to offer, as Casey Wallen discovered on her Citadels, Karsts & Cycle Urban Adventure…
“I’d not actually heard much about the province of Ninh Binh before, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go there. After leaving behind hectic Hanoi we hopped on bikes to wind our way along the narrow roads through the stunning valleys of the karsts. This was a wonderful highlight. We saw duck farms, buffalo having mud baths, plenty more gorgeous scenery, but there were no other tourists in sight. We rode through several small villages where the kids were happy to say “hi” or high-five us as we cycled past – what fun!
There’s no doubt cycling gives you a chance to meet the locals in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Handle-bar height gives you the best view of Vietnam and as Jo Gilbert discovered, once you rise to the challenge of the roads for the first time, you’ll be freewheeling all the way!
On any given day, at almost any hour, on Hanoi sidewalks you’ll see people perched on small plastic stools, solving the worries of the world and sipping their much-loved coffee. Tony Huddy wondered what was the attraction, until he took that first mouthful and discovered coffee heaven…
“Now don’t get me wrong, the food in Vietnam is nothing short of sensational. Everything here tastes good, even the pigs intestines. But there is something better than the food in Vietnam – the Vietnamese coffee!
Sure, stories like Eat, Pray, Love will try to have you believe that holiday romances are possible, but really, what are the chances? Well, here’s a wonderful Valentine’s Day travel tale from Chelsea Fitzgerald that reads like a real life fairy tale…
“My story is quite like a romantic movie. I graduated from college and had gotten through two years of being single and feeling great about it. I had time to discover myself and what I really wanted and set out to accomplish those goals. One goal was to go on holiday to Vietnam. I searched for an Intrepid trip, found Hanoi to Hong Kong and booked the July 25th trip. I flew to Hanoi with the most calm and exciting feeling rising up inside of me, as if I knew this would be the trip to change my life.
The Intrepid Foundation is now supporting 40 fantastic non-government organisations around the globe. Jane Crouch, Intrepid’s Responsible Travel Manager writes, “I feel incredibly honoured to have regular communications with the many inspiring people who do the extraordinary work of these organisations. They are often up against phenomenal challenges and make very limited resources go a long way towards improving the lives of local people, animals and protecting their natural environment.
Rarely a day goes by without receiving an email of news or thanks for our support, but unfortunately I don’t often get to meet these terrific people. I count on our local staff who manage our relationships with these organisations, which I oversee from Intrepid’s head office. But occasionally I can sever the mouse cord and hit the road to have the pleasure of meeting some of my heroes.
When travelling through South East Asia you’ll come across many amazing highlights and hidden gems. Jack Horder spent a few months doing just that and he’s whittled the list of wonders down to his top 5…
“With the strong Aussie dollar continuing to linger and the reeling international tourism industry offering unprecedented deals, there has never been a better time to travel through South East Asia. A budget traveller’s paradise, South East Asia offers a taste of the exotic as well as being a historical and culinary treasure. Here are just a few of my must-see destinations: