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. Vietnam 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.
Vu, our Intrepid guide, encouraged us to be adventurous, so with that the whole group opted for the optional motor bike tour! It was so much fun tearing down back country lanes, as well ass meeting the driver, who always found me whenever I came back to the motorbike!
Early in the trip our group, from every part of the globe, (Germany, Canada, South Africa, USA, New Zealand and Australia) developed the “TBI” (Tiger Beer Index). We judged a restaurant as cheap to expensive depending on the cost of a small bottle of Tiger beer.
What stood out in both Vietnam and Cambodia was the food – it pleasured our senses, from street stall, cafe, home or restaurant – it was great tucker! In Hanoi, Vu organised a traditional meal in the Old City. Starting with Pumpkin soup – a dash of coriander, mouth watering spring rolls, then the food just kept coming – a banquet (75000 VND or AU$5 each), what an amazing start for a trip on which every day was a new adventure!
The breakfast buffet at KOTO – the first of many NGO (non-government organisation) restaurants we visited, was 5 star class! KOTO is dedicated to providing street kids a real start in life by giving them a vocation. A seafood spread in Halong Bay, with amazing food art, also in Hue we had a Royal banquet – spicy prawns decorated with peacocks fit for a king. We picked up a hot bowl of soup from a street stall, and were amazed by our skills at the optional Cookery Class at the Banana Leaf Restaurant, Hoi An.
Local markets are a must, the aromas, the noise, the hustle and bustle. The quality wherever we ate was outstanding, delicious, clean and so fresh.
In Ho Chi Minh City we met Carol, who would escort us all the way to Bangkok. We were charmed by Phnom Penh with her riverside cafes and the Royal Palace, Siem Reap then Angkor Wat, the vistas took your breath away, then the boat trip on the Tone Sap, so many photo opportunities.
Again the food was a highlight. We picked up baguettes from a street vendor, salad and fresh omelette, cooked on the street-stall, for the trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. The baguettes were amazingly crisp, due to the use of rice flour in Cambodian bread. We tasted deep fried spiders in Phnom Penh and visited an open air factory where prahok (fermented fish paste) was made in Battambang – quite an experience.
We also ate a delicious banquet at the home of Sambath, one of the local guides, and shared his many stories. In particular I enjoyed his story of meeting a Swiss girl, who paid him US$6 for a couple of hours of sight-seeing on the back of his newly acquired motor bike, a princely sum which kick-started his Guiding career!
In Cambodia we again visited some great NGO’s including a restaurant supporting street kids , Bud’s weaving factory is employing 8 local girls – so many inspirational stories. If you love food and want to see the real Vietnam and Cambodia then this trip is just the thing!”
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* photo by Vitka Vomachova – Intrepid Photography Competition