On an overnight boat cruise in dreamy Halong Bay, Intrepid leader Tu Vu, tells us he never stops learning about his home country.
Halong Bay is not far from hectic Hanoi, but with its iconic limestone islands and calm turquoise waters, the contrast from Vietnam’s capital is dramatic. It’s a fitting place to chat with Intrepid leader Tu Vu. He’s a Hanoi native, but with his cool, unflappable nature, he’s right at home in all kinds of settings – busy and tranquil.
Tu was a local guide in northern Vietnam for several years before joining Intrepid in 2021. Now, he gets to take visitors right across the country. ‘The first time people visit Vietnam, they’re really surprised about the traffic! And sometimes there’s culture shock,’ he says. ‘Then they’re surprised about this pretty scenery and the culture too.’
Tu especially enjoys leading groups of international visitors. Seeing Vietnam through fresh eyes fuels his own curiosity. ‘Every time new people come to Vietnam, they have questions about the history and the culture,’ he says. ‘’I’ll learn something new if I don’t know the answer and have to find out what it is.’
Leading Intrepid trips means Tu has the chance to explore regions further from home. One of his favourite spots is on the central coast. ‘I love Hoi An,’ he enthuses. ‘I like to go there with my family, even when I’m not working as a guide.’
As a passionate foodie, however, Tu says his hometown is very hard to beat. ‘Wherever I go, all over the country, I find out about the local food, but Hanoi is really good, and there are so many choices.’
So, what’s Tu’s favourite Vietnamese dish? Turns out it’s a world-famous classic.
‘I think everyone knows it – it’s pho. The beef one and pho ga – the chicken noodle soup – either is good.’
Travelling in groups isn’t always easy, but Tu has learned a few tricks in his time leading travellers across the varied, sometimes challenging, terrain of his country. He’s known for his deadpan humour, but he also likes to share stories from his own life with the people he meets. ‘To help people get to know each other, the first thing is that you have to be open yourself.’
And, an experienced guide, Tu knows that different people have different styles of travel – and he’s cool with that. ‘Some people just want to stay together with people from the same country, and some just want to enjoy things by themselves,’ he says. ‘We’ll ask them in private to make sure they’re still enjoying the trip.’
With a young family of his own and a demanding work schedule, it’s not easy for Tu to travel too far from home right now. But in the long term, Tu has big international travel plans of his own. ‘I really want to go to Switzerland. The scenery is really pretty,’ he says. ‘And I really want to go to China too – maybe do a foodie trip there.’
Ready to learn more about Vietnam? Check out Intrepid’s small group adventures here.