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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed September 2019
    Katy R

    Amazing insignt into a fabulous country

    This trip was FULL ON. The activity level maybe doesn't reflect the amount of actual physical exercise taken on the trip, but it does reflect the pace. It was completely non-stop from touchdown at Hanoi airport, to hikes and village walks through the hills of the north and absorbing all the culture of Hue and then down to Saigon and the beautiful Mekong Delta. 6am starts and late nights made for a lot of naps required on the bus but to pack this inspiring and amazing country into 16 days was a definite success!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Halong Bay has got to be up there as an all time highlight, the kayaking was brilliant too! Along with the guest-house in the Mekong delta and the cycling tours through the countryside Hanoi on a Saturday night for tired, jet-lagged brits who had only been in the country a few hours was a bit overwhelming but Saigon was a dream!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Unfortunately this is where the trip fell short of 5 stars. Having travelled with exodus before and only experienced amazing, intelligent, organised and inspiring guides full of knowledge and humour, perhaps I was a little spoilt. Linh was both disorganised and overly-regimented in his planning. He constantly failed to tell us vital information regarding the days structure ahead which meant that an already packed trip was full of confusion. He was indecisive but at the same time failed to take on suggestions from the group about what they wanted to do. We were given very little freedom or flexibility with regards for activities and he had a very odd idea of time eg City tour in Hoi An was supposed to take 1 hour, ended up taking 3 hours then straight to dinner then another tour after dinner = very tired tourists. He also showed no interest in conversing with any of the group and preferred to lecture us in the coach (very interesting if a little egotistical at times) yet was not open to any two-sided discussion over dinner. In my experience, exodus guides have been quite the opposite and this is just a one off (for anyone reading who has now been put off!). I was also under the impression that Linh did not often take the 'trails' group and usually did the cycling tour - perhaps that is his real forte!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes lots! When going to the home-stays with the village tribes, pack lots of clothes and socks (you will need them) and also all the young girls in the villages were desperate to have their nails painted! So bring a pot, it won't take up much space and will really brighten their day! (Wish I had had this advice before going) There won't be many opportunities for buying souvenirs etc so make sure you take time in Hoi An to do that. If you're at all travel sick then stock up on pills - the coach journeys have wonderful scenery but that comes at a cost! You don't need to bring many clothes either, laundry services are cheap and quick and so are the clothes if you need an extra t-shirt or something. The food has a reputation for being dirt cheap, however the places we were taken to were cheap compared to British standards but don't go expecting dinner to cost £5 If you go in August it is constantly hot and sticky, lots of sun cream, lots of DEET, expect to be a sweaty mess most of the time!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip overall was incredible. We got to meet the local people and see some amazing sights and eat the local food, really get stuck in to the Vietnamese culture. The high pace was really tiring but worth it to get everything squeezed in to two weeks. The only thing that let us down was a very poor guide, however as it is such a crucial part to any holiday that's why I had to give 4/5 :( Thank you exodus and thank you Vietnam!
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Kim Norton

    Awesome Vietnam experience

    The whole experience exceeded my expectations. The trip had a great mix of experiences, my personal favourites being the Halong Bay boat trip and Mekong delta homestay with added birthday cake (surprise from our guide, Tung) for the August birthday celebratees.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It is hard for me to choose one, but I am inspired by how welcoming and friendly the people are and their resilience.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our guide, Tung, had an amazing knowledge of the region and always ensured everyone was in their happy place 😊. Vote Tung for guide of the year!!!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Stay an extra day or two after the tour ends, to rest. Although the tour is well paced it is still tiring if you are not used to the busy city travel.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Martin Wiselka

    Trails of Vietnam

    This was an action packed adventure holiday with different places to visit and activities each day. The itinerary allowed time for homestays in three different places including a very remote and rural hill farm and the homestays, trekking and cycling activities helped us to understand the country better and meet some of its wonderful people. There were so many photo opportunities in each destination. The trip truly allowed us to experience the varied climate, cultures and cuisine of Vietnam, including opportunities to sample some excellent home cooked local meals. The activities were moderately strenuous and the Leader always ensured that everyone was happy and included.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling in the countryside around Hue visiting the local market seeing people tending their fields, water buffalo taking a bath and herding ducks across the road. Staying at the mountain homestay sharing a house with the local family

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Tan Nguyen was outstanding and ensured that everything occurred like clockwork in the complicated itinerary. He went out of his way to include everyone and ensure that everyone was enjoying their holiday and did everything with a smile on his face and great sense of humour.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This was a very active holiday with many new experiences every day. Requires moderately strenuous physical fitness and activity. Padded cycle shorts recommended. Climate very varied, from surprisingly cold in the northern mountains to sweltering heat in the Mekong delta.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Vietnam is an amazing country and this trip helps you to experience its culture and highlights. Highly recommended.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Penny Daffarn

    Brilliant holiday

    This is a packed 2 weeks, travelling the length of Vietnam on a huge range of transport. Coach, airplane, overnight train, boat, kayak, bikes and hiking. We got up close and personal to real Vietnam people, staying several nights in home stays.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the sunset from a boat in Halong Bay.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bao, was always smiling, and competently managed the logistics of this complicated trip. The next mode of transport was always there waiting for us!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trip notes say walking boots, but not really necessary, stout shoes would be fine and then you don't have to carry heavy boots around. There are several times when we had to take overnight bags, once even for 2 nights, so plan for this. Cycle helmets are available, so again, not really necessary to bring your own. Book yourselves on the all the optional trips, they are all worthwhile. The exchange rate is around 29,800 dong to the GBP, we found it very useful to have a print out of some key amounts to get our heads round the prices! This is a busy trip, but not too physically challenging, the hiking and cycling are at a moderate level. It is very hot in Saigon, so be prepared.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Fabulous trip, well organised and a real insight into today's Vietnam
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Charles Smith

    An Assault on the Senses

    It's a while since we have done this sort of trouble, engaging, demanding yet with the luxury of a private guided tour. 10 hours on a Dreamliner and you are plunged into the teeming chaos of Old Quarter Hanoi. A mixture of sharp modern and decrepitude, high-tech phones and spiders web cables. And the motorbikes! There are 45 million and they are either on the road or blocking the pavement thus making road walking essential but dangerous. From the steamy challenges of Hanoi to Sa Pa at a cool 1600 meters. Virtually nothing remains of the old French hill station; in 20 years a whole new tourist city has arisen with hundreds of hotels. The contrast with the surrounding ethnic villages is stark: Red Dzao women with shaved eyebrows and foreheads elaborately attired in traditional bright embroidered outfits live in large, rudimentary cedarwood houses. Mud floor, three open fires without chimneys, one for cooking, one for the rice vodka still and yet another for curing hams. No windows and lit by a single bulb, pigs and chickens wandering at will. Below are the perfectly contoured rice fields, vegetables at the base plus odd quirks like orchid, cardamom and salmon farms. Government has provided concrete roads, schools and health centres. Satellite dishes, mobile phones have arrived and motorbikes have replaced horses.... Almost all of that in the last 10 years. See it now before it is gone.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Driving towards Nirvana: It takes a while to get used to the nature of driving in Vietnam. We had four different drivers and we remain in awe of the challenge that they faced and the way it was met. The infrastructure was wrecked after the American war and many other priorities existed before roadbuilding could begin. It is a very long thin mountainous country much of it above 1000m so roadbuilding is a challenge even if you can afford the machinery. Roads are still being upgraded, from tracks to single lane and that means long sections of road works. Rainfall is high and washouts frequent. There are 45 million motorbikes in a country of 97 million people. In cities they drift across lanes, driving illegally and in the countryside wobble about carrying astonishing loads or families of four. So driving requires that you learn horn-speak: one means 'be aware'; two means 'I am coming through'; three means 'wake up, or we'll both be in trouble!' Yet it is all done with tolerance, patience and a complete lack of aggression. Only possible where the overriding ethos is Buddhist. European attitudes would wreck the system. Bad parking is tolerated, water buffaloes, dogs, chickens, even babies patiently driven around. We did not see an accident and the cars are not dented. Low speed limits are adhered to and are part of the safety solution. Progress in both senses of the word is slow but you get there and may even learn something about achieving Nirvana.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This was a private tour and we had three different guides all of whom were good, knowledgeable and well-organised. All timings were adhered to and we appreciated the high level of service.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    A Sunday market in Bac Ha was a highlight; there are not many places in the world where you will see 1000 water buffalo for sale together with the stunning mix of ethnic costumes from the surrounding villages. Ideally we would recommend travelling up on Saturday night from Hanoi on the overnight sleeper train and then being driven direct to the market from there. If you only have limited time and want some experience of ethnic tribes the journey out from Hanoi to Mai Chau is only a few hours yet enables you to see village life, craft skills and a vast range of agriculture. The Muong people are charming, welcoming and do not push their sales pitch to hard!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Green Tangerine restaurant in Old Quarter Hanoi is truly outstanding. Also in the old quarter we stayed in the Essence hotel which we would recommend and dined twice at their sister hotel a couple of blocks away. It has more atmosphere than the dining room at the main hotel. Both these hotels are linked to Aira boutique hotel in Sa Pa which we would also strongly recommend. It's a bit outside the city but has good views and a great sense of peace
  • Reviewed February 2019
    Jo Brown

    Vietnam

    Fab

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling in Hue

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Superb, never stopped smiling. Patience of a saint.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the trip notes

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Would have preferred 1 less pagoda and another trek
  • Reviewed November 2018
    Sarah Morland

    Trails of Vietnam

    A brilliant trip! Great combination of staying in busy cities, rural home stays and an overnight on a train! Cycling, hiking and kayaking. Sightseeing and culture. A beautiful country and lovely people. Delicious food and everything ran like clockwork!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I think the friendliness of the Vietnamese people and their welcoming smiles and humour.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bon - our group leader was fantastic. Professional, super-organised, informative and fun. Very kind - and sensitive to everyone’s needs. He was an absolute star.
  • Reviewed November 2018
    Margherita Pedroni

    Great experience, amazing food and great group!

    I am very happy with Exodus travel. First time I was using a big organization and a tour operator with a big group. I must say I was positively surprised! The trip was very well managed and well structured as an overall. The local guide did an incredible job and he was the best guide I ever had. The group was great and I was lucky to be with such good people. I have really enjoyed and spend a great time together. I am also happy with the back management of exodus in London. With all the info they have sent and how they have helped me from remote. Only point: to improve the chat online service as I still had to call to make the payment and give my card details on the phone. Maybe add a paypal system or a more user friendly card payment (that accepts cards from outside UK or similar... anyways my credit card payment didn’t go through online and had to call to the UK... which was a bit expensive from Dubai)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Food! The Marble Mountain Halong Bay Hoi An Delta river (the small boat the guide add the last minute) War museum

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The best! Great guy and amazing service! Very attentive to details. SUPER organized!! Caring and approachable. Honestly I was super happy with him (and I always had small problems with guides, but never with him!!!) Never had such a punctual and exact coordination with transports, busses timings, boats connections etc. Never waited a second, all very smooth. Maybe to be more concise when speaking about the most relevant things of a monument or a site. But all was interesting and adding great information

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring an extra small bag for short nights out in the homestays (and leave the big luggage at the main hotel). Bring a good repellent with deet.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    To improve the bike service in Hue. The one in the south was perfect. But in Hue the bikes were old and not great... but overall it was nice and all manageable.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Judith Ridout

    Vietnam and Cambodia - Tailor made

    Our trip was arranged by Thidara for our family of four - my husband, myself and our two 20-something daughters. We asked for a trip which incorporated sight seeing with some more adventurous activities and some opportunities to do things independently. The itinerary met our brief perfectly. We were able to see the main sights on our list with interpretation provided by our excellent guides and also do kaiaking, cycling and visiting a cave which was off the regular tourist trail. We travelled by boat, overnight train, plane, bicycle, tuck tuck as well as dedicated minibuses with our trusty drivers braving the incredible traffic! It was a fabulous trip which was made all the more enjoyable as all the stress was removed due to the reliability of our guides and the detailed organisation.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The two highlights had to be cruising and kaiaking on Halong Bay and seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise, however learning about the history of both Vietnam and Cambodia was also fascinating. Travelling south by road meant that we crossed the DMZ and could visit the museum there. We also went to the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh. We did a cooking class in Hoy An which was another must do. Our guide helped us out with finding an excellent class which we thoroughly enjoyed.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had four guides during our trip and all were excellent. Helpful, informative and passionate about their country and its treasures. It really added to the enjoyment of the trip that they were able to answer our questions and guide us through the process of getting to know the culture and lifestyle of this fascinating area.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Vietnam and Cambodia are great places to visit. They feel very safe and there is so much to see and do. The tailor made trip worked very well for us as we had our two daughters with us who are 21 and 23. They enjoyed the freedom of being able to choose places to eat in the evenings but were also keen to do all the activities
  • Reviewed September 2018

    Insight into how ordinary people in Vietnam live

    I've been to Vietnam before, but this trip was completely different. This time I felt that I was really getting under the skin of the country to understand how ordinary people, rather than emperors or presidents, live. At each of the homestays we had the opportunity to chat with the families we were staying with and to ask them questions about things as varied as their daily working routines, the pressures they faced, family structures etc. and had the experience of staying in a typical family house. In addition to that there was a packed agenda of sightseeing visits, activities and eating that left me happily exhausted by the end of the trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The first homestay was (just) the best part of the trip. The family was so welcoming, so obviously pleased to have us staying with them and so interested in telling us about their lives that it got the trip off to a great start and set the tone for the rest of it. Travelling there, amidst the devastation caused by recent unseasonably heavy rain, was an experience in itself. Close behind this were: the trek from the first homestay to the second, through the hills, with amazing views down mist laden valleys to the lake where the second homestay was, and the dancing with the village dance troupe in the evening at the second homestay (I was grabbed by the village flautist to pair him in the dancing, probably because he thought that as a 64 year old male I would be even worse than he was, but I reckon I - just - edged it!).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader, Linh Vo, was outstanding. He had a compendious knowledge of Vietnam and its culture, people history and food, which he communicated effortlessly, coupled with personal experiences to bring it to life. His organisation was immaculate: everything that was supposed to happen did happen and at the time when it was meant to happen, with Linh on the phone double and triple checking ahead to make sure that it did. He was clearly well known, popular and much respected in many of the places that we visited, which meant that we got extra-special attention that made a real difference to my experience. He had a great sense of humour and was a terrific person to travel with.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Vietnamese food is amazing. Make a list of all the food you eat, because at the end you will want to look back on it and maybe cook some of it back home, but if you haven't made a list (I didn't) you just won't be able to remember. Make sure you try egg coffee in Hanoi.
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