Most Inspirational Moment
You see those lovely pictures in books, magazines and brochures of the exotic and the simple rural areas of Vietnam with the locals going about their daily lives in fields, or on a sampan on a narrow waterway with their conical straw hats, and actually being in the middle of it all was an amazing experience, one I still can't believe I was amongst it all. Being on a boat in the middle of Halong Bay amongst the limestone rocks was magical, especially staying overnight. Hoi An was brilliant and picturesque. The cycle ride to Cam Kim island was an experience not to be missed - very rural with villagers showing us their crafts and giving us an insight into their lives... though I found cycling on the main streets in Hoi An to get there a bit hairy (all part of the experience!). Also learning about the country's turbulent past and visiting places of great significance was so interesting.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Phat was amazing, I took care of us and made sure we were all OK every step of the way. He went out of his way to make sure we could do the things we wanted to, such as lay on a short mini tour of the mausoleum area of Hanoi before departing the city, which was not on the itinerary, so we could see the sights there and nearby that we otherwise would have missed due to time restraints (all at a very low supplement). Optional extras you could take part in, or not, as you wish, and nothing was too much trouble for Phat. His personality and sense of humour, as well as knowledge of everything we needed to know or acting as a guide at historical sights, was second to none. Before I went I felt like I was a bit out of my comfort zone, travelling somewhere so far away and so different to what I was used to, but the moment we met our tour guide (Phat), he really made me (and others) feel more at ease in Vietnam.
Advice for Potential Travellers
I was a bit hesitant to book it at first, not knowing what to expect, but so glad I did.
Book it now... live the dream like I did.
The hotels we stayed at were very good and comfortable, no complaints at all, and some at a pool. The farmstay was lovely, a sheer delight, and again had a pool. The cabin on the boat on Halong Bay was comfortable and pretty. The only downside to any of the accommodation we had was trying to sleep on the overnight train from Hanoi to Dong Hoi... I don't think any of us got any sleep, but again, an experience not to be missed (just as well I never got any sleep!).