I went on the Wendy Wu 'Vietnam at a Glance' 7 night escorted tour, to learn more about their authentically Asian travel experiences, and about the history, places and people of Vietnam.
Day 1 - From Traditional Medicine to Rooftop Cocktails
On our first day, our guide, Tuan, took us to a local park area to have traditional Vietnamese coffee. Then it was off to the Museum of Traditional Medicine to learn how herbs, mushrooms, herbal teas and acupuncture were used as a natural way to cure many ailments. Following which, we visited Ho Chi Minh's largest market to haggle with the sellers.
In the evening, we enjoyed a cocktail and the amazing views from the 5 star Hotel Caravelle's rooftop bar, over looking the city.
Day 2 - Remembering the War
Today we went to the cramped environs of the Cu Chi Tunnels, central to many of the war's strategic operations. Despite the bombing raids of American B52s, they used simple but effect ways to survive. All the tunnels were dug out by hand, and full of traps to deter enemy sappers.
Next was the War Museum. The displays of old photographs helped you understand the full impact of how they lived through the war. Artifacts were on display, along with guns, tanks and aircraft.
Next we visited the Notre Dame cathedral, designed by Eiffel, and the oldest working post office in Asia, a stunning building.
Following beer tasting in The Pasteur Brewing company, our evening meal was a cookery school where 15 and 16 year olds are taught to cook and serve. The food was excellent, a great initiative to support.
Day 3 - The Mekong Delta
Wearing traditional Vietnamese hats, we took a rickshaw ride from picturesque Ben Tre, passing rice paddies, fruit farms, and local homes along the Mekong.
Then we transferred to Mango Cruises to explore the Mekong waterways, where people live, trade, and travel. We stopped off at one of the many coconut factories, then a brick making factory, and finally rode bicycles through back roads to take in the culture of the Delta.
Day 4 - Historic Huế
Today we visited the Citadel and Forbidden Purple City in Huế, which is still being restored many years after the destruction caused by bombing. The Imperial Citadel is a walled fortress, accompanied by cannon, artillery and a moat for protection of the City.
Next we visited Thuy Bieu Village, a quiet and peaceful retreat built by the Mandarins of the Emperor outside the city. Lunch was hosted by a local family, with delicious ginger tea. The father told us about his family, while we tasted fruit from his garden - an uplifting experience!
Next stop, Hoi An, where we journeyed along the river to a riverside restaurant for our evening meal. With beautiful lanterns displayed everywhere, the ambience was magical.
Day 5 Centuries Past in Hoi An
Today we headed to the beautiful old town of Hoi An. With handmade lanterns festooned on delightful old buildings, Hoi An's distinctive blend of culture, cuisine, religion and architecture still retains the feel of centuries past.
We had some shopping time, along with a visit to a tea house called Reaching out. Selling specialty teas and coffees, its run by deaf people, and was another fantastic experience. Our last stop was a restaurant that offers cookery lessons. We were taught four courses of simple, tasty, healthy food - this was great fun!
Day 6 Hanoi old and new
Hanoi is an historic city of lakes, shaded boulevards and parks. We visited the Ho Chi Minh quarter where his Mausoleum stands. During his premiership the palace was used as his office and he lived a simple life in the grounds around the lake.
A rickshaw ride took us through old Hanoi, dating back to the 13th century. It was a real eye opener to see how the locals live and trade on the streets. In the evening we were taken to a local Vietnamese restaurant called Highway 4 and given an array of food to share.
Day 7 - The benefits of a Wendy Wu Tour, in Halong Bay
Today we traveled to beautiful Halong Bay for a very colonial, traditional overnight cruise. After a buffet lunch, we sat out on deck to enjoy a drink and amazing views. In the afternoon we took a boat to nearby caves, but sadly the weather report said typhoon weather was expected, and advice from the government meant we had to leave the boat after dinner.
Thankfully, Wendy Wu stepped in, and Tuan managed to get us in a local 5 star hotel. Most of the others on the boat had to endure the four hour journey back to Hanoi!
Day 8 Final day in Hanoi
Leaving Halong Bay, we traveled the four hours back to Hanoi. There were stops to browse around a shop with locally made handicrafts, a pearl factory where we were shown how they cultivate the pearls, and the Museum of Ethnology, showcasing artifacts from 54 different ethnic minorities.
Our guide then transferred us to a day hotel. As our flight was a late flight, we were able to use the room to get ready for our flight - a great bonus.
In the evening we were taken back to Hanoi for shopping time. It was a last chance to sample the streets of Vietnam and haggle with the locals for some bargain gifts to take home. On route we crossed the Hoan Kiem lake, with its beautiful Red Bridge.
I feel I have experienced the real Vietnam and mixed with the locals to understand their way of life. It is a simple life, as they have very little and no real luxuries, but they are very happy, respectful people that laugh a lot and have a very friendly approach. In many areas they rely heavily on tourism just to survive.
I know if I had booked a normal package holiday to Vietnam I would never have experienced what I have on this very informative tour with Wendy Wu. Our guide Tuan was knowledgeable and would talk us through many facts about Vietnam while on the coach.
We were very well taken care of. Luggage was taken off us at every stop, water and all meals provided, and last minute changes to our plans being taken care of, especially in the case of the typhoon warning.
It certainly gives me the encouragement to highly recommend Wendy Wu Tours to my clients.