My Vietnam experience far exceeded expectations - and that was largely due to the humanity, flexibility and skill of our trip organizer Lam Duong of Indochina Pioneer.
I travelled with a group of eight who'd been involved in a Habitat for Humanity "build" program led by Helen Neale of Te Awamutu in the Mekong Delta area.
Helen had met Lam on a previous tour through Vietnam and had established a special rapport with this extraordinary and very able young man.
Lam's ability to connect with people visiting to his country, sharing its character and traditions, craftsmanship and culinary skills along with its disturbing history created a tapestry of unforgettable experiences. Add fascinating excursions and you have a maelstrom to reflect on!
There were laughs galore and lots of mutual sharing of family and
traditions. Lam was flexible and interested in everyone. His amazing capacity to assimilate information is an attribute he shared generously with us all.
His is an extraordinary story: from a mountain village in the north and from a family with strong traditions. His love of the English language and curiosity about the world led him through university to opportunities very different from those expected of him, yet remain a strong influence in his handling of visitors to his country.
Our group had most fascinating experiences: - becoming acquainted with Vietnamese history, the influence of Confucius on society's attitudes (still clearly evident), of their royal lineage assisted by the astuteness of the mandarins, legacies from the French colonial era, Ho Chi Min and his extraordinary leadership and unique style of communism which profoundly altered Vietnam - and to the country's rapid progress since opening up to private enterprise in the last few decades.
We travelled to amazing places - mostly by air conditioned coach, but distances were also closed by flights. Then there were cyclo rides, boat and train trips and tramps among the mountain home of the hill-tribe people of the north. always interspersed with interesting stops - and for food!
Vietnamese food is divine! We dined in delightful cafe's and restaurants, in temples and street cafes, also in the style of royalty!
I absolutely loved their use of herbs, vegetables and sauces - exquisite subtle flavours, blended with seafood, chicken, pork and rice.
Beautiful platters of fruit frequently complete a meal. I saw very little junk food here!
Then there's the shopping! Whether for jewellery, tailor-made garments, shoes, glasses - you name it - they'll make it! The skill and craftsmanship of the Vietnamese people is amazing - and their efficiency and price structure is so very different from ours!
Family members had asked me to do some buying for them. I was really thrilled with the results - and of lam's help, guidance and recommendations.
Vietnam is a fascinating country to experience.
The people are delightful - courteous, intelligent, resourceful, generous and positive.
As a holiday destination it simply blew my mind!
I wholeheartedly recommend Indochina Pioneer as an excellent company to work through if considering travelling to Vietnam for an experience of a lifetime!
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