Past Tours

"Tower at Marble Mtn
- Hoi An"

"Mekong Delta"

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Past Tours

Vietnam and Cambodia 2011
Kenya and Tanzania 2010
Egypt and Jordan 2010
UK and Northern France 2010
Turkey and Greece 2010
Italy and Sicily 2010
Egypt 09
Canada 09
Egypt 08
Italy 08
Vietnam 08
Egypt 07

Vietnam – Discovered!!!

After meeting each other at Brisbane International Airport, some of us for the first time, we set off on our adventure to Hanoi on the first leg of our “Vietnam Discovery Tour”. Hanoi introduced us to traffic mayhem the likes of which most of us had never seen. So many motor cycles and so many people. We are used to seeing 2 people on a motor bike but 3 or 4 is unheard of in Australia. In Vietnam when Mum or Dad goes to pick the kids up from school it can mean carrying 3 or 4 kids home on the motorbike.

In Hanoi we stayed in the Old Quarter, not far from Hoan Kiem Lake where the locals and visitors meet early each morning for Tai Chi. Our hotel was surrounded by narrow, busy streets with wonderful shopping. We were there on Saturday and Sunday so were lucky enough to have our street closed off for the night markets on both nights and enjoyed shopping without having to brave the traffic. There are 36 streets in the Old Quarter and most of their names are taken from the single trade or craft that was carried out there such as Pho Hang Gai (Silk Street), Pho Hang Mam (fermented fish Street) and Pho Hang Lo Xu (Coffin Street) to name a few.

We visited the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the first President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, where his body lays in state and is visited by thousands each day. He was embalmed after his death even though he had wished to be cremated. He is taken to Russia for 3 months each year for maintenance. It is quite sombre and a little unnerving to see someone who has been dead since 1969. So different to the Egyptian Mummies.

In the compound surrounding the Mausoleum we visited Ho’s stilthouse, One Pillar Pagoda, dedicated to Quan Am, The Lady of Mercy and the gardens surrounding the Presidential Palace. Our next stop was the Temple of Literature, the first University of Vietnam. When visiting Vietnam you cannot escape the remnants of the Vietnam War and a visit to Hoa Lo Prison is a vivid reminder of the impact of war on all parties. The building was originally built by French colonists to hold Vietnamese political prisoners but was later used by North Vietnam to hold prisoners of war and became known as “Hanoi Hilton” by American soldiers held there including Senator John McCain, an American pilot shot down in Vietnam and now a Presidential candidate in the US elections.

Vietnam offers so much to the traveller and as yet in my opinion hasn’t been too affected by the greed and pushiness that is often present in countries that fight for the tourist dollar. In most cases if you say you do not wish to buy something, you will be left to continue looking and shopping without being hassled. This is a breath of fresh air after my experiences in some other countries. From beautiful lacquer ware to custom made shoes and clothes, Vietnam has something to offer for every shopaholic. Historically, there is so much to been seen that two weeks is almost not enough to see and do all that you would like to in this exciting country.

Sailing down the Mekong River we were able to catch a glimpse of life in Vietnam’s agricultural area. At the Phung Hiep floating market vendors display what goods they are selling by placing a sample on the top of a long pole on their boat such as Tarot, shallots, watermelon etc., and you get a glimpse of what life is like along the river.

At the Cu Chi Tunnels one of the girls Heather, was small enough to fit in the actual tunnel entrance as they were during the war. Myself and 3 of the ladies crawled through a 20m section of the tunnels where the entrance had been made bigger for westerners, but the actual tunnel was the real thing. It was quite a daunting experience. At Halong Bay 6 of us climbed to the top of Ti Top Island and enjoyed the magnificent view of this World Heritage Listed Bay. Everywhere you look in Vietnam there is a sea of conical hats and the smiling faces of people going about their daily lives.

Our hotels were great and very comfortable. In Hoi An in particular where we stayed at the Hoi An Beach Resort our rooms were huge and each of them overlooked the river. We had a private beach, great pool and restaurant with a lantern festival each night. Over the road were tailors, restaurants, shops and bars. We spent 4 relaxing days here but managed to fit in lots and lots of shopping and a cooking class in the old town.

Khai Dinh Statues

In Hoi An there is one very special young lady making a difference to young people’s lives. Nicole Woods, a Lawyer from Sydney, went to Vietnam on holidays about 4 years ago and was so taken in with the Vietnamese people she returned to spend the past 3 years as a full-time volunteer and overseer at the Blue Dragon Children’s Home in Hoi An.

Blue Dragon's central aim is to get children into school and keep them there with the view to improving their employability and long-term prospects. As of June 2008 one child trafficking ring has been permanently disrupted and over 30 children have been returned to their homes as a direct result of the work done by this organisation. When we visited we took along such items as craft supplies, hair care items, toiletries, school supplies, toys and other items to help out in our own small way. Since returning home my husband and I have been able to donate the funds required to furnish a “quiet” corner at the home.

Water Puppetry

"Limestone Caves
- Halong Bay"

- Hoi An"

"The Forbidden City
- Hue"

- Saigon"

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