Prior to arriving in Vietnam, we booked a walking tour with a local organisation. The tour had various choices available and the guides are either students or ex students who live in Hanoi.
At first, I was a bit suspicious and wondered why someone would want to give a full day of their time to take a stranger round their city. Surely they must gain from something from it.
The website, http://www.hanoifreetourguides.com/en/ pretty much tells you what they get from it. As part of the free tour, you are expected to cover any expenses for the tour guide. During the day, you go for lunch and visit various museums so you are expected to cover these costs. That seems fair enough as part of a paid for tour will cover those costs anyway.
The guides do this because they want to work in tourism and also they want to improve their English so they get to put on their CV that they’ve been doing this so that’s what they get out of it.
The guide that we got, Vi, didn’t need to improve her English as it was perfect already. That was lucky for us because so many people (native English speakers included), cannot understand us because of our Scottish accents.
At one point in Hanoi, I was talking to a Swedish guy who understood me without any issues. At the same time, an American man had no ideas what I was saying.
For the walking tour, we were met at our hotel shortly before 9am. Through the course of the day, we went to the Temple of literature, Haolo prison, Ma May house and the woman’s museum. As well as that, we went to a local restaurant and tried some speciality dishes.
One of them was crab meat spring rolls and the second was grilled pork meat balls – both were amazing. In Vietnam, like China, the food portion sizes are massive. So this all came with noodles and veg.
Later in the day, being the caffeine junkie that she is, Audrey was delighted when the guide mentioned a coffee shop that a lot of local people go to.
The coffee shop was a normal enough place, it was full of people drinking coffee but on tiny tables and chairs. These size of tables and chairs are to become a bit of a theme while travelling through Vietnam by the looks of things.
The Vietnamese people aren’t particularly tall so that’s why they have small tables and chairs. Back home, they are the same size of chairs that children would use so having me, at close to 6ft tall sitting at one must be a funny sight for the locals.
The coffee shop sold stuff called ‘egg coffee’ which, I am informed, was nowhere near as bad it sounds. It’s a bit of a tradition in Vietnam and, without the tour guide, I’m not sure it’s something that we would have found.
While Audrey and the guide were getting tore into their coffee, I sat with a glass of fresh orange which was very nice.
After that, it was on with the rest of the tour. We could have found these attractions as we had quite a good map of Hanoi but there’s no way that we would have learned as much about the place if we had gone on our own.
I’ve alreadhy recommended the tour guide to various people. Some of the reviews stated that their guides weren’t very good, couldn’t speak much English or wanted to take them to very expensive restaurants but we must have been lucky as our guide was very good.
She also mentioned about a charity that her and her boyfriend were hoping to set up. In Vietnam, there is no welfare system so if someone doesn’t work, they don’t get money. Some families from outside of the cities, who don’t have very much money cannot afford to pay for their childrens education.
This is why you can see kids on the streets selling things. It can often be chewing gum, sweets or other bits and bobs. The guide wants to set up classes to teach English to these kids which she said means they may be able to work as tour guides or work in some part of the tourist industry in the future.
I suppose that sums up the type of person that we had taking us round the city of Hanoi. It was a really good day and I hope that other people using this organisation are able to get as much out of the day as what we did.