I'm loving my customers from Brazil!!

After being featured in a Brazilian travel blog by Lala Rebelo of the famous Lala Rebelo Travel Blog last year my business has been going CRAZY with clients visiting Vietnam from Brazil!!I love the easy going and friendly nature of my clients from Brazil and their willingness to get involved and have some fun, making their tour experience all the more special.

With 2017 just started I have already completed some days of tours with different clients from Brazil and I can't wait to book more this year!

Lala and Ricardo exploring the Mekong Delta, 2016.

Lala and Ricardo exploring the Mekong Delta, 2016.

Lala and Ricardo. Lala Rebelo Travel Blog. About to have some two wheeled fun in the Mekong Delta.

Lala and Ricardo. Lala Rebelo Travel Blog. About to have some two wheeled fun in the Mekong Delta.

Indiane and Ronie from Brazil. Cu Chi Tunnels, 2017.

Indiane and Ronie from Brazil. Cu Chi Tunnels, 2017.

Rebecca and her family from England enjoy a little car air conditioning! 

Rebecca and her family from England enjoy a little car air conditioning! 

Indiane and Ronie from Brazil take to the water. Mekong Delta.

Indiane and Ronie from Brazil take to the water. Mekong Delta.

Alex, Brett, Kate and Tom from America at the Jade Pagoda, Saigon.

Alex, Brett, Kate and Tom from America at the Jade Pagoda, Saigon.

Rebecca, Greg and their children from England. Saigon Post Office.

Rebecca, Greg and their children from England. Saigon Post Office.

Hoi An Panorama and Saigon Ca Phe Book Projects, Apple USA Advertising Campaign.

It has been my pleasure in the past two years to act as guide, location scout, “fixer” and assistant for Saigon based Australian photographer Neil Featherstone.  Neil has completed two photo books on Vietnam, Hoi An Panorama published in 2015 and Saigon Ca Phe published in 2016.

The first book was shot on location in the historic, UNESCO World Heritage Listed town of Hoi An in central Vietnam. Shooting took place over three weeks and I was even asked to appear in the cover shot for the front cover of the book.

Saigon Ca Phe was also shot in central Vietnam, on coffee farms owned by the Ede ethnic minority people of Daklak Province for the opening chapter of the book with the balance being photographed in and around Saigon.

In 2016 I also acted as guide, translator and “fixer” for well known American photographer Brooke Duthie who was in Saigon photographing some renowned local artists as part of Apple USA’s international advertising campaign.

My involvement in these projects has given me a deep understanding of the needs of photographers and this has become and increasing focus of my tours.

As a keen photographer myself I enjoy working with other photographers and am happy to arrange photography tours, photoshoot locations and even models for visiting photographers. 

I also now offer guided photography tours accompanied by professional photographer Neil Featherstone for those with a particular interest in photography or those wanting to learn camera settings and improve their photography skills.

My first ever job modeling for a book cover!

My first ever job modeling for a book cover!

Hoi An Sunset

Hoi An Sunset

Saigon Ca Phe

Saigon Ca Phe

Robusta beans, Daklak Province.

Robusta beans, Daklak Province.

Four “Must Do Tours” in Saigon.

Most of my customers have limited time in Saigon. They are either here at the beginning or at the end of their Vietnam adventure and will have energy to burn or be exhausted depending.

I am often asked what are the best tour combinations to allow people to take in the main sights of Saigon and it’s surrounds.

For visitors with three nights/four days in Saigon my most popular tour combinations are below.

1.    City Tour. My City Tour can be taken over a full day and takes in:

Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, 30/4 Park, Saigon Opera House, Dong Khoi Street, Nguyen Hue walking Street, the Saigon River, Ben Thanh Market, Cho Lon Market, the Jade Pagoda and Bitexco Financial Tower.

The commanding views from the Bitexco Financial Tower are a great way to take in a sprawling view of the city while sipping a Ca Phe Sua Da.

2.    Nightlife Tour. A three hour tour by taxi or motorbike.

My Nightlife Tour includes a visit to a night market, a stroll along the Saigon River, dinner in an authentic Vietnamese Restaurant or on the street. If you are thirsty at the end of the tour I can recommend some great bars with some of Saigon’s best “happy hours”.

3.    Cu Chi Tunnel’s & the War Remnants Museum. A full day tour by private car.

For history buff’s this tour is certainly a must do. A full day tour by private car and driver we visit Cu Chi Tunnels in the morning followed by a visit to the sometimes harrowing War Remnant’s Museum on our return to Saigon in the afternoon.

Alternatively this tour can be altered to include the afternoon at the Cao Dai Temple instead of the War Remnants Museum. This option will allow you a full day out of the city and a look at a fascinating temple.

4.    The Mekong Delta. Full day tour by private car and driver.

This tour visits Cai Be town in the Mekong Delta around 2 hours from Saigon.  Cai Be is off the tourist trail and is a little visited and authentic Vietnamese Delta town where you can avoid other tourists.

This tour is an excellent way to include a river trip as part of your day in the delta as we can take a boat ride to see a floating market, visit some small islands where you can ride bicycles to visit a local family to experience how local people live.  We also visit honey farm, coconut candy and rice paper makers. We listen the traditional folk music and we enjoy a delicious traditional Vietnamese lunch at a restaurant with beautiful river views. The food is amazing and is sure to be one of the highlights of your time in the Delta.

From my experience, all or some combination of these tours will make sure that you get maximum value for your time and money in Saigon while also ensuring that you take in a good selection of the best that the south has to offer.

Of course one of the many benefits of using a private tour guide is that your days can be tailored to suit you and if you have any special interests these can easily be included in our time together. Some clients have had particular interests in shopping for specific things like art works or home wares.

If you choose my tour, I will promise that you will receive professional and knowledgeable service and great value for money.

The happy couple. My client's Clement and Lucy from Canada enjoying the Mekong Delta Tour.

The happy couple. My client's Clement and Lucy from Canada enjoying the Mekong Delta Tour.

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Australia

At the end of 2015 I enjoyed my first visit to Australia and wanted to make a brief blog post about my experience, as many of our clients who visit Vietnam are Australians.

My four weeks in Australia started in Sydney in late November where I spent a week, then I headed north to visit family in Port Stephens before flying to Brisbane.

Sydney.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

In Sydney I stayed in the CBD not far from Martin Place. The location of my home for the week, the historic Grace Hotel, was perfect for exploring the city and surrounds. From the Grace it was easy to walk all over the Central Business District to explore the many sights that this beautiful city has to offer.

 During the week I managed to tick off most of the main tourist attractions including the Opera House, the beautiful Harbor, the Rocks and the Sydney Harbor Bridge as well as a trip across the harbor to Taronga Zoo.

Cruise ship leaving Sydney Harbor

Cruise ship leaving Sydney Harbor

Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo

 Sydney in November was hot because it was the beginning of summer but the heat was very different to the climate in Saigon and even days of 38 degrees did not seem as hot as Saigon. I think this was because the air was not as humid.

 A great way to explore the city on warmer days is by the Explorer Bus. A ticket on the bus is valid for 24 hours and enables you to hop on and hop off the bus for as often as you want over a 24-hour period.  This is a great way to see parts a little further from the city including Kings Cross and the Fish Markets.

 It’s hard to choose one highlight from my week in Sydney but seeing the Sydney Opera House bathed in pink lights at night, walking across the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge and seeing, for the first time, a real kangaroo and koala for the first time, up close at Taronga Zoo were certainly experiences to remember.

Kangaroo's at the zoo.

Kangaroo's at the zoo.

 

Port Stephens

Wanda Beach Jetty at sunrise.

Wanda Beach Jetty at sunrise.

From Sydney I travelled by bus about 3 hours north the beachside area called Port Stephens where I spent two weeks visiting family.

Salamander Bay

Salamander Bay

Port Stephens is a beautifully natural and scenic place that lies on a harbor that is bigger than Sydney Harbor to the south. Spectacular surf beaches and bays surround Port Stephens and the area is famous for it’s fishing and watersports as well as for its natural beauty. I will never forget my trip on a dolphin watching boat where a pod of dolphins swam around our boat so close that I could almost reach out and touch them.

Brisbane

The Brisbane River, Brisbane CBD and the Story Bridge.

The Brisbane River, Brisbane CBD and the Story Bridge.

From Port Stephens I flew and hour north to close out my visit with a week in Brisbane. Again I stayed in the heart of the city and was able to easily walk to everything that I wanted to see. Brisbane is a lovely city of around 2 million people but it feels really more like a large town than a big city. Compared to Sydney the pace of life was slow and relaxed.

One of Brisbane’s many charms is its excellent City Cat river ferry system, which is a cheap and beautiful way to explore the city. By the time I hit Brisbane the pre Christmas shopping sales were in full swing and the shopping was excellent.

Brisbane CBD from Southbank Parklands

Brisbane CBD from Southbank Parklands

From Brisbane I flew back to Bangkok before travelling south to Phuket for Christmas and the New Year.

Thoughts on my first visit to Australia.

Sydney.

A spectacularly beautiful harbor city with everything for the visitor within easy reach. The pace of life is faster than Port Stephens and Brisbane and the people more fashion conscious. I was struck by how clean everything was, even the harbor, which is very busy. The food was great, as was the shopping and the people were friendly.

Port Stephens

A scenically very beautiful beach destination Port Stephens is one of the main retirement meccas on the east coast. Clean and quiet and beautiful you notice all of this as well as the ageing population. The seafood was delicious and I was again struck by how clean the water was. I really enjoyed my daily trip to the beach even if the water was a bit cold!

 Brisbane

 I felt very comfortable in Brisbane and I liked its slower pace compared to Sydney as well as the “big country town feel”. There is plenty to see and do and it was no problem keeping busy for a week here.

I really enjoyed my first trip to Australia and can’t wait to visit again. One of the main lessons that I learned from this trip is that although a week in one place seems a long time when you are planning it really isn’t that long once you arrive somewhere new, with a lot of new things to see and do, the days do go really quickly and it is time to move on again, when there is still much that you could do. When planning a trip it’s important to strike a happy medium between not overstaying in one place but also to not rush around so much that you miss out on a lot along the way.

Stay tuned for my next blog post on Bangkok and Phuket.

 

Saigon City Escapes. Phu Quoc Island.

This post is the first in a series of posts where we will cover easy and interesting escapes from Saigon for visitors wanting to add a different flavor to their Vietnam experience.

Phu Quoc Island is a beautiful tear shaped island that lies in the Gulf of Thailand, just 15 kilometres off the coast of Cambodia.

Boasting white sand beaches and tropical jungle, 70% of the island is declared national park, the island offers an easily accessible break from the madness of Ho Chi Minh City.

Phu Quoc can be reached by air from Saigon in under an hour with Vietnam Airlines offering several flights every day. A new international airport is situated a short car transfer from the main accommodation area of Long Beach and Duong Dong town and signals the islands rapid development, so we recommend visiting sooner rather than later. Much of the islands interior remains mostly undeveloped for the time being. Phu Quoc can also be reached by boat either from Ha Tien or Rach Gia in the Mekong Delta.

The rainy season on Phu Quoc extends from July to November, not that this is any disincentive to visit during those months. Peak tourist season is from December to March.

Activities on the island include wandering the white sand beaches, the more pristine and stunning of which lie off the tourist trail, lying by the pool, cocktail in hand, diving, snorkeling and kayaking. The island is also easily explored by motorbike or car although roads are challenging in places. The island is also famous for its pearl industry and it's delicious seafood.

Accommodation ranges from backpacker to high end and we have a number beautiful properties to recommend that will ensure an enjoyable stay.

If you would like us to design a visit to Phu Quoc simply contact us vie the contact page.




A great new discovery, Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City Pagoda.

Yesterday I revisited a beautiful old pagoda in Saigon that I was first introduced to as a high school student. This little known pagoda is home to around 40 monks. Their day starts early with two hours of worship at 4am with another worship service each day at 5pm. After exploring this beautiful and tranquil pagoda we sat and drank tea and talked with three of the senior monks for some time, a surreal and unique experience.