Feb 15 2012
As a way to bring you an insight plus some useful information about Hanoi, I’ve been interviewing people who can offer different perspectives on the city. Given that travel agents get a lot of negative press, I met with Lai, a travel agent well known and trusted within the expat community.
Lai is from a small village in the mountains in Thai Nguyen province, northeast Vietnam, and came to Hanoi on a scholarship to study at the Hanoi National University. After working in the travel industry for 10 years she set up True Colour Tour in 2009. She offers travel services including buying airline/bus/train tickets, package tours and private tours, visas and customised itineraries in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia, especially Siem Riep. Lai and her husband Daniel — a chef — run Provecho restaurant and a convenience store on Hang Bac.
I asked her what she loved and hated about Hanoi, and felt a certain affinity with her responses: “I love that Hanoi is a dynamic city with many opportunities, yet still connected with the past and Vietnamese culture… but I hate the way the people drive and that they often forget to be considerate of others. I became more aware of this after traveling outside of the city and to other countries. It is just not necessary.”
Many travellers ask what the must-sees are among all the sights of Hanoi. If you only have one day in the city, what would Lai recommend? The Ethnology Museum, The Temple of Literature and walking around the Old Quarter, she said. She also recommends you go across the bridge to Co Loa, one of the original citadels and capitals of Vietnam.
What about if you want to venture outside of the city? “Most people want to see Ha Long Bay and then Sapa for the ‘ethnic minority experience’ — but if you do not have the time for Sapa, Mai Chau is a very nice, often more intimate home stay experience that can be reached in a few hours,” she said.
“Ninh Binh (Hoa Lu/Tam Coc) can be nice for a day or two. Daniel’s street food and market tour to learn about the real local food of Hanoi is a highlight for many of our guests. For nature lovers there is also Ba Vi and Cuc Phuong national parks,” she added.
Finally I asked Lai what one piece of advice she would offer a visitor to Hanoi. “Don’t let the seeming chaos overwhelm you when you first arrive; it will begin to make sense soon and if you relax, you will enjoy it,” she advised. “Also, do not try to see too much in a short period of time. You will get more out of a quality, more in-depth experience than being constantly on the move. You may need to visit here more than once; many of my clients do.”
True Colour Tour / Provecho
18 Hang Be, Hoan Kiem District
T: (091) 222 3966
5 Hang Bac
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