We toured Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia for 23 days in February/March 2019. This was the third trip we initiated through Zicasso, and once again they connected us with an excellent custom-travel company. Thanks, Zicasso! As usual, we reviewed proposals from several tour companies, and selected this travel company for two main reasons: 1) they are locally based in Saigon, as compared with the others, which are based in the US; and 2) their pricing was considerably lower than the others. They put together a fantastic tour for us, meticulously planned to the last detail.Designing a custom trip of this scope was somewhat complicated, but our travel planner made it a pleasure. We had several extended phone conversations with him that enabled him to learn our interests, travel style, and preferences. We were in touch almost on a daily basis by email for a time, working out details. We fine-tuned the initial proposal he gave us, and made one significant addition–extending the trip by two days in Phnom Penh, which it turned out made a particularly deep and lasting impression on us. In the end, we felt that all the activities, sites, hotels, restaurants, and people involved in our tour were a perfect fit for us. Each day was amazing, and amazingly different from the others.
This travel company handles their clients with a true personal touch. Our travel planner was always responsive to our frequent emails sent in the months and weeks prior to our trip. He took care of visa procedures for Vietnam, securing permits for us to enter Vietnam, and arranging for a special agent to meet us and assist with obtaining visas upon entry. While we were in Saigon, our first stop, our planner took us out for coffee, and we established a great rapport. He has very broad knowledge of SE Asia and has personally selected the very best hotels, programs, services, and touring experiences for his clients. He gave us his cell number and told us that we could reach him directly 24/7, and each of our guides was likewise always reachable. In fact, however, the numerous transfers and connections in our itinerary all went without a hitch, so that there was seldom a need to reach anyone by cell. The guides were a particularly important part of our experience. All were knowledgeable, engaging, and fluent in English. They were each very interesting individuals who represented their particular regions very effectively. We got to know our guides as people, and through them we came to understand their cultures more deeply. We discussed a free range of topics, including politics, religion, and our families and backgrounds. They seemed as interested in learning about us as we about them. Our tour included numerous day tours, classes, and dance and music performances that this company subcontracted out to local companies, schools, and artists. These were uniformly top-notch in every way. Again, it was evident that this travel company selects only the best for its clients.
We chose a range of four-and five-star hotels, and all were very fine, affording a nicely varied set of experiences, ranging from a grand luxury hotel to fairly rustic quarters in a homestay (B&B) in the Mekong delta. Excellent breakfasts were always provided. We often ate dinner in the hotel restaurants, and they were very fine as well.
In sum, this travel company is a superb company. The tour they designed for us was exciting, educational, memorable–truly one of the best we have ever taken. They receive our highest recommendation.
Why go? SE Asia is a land of extraordinary natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, with booming cities set against the countryside where the populace farms and fishes the way they’ve done it for centuries. The people are beautiful, kind, friendly, inquisitive, industrious, and cheerful. They are inexplicably welcoming and forgiving to visitors from countries that have caused them great harm. For Americans, perhaps especially those who came of age during the Vietnam War, touring this region offers an opportunity to come to grips with their tragic history and to take heart in the resilience of the people coming out from under many centuries of foreign domination.
The following are just a few of the many unforgettable experiences of our tour:
Saigon area: War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, concert of traditional music, night life in residential area of the city
Mekong Delta cruise with homestay; visit to brick factory, basket weaving demonstration
Hoi An area: Eco tours to experience farming, rice cultivation, and fishing, AO Show
Halong Bay cruise
Hanoi area: Morning stroll watching groups perform Tai Chi, pho breakfast in market, Tam Coc grottoes
Luang Prabang area: Night market, Hmong village, UXO information center
Siem Reap: sunrise at Angkor Wat, Tonle Sap Lake cruise
Phnom Penh: Royal Palace, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Killing Fields
Would we do anything differently? This tour was just about perfect, but, except for northern Vietnam, temperatures were consistently very hot (upper 90s to over 100 degrees F,). We scheduled our tour from mid-February to early March, mainly because our travel planner thought that it would be too cold in the north if we went earlier. I didn’t understand that the Vietnamese prefer temperatures that are too hot for many of us from more northern climes. So I might have scheduled our tour for December or January.
Each review is written by a verified traveler who was matched by Zicasso to the reviewed agency. Traveler must have purchased and traveled.
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