Recently our Sales Manager, Carley Mercier, had the chance to go on the Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand trip. We had the chance to sit down with Carley and ask her a few questions about her trip. In the first part of this Q & A – we focused on the seven day Vietnam leg of the adventure.
Q: Tell us about Vietnam. What was it like?
Carley: Amazing! Vietnam is truly an exotic destination. So many parts of the trip were just stunning. Cruising Halong bay overnight on a junk boat and taking a bicycle tour in Hoi An were personal highlights.
Halong bay, in the north of the country, was really incredibly beautiful. Being out on the water amongst thousands of mostly tiny, picturesque islands definitely falls in the category of once-in-a-lifetime for me. Our group was on a private junk boat and despite the name, it wasn’t “junky” at all. The boat was very nice, the meals were all provided and the group really enjoyed the experience together.
Hoi An was a chance to see a different side of life in Vietnam. The town itself is rich in history and is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Biking through the more rural areas around Hoi An was a chance to get a feel for what life is like here. I have never visited a place where taking pictures of local happenings was encouraged and the locals turned their own cameras back on us to record our visit to their homeland.
Q: What surprised you on this trip?
Carley: That’s a great question! Definitely, the group’s reaction to some of the museums and sites dedicated to the Vietnam War. From the “Hanoi Hilton” to Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, the Cu Chi tunnels and War Remnants Museum, there is lot to see and consider when it comes to understanding exactly what happened here. Of course, we are guests in Vietnam and it is their telling of the war. But it was so striking to see travelers from our group’s reaction to what they saw and interest in Googling more information about various aspects of the war. I think it would be highly worthwhile to spend a little time before you go making sense of the war and reading about some of the sites you will see on this tour before you actually get there. All in all, I think the other big surprise was the overall complex nature of Vietnam’s history and heritage. History here goes back a long way with a strong mixture of Chinese and Western colonial influences.
It was also more than history – a lot of the girls on the trip had dresses custom made in Vietnam at bargain prices. Being that I’m on the shorter side, buying a maxi dress in the States isn’t an easy feat…no really, I once bought a maxi skirt and wore it as a tube top dress. I was able to pick the style of dress, pattern and had 3 fittings to make sure it was perfect before taking it home. Definitely worth it! So in between seeing the sites and having fun, it was really fun to use some free time to get a custom made dress from one of the many specialty shops in Hoi An. Of course, the guys can get nice fitted dress shirts, pants and even full suits. It’s part of the experience, and if you’re interested in spending some free time clothes shopping, it can be a lot of fun and quite affordable way to get awesome tailored clothing.
Q: How was the food?
Carley: The Vietnam leg of Highlights of Southeast Asia includes lots of meals as part of the itinerary – so for the 7 days on the ground in Vietnam, something like 11 meals are included. This is great because it gives you a taste of the local cuisine and lets you venture out of your comfort zone to try things you might not be otherwise willing to take a chance on. Of course, if you are a foodie, Vietnamese food is amazingly diverse in both its incredible flavors, influences and diversity.
Q: What else do you think travelers should know?
Carley: Vietnam is just a great place to go with a group. It’s the kind of place that people don’t necessarily want to do alone and doing it with EF College Break pairs you up with like-minded people that are trying to see Vietnam in really the most comprehensive, fun and dynamic way possible. This is also a trip you want to pack right for – you’ll be challenging your stomach with new foods, dealing with the bugs and heat you should expect anywhere in Southeast Asia. But it’s all part of the experience of visiting this amazing country. When asked if I’d recommend this trip, I would give it a resounding two thumbs up.