Dear Ly, and Evaneos,
I see from your e-mails that you are eagerly awaiting feedback. You will understand that it took me some time, because I wanted to give you a very detailed, constructive feedback, as below.
Overall, this was the best organised trip of the three we have undertaken with Evaneos. Everything went very smoothly, according to plan. Your choice of hotels and excursions was excellent. Your drivers are superb, not only can they navigate the horrible traffic safely, they often also act as guides (so much so, that sometimes a guide was not necessary). So, we would definitively recommend your services to others, and would travel with you again. I now give you feedback for every day, and then finish with some recommendations regarding your guides. Please take them as constructive critique, and not as complaints, as we loved the trip!
Day 1: Meet and greet: Wherever we were met by a guide/driver: They were VERY punctual, helpful and reliable.
Day 2: For us, it was nearly essential to have a free day in Saigon after the long flight. Your choice of apartment was good, there were cooking facilities, the staff was very helpful, and there was a little shop opposite, so we could buy things for breakfast. Apropos breakfast: You offered us to book breakfast at this hotel for $10 (and said that was a good deal)– however, the breakfast, if paid directly at the hotel, only cost 170.000 dong, which is about 7 dollar, so they offered you quite an expensive deal. There were no shops around the hotel, which was a disadvantage, but – your clients might want to know – there is a nice seafood restaurant, Yo’s, just beside the hotel. Staff at the hotel was nice, we could leave our luggage in their store room, when we went on tours. Free water and sweets in the room, basic kitchen, comfortable bed, well functioning air conditioning, nice pool – good place!
Day 3: Cu Chi by speed boat. Very good excursion, so nice to approach by river, and the timing was very clever, too: We arrived, when the morning bus trip tourists were just leaving, and before the afternoon ones arrived. The food was all right, but nothing special. The tunnels were very interesting, I am glad we did this trip.
Day 4-7, Nam Cat Tien
Very nice trip. With regard to the lodge, which you had some concerns about, here is what I will post to Tripadvisor:
Well, this is a LODGE, not a hotel. All the lodges I have stayed in in different continents, all share the same problems: As they are, by definition, far away from civilisation, they do not have facilities like constant electricity, all the food has to be ‘imported’, the staff has to live on situ, and there are all kinds of nice and not so nice animals around – and there is very little competition. That means, you have to do with less comfortable conditions, while the price is quite high. Also, all the animals you WANT to see, may not be around on the day you visit… If you do not like that, you should book into a deluxe hotel and watch a David Attenborough video – you will be cool, not insects around, guaranteed great animal viewing, full minibar and maybe even cheaper…
For nature crazies like me, I loved this place. This lodge has hot water for showering available all day, now and then there is electricity for the fridge, the fan and even air conditioning (maybe that’s why they call it ‘luxury’, which is a bit , well…), and amazing food. It was clean, and the staff was very nice. We saw one hornbill, king fishers and some monkeys, and we heard the frightening obscene sound of the Tokay lizard all night (you won’t believe it, listen to it: https://uk.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=yfp-t-s&p=tokay+lizard+call#id=2&vid=49610b37a2a402752263b223a567ad17&action=click
You do not really need to book a tour, you can easily find tracks to walk all around, and you can rent a bike to go further away. However, the boat trip is really nice. We loved it!
As said above, we did not need the bicycle tour, or we did not need to be accompanied by a guide – but we had two! Further, for people at our age, the road to cycle on was a bit uneven and stony, and we in the end, we were afraid to fall, and stopped the tour. The boat trip was lovely, though we do not know why we needed TWO guides AND a very knowledgeable boatman. However, there were no swimming snakes or civets, and only one macaque - so maybe you should not promise too much in order not to create disappointment. You were afraid that we would get bored spending there so long – nope. Could have stayed longer!
Day 8: Free day. Went to the War Museum, perfectly fine without a guide.
Day 9: Hoi An: Smooth transfer. C*** B**** H****. Again, my Tripadvisor comment:
Nice and quiet hotel with large rooms and balcony, and a lovely pool. A bit far away from downtown, but taxis are cheap. This is obviously a hotel for bus trip guest, and the staff is a bit nonchalant. There could be 5 waiters standing around in a corner during breakfast, while the tables needed cleaning, or the coffee needed to be refilled. However, punctually at 5 to 10am they appear at your table to tell you that breakfast is now closing. And at 2 past 10 pm they refuse to serve you a Happy Hour drink. On checking out, the lady at the reception yelled at me that a bottle of water had disappeared from our mini-bar… They do provide free water bottles in the room, and we left about three of them in the fridge, so we must have accidently drank one of the not-free waters. She treated me as a thief, though I did not even argue, but paid the 0.60 cent for the missing bottle…
One exception was the very friendly waiter in the bar, whose name I have forgotten unfortunately, but he makes the best Long Island Tea I had, and served us in a very friendly way.
Food is very westernised and quite blend, after what we had for breakfast, we decided to not have dinner there, but in the many places downtown.
Day 10: Nice guide for the sight-seeing in Hoi Ann, but not really necessary, we could have done that on our own. When she understood that we were horrified by the traffic, she wisely decided that we would NOT take the bikes to the herb village, but we got a lift by car. Nice visit, seeing the rice fields and the herbs, the host was lovely, and we did like the lunch!
Day 11: On our own, and busy enough by looking at tailors. You were right with your suggestion of Yaly being the best tailor (the local guide brought us there on day 10), but… he is even a bit too good for us. He is the choice for classy costumes and expensive outfits, but I only wanted some lovely summer dresses. So we found “Charming” just nearby the night market, and got enough clothes made to be forced to buy a suitcase on the night market as well!
Day 12: Bamboo raft. This was one of the best ideas you had! It was a lovely, romantic afternoon/evening with wonderful food under the stars in the middle of the river. What a surprise – we loved it!!!
Day 13: Nice drive over the pass. We stopped at Tien Hieu 3, for a short stop…. Now, it happens that we have already been looking for a marble table at home for months, and here it was, perfect! So we spent longer than intended, haggling wildly. In the end we paid 3000 US dollars for a table inclusive shipping to Spain. We are not sure, this is a good price, and of course we have not received the table yet, so we are a bit anxious. If there will be any problems, we will let you know, so that you know whether to recommend them in the future or not.
H*** H***P*** V****, my Tripadvisor comments:
Lovely hotel in relaxing surroundings, with flowers and ponds, breakfast at the pondside, with lots of colourful butterflies flying around. Large and warm pool to indulge in, and VERY attentive staff. Food and drinks are very expensive, though – so dare to cross the street in front of the hotel, where you will find a small restaurant with outdoor seating, with really good, inexpensive food, Vietnamese wine (Dalat, at least as good as the foreign wines served at the hotel, and less than half the price), and Ha’s banana pancake, which is the best I have ever eaten! If you need some bed-night drink, the supermarket a the side has Vietnamese wodka and soft drinks to mix it with in your hotel room.
Day 14: Hue Sightseeing. The Imperial City is beautiful, I could have stayed there for hours, and maybe would have liked to see a performance in the opera house. Unfortunately, we never got the lunch nor anything else on the banks of the river, that you promised, but continued immediately to the garden house (which was nice, a pagoda and the Minh Mang Tomb. That was a little bit too much in the heat for our age and without a rest – we gave up halfway, when we encountered yet another flight of stairs to climb and asked to be taken back to the hotel and the pool.
Day 15: Cooking class. Excellent choice again. The teacher was lovely, we enjoyed to see a small local market, and then prepare the food at her lovely place. So much better than to do this in a group. Absolutely recommend this course!!!!
Lagoon excursion: Also very lovely. We were so tired from the morning, we nearly skipped this, but are so happy we did not. We did not learn a lot about the lifestyles of the inhabitants of the stilt houses as you promised, but the sunset compensated for this.
Day 16: Smooth transport to Saigon.
Day 17: Particularly nice driver, who stopped en route for photo occasions, and pointed out some rice workers for us. Smooth.
Day 17 – 19: Mekong Delta Cruise. Superb (I am glad we booked the expensive one with only 2 cabins). Very good food, lovely crew, comfortable cabin, and oh so interesting views. This was definitively the highlight of the tour.
Day 19-23: Phu Quoc. H*** C**** C***:
Typical beach resort in the middle of a garden with herbs, private beach, lovely warm pool. Rooms are comfortable and cool. They also have a nice restaurant with very tasty food, but no Vietnamese wine, and – in a coffee producing country! – they serve Starbucks. One could easily stay here for weeks without meeting a Vietnamese person apart from part of the staff, or eating anything Vietnamese or get into contact with the country’s culture. Though the local market and the night market in the nearby town, cheap taxi ride away, can give you more than a taste of that, if you are interested. Definitively eat dinner on the night market!
A relaxing finish to an amazing holiday!
Now, a few critical remarks, just so that you can do this even better, particularly for elderly couples (we are 84 and 64). Ly quickly understood that we did not want too much action and too many early mornings, so that was good, and our capabilities were only once over-estimated, that was one day in Hue. The co-ordinator for Kerala did not understand this, why we did not book that trip. Her suggestions – as all the ‘ready-made’ trips you offer in all countries are far too active and fully packed or involve hiking etc. You should maybe offer some of these more leisurely ‘senior’ tours, and so extend your clientele!
Catering for older people, however, needs also another consideration. You employ very young guides in Vietnam, and though, with the exception of one (the last one at Saigon airport), they are super friendly, working hard and do their absolute best to accommodate our wishes, they do lack a bit of experience of how to treat older people. You see, we are both professors, we have travelled extensively – until we found Evaneos, we did this on our own – and we have experienced some things in life. We do not need to be told by some baby boy that we need to get up at 6 am if we want to be in time for the 7 am tour start, that we should not forget that we do have a flight back to Europe (8 days before our return date), that we should not lose our visa, we can find our way into the hotel when we stand in front of the entrance without a constant “this way ma’am”, we don’t like the tour guide to run 30 meters in front of us and decide the way, or reminded that there is a step in front of us – we are old, but we are not senile! One tour guide recommended us to google “war and 1960s” to learn more about a war that had happened in Vietnam…. Blissfully unaware that we are old enough to remember the horrors they showed in the news every night. Related to this, the tour guides are very knowledgeable about ancient history, but do not know a lot about the current situation, such as divorce rates, poverty, the educational system….
So, do not understand me wrong, they were lovely, but they would have been even better with a bit more training of how to deal with the older generations!