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Travel Tips, Vietnam


January 16, 2017

I may be a travel writer, but I’m not a snob. I’ve stayed in all sorts of places over the years;  from 5-star hotels, to private villas and guesthouses. I recognise great service when I see it. What I’ve realised over years of travel is that all the frills and gold in the world can’t make up for poor service, or what is sometimes worse, over service.

Some beautiful hotels have been ruined for me, when I’ve found the service fake, or at the other extreme I’ve been left feeling like a pest when I’ve asked for help. On our recent trip to Vietnam in September, we were blown away by the customer service and friendly open attitude we received everywhere, from the tailor, to the cooking course, to the guide hosting our vespa tour. The stand out experience by far was our stay by the riverside at Hotel Royal Hoi An MGallery By Sofitel. I was left thinking about what made this hotel so different to others I have stayed at, (sometimes with similar amenities), and for me it comes down to the service.

Here are four things that I’ve deemed essential in creating a great guest experience:

1. Communicate Like A Real Human

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re being served by a robot or hearing the same lines repeated to guests during a stay in a lovely hotel. I’m myself no matter what environment I’m in, so I like a friendly yet professional approach from staff. I want to feel like I’m being served by real people and personalities. I love hearing local stories, favourite restaurants and markets tips from staff (it’s how you find all the good stuff!) What I loved about the service at Hotel Royal is that the staff were not afraid to stop and chat with us during our stay, sharing stories about local festivals and snippets of their own family traditions. On a quiet night near the river bar, we even had a bit of fun with the bar staff making up cocktails being encouraged to try their new signature one – “Scent of Tra Que”, a refreshing mix of pennywort, lime, Midori and vanilla syrup, which went down a treat.

2. Take Care Of The Little Things

When you’re on holiday you don’t want to think about the details. Details are annoying. (Why think of details when you could be shopping, or cocktail sipping, or achieving some bucket list dream!) I was astounded that there were so many little things taken care of that we didn’t have to organise ourselves. Our tailored clothes were delivered straight to our room. The beds were turned down for us every night. Local pennywort juice was waiting for us on arrival, and on our early morning (5am) final departure, a breakfast box full of warm pastries was prepared for our journey to the airport. It was as if we were being sent off with love.

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Reviews, Vietnam

Meow Review: Vietnam Vespa Adventures Hoi An & Saigon

October 18, 2016

This is possibly one of the best tour companies I have found on my travels. This post isn’t sponsored by the way. Just sharing as service. I found out about Vietnam & Cambodia Vespa Adventures via Twitter, which I mostly ignore usually. (Bad I know.) I tweeted said travel writer back and forth, after reading a fabulous review, and it was on my radar for our trip. My travelling companion (sister) was a little bit skeptical. No, we were not riding the bikes ourselves. No, we were not going to die. Yes they had insurance. All those TripAdvisor people could not be lying, surely? Absolutely not!

Tour 1: Country Side & Islands, Central Hoi An 

On arrival in Hoi An, we booked into The Country Side and Island Tour around central Hoi AnAfter  a morning meeting at Cafe Zoom (appropriately named) we met with our guide, and had a tea before setting out on a circle around Hoi An to see village life.


Ready to roll in Hoi An!

Our first stop was a boatyard, where locals were making HUGE fishing boats, to order. This work is highly skilled in Vietnam, and the labourers get paid around $30 per day. No photo sorry, but my sister was astounded at the lack of occupational health & safety standards on the site, being married to a health and safety man. Saws and shit everywhere. Escaping unscathed, we then scooted of through the rice fields to a visit a family temple, where four generations of family meet every year during Tet, Vietnamese New Year. It is part of the tradition for all families to return from all over Vietnam every year, to learn about their ancestry.  We then stopped in at a weaving centre, before making rice paper ourselves (and eating it). Continue Reading…

Travel & Wanderlust, Vietnam

5 Things To Do in Hoi An

September 8, 2016

A rainy morning in Phu Quoc is the perfect time to reflect on my time in Hoi An, a stunning world heritage town around 35 minutes from DaNang Airport. The word Hoi An, means “peaceful melting pot”, the town having been a central point for spice traders between the 7th and 10th centuries. Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and Indians settled here during that time. Today it is a melting pot of activities, food, culture and shopping. A great place to do a little, or a lot, as we found out. Here are 5 things you must do in Hoi An.

Get on a bike and get out-of-town

The best way to see Hoi An, is as the locals do, get on a bike, motorbike, or as we did on a Vespa (much cooler). We joined the morning tour on offer from Vietnam Vespa Adventures to see the countryside. We were picked up from our hotel at 7.30 in the morning before enjoying a tea at Cafe Zoom and then heading off. We spent the morning far away from other tourists, seeing Vietnamese rural life. In the safe hands of the drivers, and our guide Van, we visited family temples, a boat yard, made rice paper rolls and tried a spot of weaving before having lunch in the rice fields and returning to Hoi An. A day to remember.


Visit a tailor

It is so very confusing when you arrive in Hoi An. Every second shop is a tailor. We had a few things we wanted to get copied and a special dress for my sister’s 40th. We wandered the streets in confusion in the heat, before settling on BeBe Tailor to get our ‘expensive clothes’ copied. I had a dress for work and a beautiful skirt copied for around $160, we are talking something that looks like a cue dress here. M had a great dress made for her party and two work dresses copied. They did it overnight, with minimal adjustments on the second fitting, a myriad of material choices and great service. If you have something cheaper to be copied, or a little cotton dress made, it is almost not worth it. You can buy holiday dresses in the shops for $10. I went to a cheaper tailor (Phuong 1) and got some little summer dresses made, and a linen dress for mum. Pretty happy with my $30 dress. Tried it on once and it was perfect! Continue Reading…