©2012; 2000 Connecting: Solo
Travel Network & Sylvia Seschel. Information.
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.
Vietnam Trails – A Solo Travel Report
By Sylvia Seschel
and friends were not exactly thrilled when I told them I was going to Vietnam.
They still held images of a war-torn country, even though tourists have been welcomed there for several years. On the
other hand, my travel agent said, “Go now before tourism changes everything.”
I’m glad I took her advice regardless of worrisome negative feelings.
Having read in a travel guidebook that crime is on the rise in Vietnam, I felt
more secure going with a tour group than going alone. I decided on Vietnam
Trails, (approximately US$1700), a 22-day tour by Peregrine, an Australian
based company, established since 1977.
Although couples do travel with them as
well, Peregrine is great for solo travelers. They pair up singles, and
if no match is found there won’t be a supplement attached to the price.
They take no more than 15 participants on any tour. I liked this aspect
because I felt less rushed than I have before on a big bus of 30 or 40
Ho Chi Minh City
Even the locals still call it Saigon. Here
I met my tour guide and the other six members of my group – aged from 18
to 60-something. I shared my room with the youngest (I’m 39) and we got
along fine. We all got acquainted at Restaurant 19 while our tour guide
ordered a feast of chicken, pork, rice, soup, shrimp and spring rolls.
I also had a Tiger Beer for a total cost of US$4.29.
After dinner we walked around. It was a
warm Saturday night in February, during the Tet Festival (New Years), with
a gentle rain falling. Young couples were out buzzing around on their motorcycles.
Traffic flowed despite crowds of pedestrians ignoring lights and lines
on the road – it was as if they were only for decoration.
The Peregrine rep warned us to watch our
belongings, and noting my video camera, she said: “Great! Is it time to
go home yet?” Already worried about getting robbed, this was no relief
to hear, and frankly, during the first full and only day in Saigon, I hardly
left my hotel. I felt stupid but later learned that others had felt the
same. By the time I started to relax it was too late to see much of the
city, and the next day we were off touring.
This fast-paced tour is rated “adventure”
because it exposes you to all aspects of Vietnamese culture. It covers
the country, first heading south to the Mekong Delta region then circling
back to Saigon and north as far as Hanoi, usually spending only a day or
two at each stopover. Lodging was in basic hotels or, occasionally, in
communal style village longhouses. Bathroom stops were sometimes behind
the nearest bush. We broke up travel time with beach stops and visits to
temples, ruins, and markets.
- I savored the seaside charm of Nha Trang knowing
I had seen the place while it was still quaint. In five years it is expected
to grow like another Cancun. Even now hotels, cafés and restaurants
line the boulevard. I was even able to use the Internet at the post office
for .42 cents per minute.
Progress has not made life easier for
many Vietnamese. While driving about the countryside, I saw people washing
themselves or their clothes in the river, workers bent over rice fields
under blaring sun, women, young and old, carrying water buckets or heavy
baskets suspended on sticks across their shoulders. One day a girl gave
me an amazing massage for just US$4 – a headache I had endured for hours
- Spending New Year’s Eve with the people
of Jun Village was a unique experience. We tourists seemed to be as much
of a novelty to the villagers as they were to us. The visit was made even
more memorable by my first elephant ride around the village and beyond
to open fields surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery.
- The journey to Hue, the last imperial
capital of Vietnam, is considered one of the country’s most awe-inspiring
road trips. A tranquil boat trip down the Perfume River to visit the manicured
gardens of Thien Mu Pagoda turned scarey on the way back to Hue when we
got off the boat and onto bicycles. It was a bit hair-raising when we hit
traffic, until I realized that the locals had every intention of steering
well clear of me.
- Hoi An is an old city somehow untouched
by the wars. It was a short walk from our hotel to the main shopping area
of Tran Phu Street, bustling with the market, clothing shops and tailors.
I found Thu Thao Tailors on 32 Tran Phu Street and had a blazer and a dress
made for US$70. Depending on the material, the cost could be as low as
- Hanoi, known as the Paris of Vietnam, is
a beautiful city with a combination of lakes, Chinese architecture, French
colonial buildings and tree-lined lanes. At the famous Water Puppet Theater
I enjoyed an hour-long show with the puppets performing on water – US$1.40,
and for an extra .70 cents I was allowed to use my camera.
- As I left the tour four days early (to
spend some time in Hong Kong), I was glad that my final day of sightseeing
would include famous Halong Bay, which means “where the dragon descends
into the sea.” They say that on sunny days the 3,000 limestone rocks jutting
out from the sea sparkle like jewels. We arrived on a misty day when the
view reminded me of a scene I recall from the romantic film Indochine
starring Catherine Deneuve.
- I feel lucky to have memories of Halong
Bay unspoiled by tourism. Will it last? The brochure said to expect a “bumpy
three hour ride,” but the road was almost completely paved, another sign
of tourism on the increase. Hotels popping up. Internet cafés. No
McDonald’s – yet.
If You Go To Vietnam