A road less-travelled: An authentic taste of Danang and My Son

At first, I was skeptical that a local tour operator could garner so many 5 star reviews. After spending a full-day with Xuan Tu, I can say that the accolades are real.

At the start of our tour, I told Xuan Tu, “I want the REAL day-to-day experience of Danang locals. I don’t want to be surrounded by tourists. I want to eat what you eat. Shop where you shop.”

Xuan Tu delivered.

After seeing the must-see sites (Marble Mountain and the Lady Buddha Statue) of which Xuan Tu had encyclopedic knowledge, Xuan Tu brought us to an open-air market where her family usually shops for kitchen ingredients. We tasted various treats wrapped in banana leaf, explored fresh peppers and fruits, and tasted savory dumplings — ingredients you’d never find in a western supermarket.

Next, we went to the Danang furniture district and walked down an obscure alley way to find a small restaurant with knee-high tables and stools. We feasted on a variety of local dishes that I’d never find in a U.S. Vietnamese restaurant. I can’t even properly pronounce the names of the dishes, but they were out-of-this-world delicious and fresh. I remember the ingredients. Dried shrimp paste, rice-based wraps, fresh scallions, quail eggs, Vietnamese pate and sausage, mangos, etc. Vietnamese cuisine is so much more than just pho and nem. You don’t know Vietnamese food until you’ve tried “Vietnamese Pizza.”

No foreigners were in sight. The place began to fill up with locals sitting down for a quick lunch.

On our way to My Son, Xuan Tu shared more insights. The importance of buildings and sites we passed. How local Vietnamese view the “American War” — back then and today. It is clear that Xuan Tu studies the history and seeks to connect that history to present-day places and people. She is as much a guide for today, and bridge to yesterday. She shared what she learned from previous clients, Vietnam war vets and their families from the U.S., and how they felt when they returned to Vietnam 50+ years later to reconnect with their traumatic past.

Xuan Tu is an old soul with a kind heart. She has a genuine interest in learning about her visitors as much as we are curious about her country.

I recommend you hire Xuan Tu soon before her time becomes even more scarce when the hotels and The Lonely Planet begin recommending her.

We are so happy to have met her!

Traveller: Jeffery T from Tripadvisor