We never experienced a private tour so we were a little hesitaint and not really sure what to expect. We did some research on the internet and contacted Xuan Tu by email approximately three weeks before our visit to Vietnam. She immediately responded explaining the different packages her company offers. The tour descriptions were clear, well written and very easy to follow. Nevertheless we still asked many questions and Xuan Tu promptly answered all our concerns and put our minds at easy as she assured us we would have a most wonderful tour, and boy did we ever!
There were three of us on the tour, my husband, adult son and myself. We selected the Hoi An tour package and put ourselves in the skillful hands of Xuan Tu. She arrived to our resort (Angsana), which was a distance, on time, with a smile, air-conditioned comfortable car and water for everybody. Xuan Tu’s warm greeting made her feel more like a family member opposed to a tour guide. She introduced our driver who never spoke but did a fantastic job throughout the day. He would stop when Xuan Tu told him and always be where we needed him with the car cool and water available.
From the moment we got in the car Xuan Tu took control of our day. She informed us it was better to go over the mountain to see the beautiful views of Lang Co Bay and Da Nang. She said it took a bit longer but was worth the trip, and she was so right! It was difficult to take pictures but Xuan Tu knew exactly when to ask the driver to pull over. She asked if we liked coffee because she wanted to take us to her favorite coffee shop in her city. We all agreed and shared a delicious cup of Vietnamese coffee at the oldest coffee shop in Da Nang, Long Cafe. She was most helpful with the ordering and made suggestions for the chocolate flavored iced coffee. The conversation over coffee was most interesting as throughout the tour Xuan Tu would share facts and stories about the country. We got to talking about Da Nang her hometown and I mentioned there was so much to do in Da Nang , she agreed and suggested we make a side trip to Marble Mountain. This was not planned and off the agenda but we were so glad we got to see this amazing marvel.
Marble Mountain is a cluster of five mountains which are named after the five elements, natural beauty. There are steps carved into the mountain that lead to a Buddhist Pagoda. It was a beautiful place to stop and Xuan Tu guided us effortlessly through the mountain. We stopped often throughout the tour and she shared interesting stories about the religious statues or carvings on the walls. She told us how the Viet Con used the Marble Mountain as a hospital during the War. The hike was a little difficult at times due to the slippery marble and uneven steps but she made sure we were extra careful and took breaks as needed in the hot heat. It is important to wear closed shoes, comfortable clothing and Xuan Tu gave us water and a wash cloth so we could wipe off our sweaty faces. At the top of the Mountain we stopped for drinks and Xuan Tu suggested fresh coconut water from the vendors, real refreshing! We were at Marble Mountain for approximately two hours but it was well worth the detour in our days activities.
Now off to the city of Hoi An. We started by eating lunch, a Vietnamese Baguette from Bahn a restaurant made famous by Anthony Bourdine. Xuan Tu helped us order and sort out the money for payment. The food was delicious especially the soft baguette.
Now on to the old city of Hoi An. We walked through the marketplace and saw many vendors with fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing and beautifully colored lanterns. Our next stop was to catch a private boat to ferry us over to Cam Kim Island. Xuan Tu had the boat waiting for us on the dock. Every step of the tour was seamless with our transportation always waiting for us and ready to go! When arriving to the island once again you are greeted by vendors. Xuan Tu walks you through saying at the end of the tour you can shop. We started at a an old dockyard where they made and fixed wooden boats with high level of skill and craft. We walked through a wood working facility and watch apprentice as well as master craftsman working. We purchased a carved wood fisherman that represented the fishing village in our eyes and the craftsman carved our name and date on the bottom to make it that extra special souvenir. From here Xuan Tu had our bikes waiting for our ride into the town. She was very considerate of our comfort and adjusted each bike to meet our needs. The bikes all had baskets on the front so they could hold our water bottles or purchases. This was probably my favorite part of the tour. it was neat to ride the bikes in the rice fields and to see the water buffalo up close. it was a little tricky to manuever the bikes with the scooters that the townspeople mostly drove. But all in all it made it a true experience. The first family we met were making rice paper/noodle that we got to experience hands on. After we shared a rice noodle snack that they made and some tea. The four generations that lived in the house including the 91 year old grandmother shared pictures with us. The next stop was by the river, it was at the house of a family that makes sleeping/placemats.The mother was weaving on the front porch when we showed up and Xuan Tu explained to us her job. The mom makes the mats to help pay for her (5) children to go to school. The weaved mats were brightly colored and beautiful. We purchased placemats and gave a little bit more for the education cause and the Mom was so appreciative. From here it was back on the bikes, through the rice fields, passing the water buffalo and dodging the scooters. A humbling day to watch people work so hard. The ferry boat was waiting for us to board and we crossed the river back to the city of Hoi An now for some shopping, history lessons and people watching. We wanted to be by the river at night to see all the lights come on from the shops by the river. So we made a plan to eat an earlier dinner and when finished the lights would be on. We walked over the Japanese Covered Bridge, a symbol of Hoi An. Xuan Tu was very knowledgeable about the history of the bridge and showed us the picture of the bridge which is on the currency (dong).
Dinner at the Cargo Club was an excellent choice. We sat on the top verandah so we could see the darkness come in and the lights go on. Xuan Tu once again helped us order and answered our many questions to assure we would get what we wanted. The meal was traditional Vietnamese and quite tasty. The dessert menu was very extensive and we all ordered a treat. The ice cream was delicious as was the baby pavlova. The dinner satisfied us all and the political conversation held all our attention. It was a delightful evening casually learning about two different heritages. Now down by the river we purchased paper lanterns from an adorable little girl. We released our lanterns and made a wish and we sent them down the river. We continued to walk through the market to our car and came across the most beautifully colored lantern booths and took pictures and bought an orange lantern to remember our day in Vietnam. The car was comfortably cool and we were off for journey back to our resort almost 2 hours away.
The day and tour were now almost coming to an end but we could all tell something magical had happened. Our chance meeting had moved into a nice comfortable friendly relationship one that we hope to continue. Xuan Tu was like family by the end of our tour. It is our plan to sponsor Xuan Tu so she can visit our country and share her knowledge of Vietnam in our country.
This was the most amazing experience I have ever encountered on a vacation. Xuan Tu is a brilliant, confident, energetic, go-getter with a gift of making people feel comfortable and welcome in her country. She is a real “firecracker”!
Traveller: NancyHands from Tripadvisor