Vietnam

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Leaving the West Behind in Vietnam

When our clients ask for a destination that is exotic, challenging, and an escape from the everyday, Vietnam always jumps up to the top of our list. The only thing we love more than Vietnam’s natural beauty and rich culture is sharing it with our clients.

Our latest request came from a car manufacturer. It wanted to send 50 adventurous employees and their spouses on an incentive trip. After weighing a few other options, we all agreed that Vietnam would be perfect.

Our clients’ introduction to Vietnam was in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Because there can be a transitional period for many people when first adjusting to Vietnamese culture, we booked our clients in a resort that wasn’t short on amenities. Golf, swimming, and sunbathing during the day and barbeques on the beach in the evening were always available to ease any culture shock.

Underground Dining in the Cù Chi Tunnels

We wasted no time in exploring the fascinating Vietnamese history and geography. In fact, the Cù Chi tunnels offered the perfect opportunity to do both at the same time. A huge strategic advantage during the Vietnam War, the underground Cù Chi tunnels are now fashioned to accommodate visitors. After learning about the significance of the tunnels as they meandered through them, the guests sat down for a military-style dinner within a command center. The food was not gourmet; it was mostly rice, which is just about all the Vietnamese soldiers had to survive in the harsh conditions within the tunnels.

Vespas in Ho Chi Minh

Our clients’ introduction to the city life of Ho Chi Minh was via the people’s favorite mode of transport: the scooter. Specifically, we rode Vespas, which have recently become a status symbol among the Vietnamese.

The streets of Ho Chi Minh City are flush with around three million scooters. The first thing visitors have to learn is how to negotiate these “motos”. First, don’t make eye contact with the drivers. It can create a deer-in-the-headlights effect. Second, and most important, is to move with confidence. I’ll never forget a metaphor that a local used when describing how to get across a busy street. He said to be like a stone rolling across a river. While I’ve never seen a stone roll across a river, I immediately knew what he meant, and it works.

Living History in Da Nang

We took a one-hour flight from Ho Chi Minh City to the bustling city of Da Nang, where we stayed at the Furama Resort, a five-star hotel overlooking China Beach. It was just a 30-minute coach ride from Da Nang to the city of Hoi An, which has a history as an important trade port dating back to the first century. There are no cars in Hoi An, and it often feels as though you are living in the past as you walk through the city’s streets and markets.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi

The historical highlight of Hanoi was visiting the resting place of Ho Chi Minh. Even though he had requested in his will that his body be cremated, his body was embalmed, and now people like us can visit the late revolutionary leader of North Vietnam at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that visitors to the mausoleum must adhere to strict rules at the mausoleum. There is no speaking, no crossing the arms or hands in pockets, no pictures or video, people must walk in two lines, and everyone’s legs must be covered. Some very serious guards are there to make sure these rules are followed—we’re always extra careful not to upset them!

Cruising in Ha Long Bay

It’s a scenic three-and-a-half-hour drive to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi. Our group boarded a cruise ship there for a tour of the bay’s awe-inspiring isles. There are around 2,000 of them, mostly made of limestone.

According to legend, the isles were spit out by dragons to protect Vietnam from foreign invaders. Today that sounds implausible, but once you see these magical isles up close, one after the other, it’s surprisingly easy to imagine.

Our flight back to Hanoi was its own adventure: We were transported via Russian military planes restored from the Vietnam War. The ride was exhilarating, and the views took our breath away.

A Gala Dinner to Remember

When we returned to Hanoi, it was time to prepare for the final gala dinner of the trip. Upon return to their rooms, each guest found a handmade, traditional Vietnamese garment made by the tailors of Hoi An.

The women and men wore their colorful dresses and shirts to the Temple of Literature, where dragon dancers delighted the crowd as they sipped cocktails, snapped photos, and socialized. They were then led into the outdoor dining area for a gourmet salmon dinner amid candlelight.

Music, dancing, and good cheer for a week of new discoveries and new friends continued well into the night. Vietnam is truly a destination unlike any other.

The women and men wore their colorful dresses and shirts to the Temple of Literature, where dragon dancers delighted the crowd as they sipped cocktails, snapped photos, and socialized. They were then led into the outdoor dining area for a gourmet salmon dinner amid candlelight.