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Ethnic Travel - Day Tours
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Brigitte G wrote a review Mar 2020
Vancouver, Canada22 contributions16 helpful votes
I booked our entire Vietnam trip with Ethnic Travel for my family of four (two adults, kids aged 8 and 4) over six months ahead of time, and I am very glad we worked with them. We started our trip as planned on March 1st despite the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the trip, as the situation evolved quickly, we really appreciated knowing that someone always had our backs. Being in the country for only two weeks – our first family experience in Asia – we really enjoyed our travels more without the constant need for us to deal with itinerary changes, making decisions, or arranging modes of transportation. Plus, the three guides and five drivers that accompanied us at different times during the trip – including a great guide+driver pair for 7 days! – made us feel welcome and safe at all times. We opted for a private trip so we wouldn’t impose our kids’ occasional crankiness onto other travelers. We found the total rate to be very reasonable, and it included all accommodations, activities, transportation, and most meals, so we never had surprises. At planning time, there was quite a bit of back and forth with the agency’s Ms. Thu. We finally settled on an itinerary including Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Bai Tu Long Bay and Ha Long Bay, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, and Hoi An. We paid a 50% deposit upon booking and the balance immediately upon arrival. Our accommodations were varied and always good. At Ethnic Travel homestays and on the Ha Long Bay ship, we enjoyed rustic hospitality. The rooms were always clean, with ensuite bathrooms, hot water, and air conditioning. The beds were always comfortable, and the hosts welcoming, although they didn’t speak English or seek to engage with us beyond the basics. The guide’s assistance (and Google Translate) were often needed, which is fine. Our other accommodations were hotels and small resorts that (to us) were quite luxurious. (As a rare upside of the coronavirus situation, we were even upgraded to nicer hotels a couple of times!) Our family is vegan and I made sure to mention this to Ms. Thu (several times…) and to re-discuss it with our guides as when needed. We enjoyed spectacular food on both boats and in Ninh Binh, as well as at a few restaurants. Our Hanoi guide made a point of taking us to a vegan restaurant he knew in his own neighborhood. The options on Quan Lan were a bit limited – but such is life on a remote island! At breakfast, vegan options varied from very basic to plentiful. Overall, we ate quite well – and always too much! (Note to other vegans: I am not hyper-vigilant when traveling. I eat food that does not appear to contain animal products, but I do not necessarily double-check if the vegetable rolls were sealed with eggs. People with allergies or lesser tolerance for non-vegan food may have a different experience than I did.) Our activities mostly took us to less-touristy venues in touristic areas. Due to the Vietnamese government’s measures to prevent the spread of the virus, we often had places almost all to ourselves. (Those traveling under normal circumstances will have a different experience, but still less crowded than the guide-book hot spots.) Unfortunately, toward the end of the trip, many venues had to close completely – and we understand! That was not within Ethnic Travel’s control, obviously. For the last couple of days, we chose to fall back onto our lovely hotel pool in Hoi An and its private chunk of An Bang Beach. There are worse ways to ride out an unpleasant situation. Throughout the trip, we appreciated Ms. Thu’s foresight. She made arrangements to circumvent bad weather, flight changes, and attraction closures. We were in communication via WhatsApp messaging throughout the trip and she was always quick to respond to my questions or concerns. Knowing that she was juggling several other clients at the same time, I was impressed by her responsiveness. In sum, I warmly recommend Ethnic Travel’s services. We would definitely book another vacation through them if we returned to the northern part of Vietnam, where they are most active. (I know they have some coverage of South Vietnam as well, but I do not have first-hand experience of those so cannot comment.) Thank you Ms. Thu and the whole team of guides and drivers! You welcomed us and shared your country’s jewels with our family, and ensured that we were always comfortable and safe through a challenging time. We hope to see you again!
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Date of experience: March 2020
3 Helpful votes
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tripleespresso2go wrote a review Mar 2020
Penang, Malaysia99 contributions41 helpful votes
+1
We had an amazing time on the Ethnic Travel 3D/2N cruise as part of our 16 days in Vietnam. We booked before we arrived in Vietnam as we were on a pretty tight timeframe. The correspondence from the company was prompt, helpful and reasonably priced. We weren't sure whether to go for the Halong bay 2D/1N cruise or to pay the extra and go for the 3D/2N Halong and Bai Tu Long bay. We were so pleased with our decision as we actually prefered Bai Tu Long over Halong. The minibus collected us from our hotel in Hanoi and transported us to the port, providing water and rest stops with restaurants and craft centres along the 4.5 hours journey. We packed loads of colouring in books, downloaded cartoons and headphones for our 3 year old and settled in for the journey through the varied scenery of the bustling city, then peaceful paddy fields. We arrived at the port in time for lunch and food was served on board shortly after setting sail. It turned out that we were the only people on day one of the cruise, so we had the entire traditional junk and tour guide to ourselves. Meals and water were included on this fabulously rustic experience and they catered really well for our vegetarian palates. There was so much food at every mealtime: delicious sweet potato bites, stir-fried vegetables, cucumber, pineapple rice and watermelon and much more. After not long we docked at a Floating village in Bai Tu Long Bay. When we arrived the place was secluded; no other boats, no other tourists. It was bliss. We kayaked around the bay for over an hour in complete awe of the beautiful rock formations and the noisy insects. Kayaking here was one of the highlights of our entire trip. The traditional junk docked at Quan Lan Island shortly after the kayaking where we were collected in an Electric buggy and driven through the island to our home-stay accommodation for night 1. After dropping our bags, we borrowed bikes from the host family and cycled through the relatively quiet streets and countryside to a nearby beach. We sipped on coconuts until it was time to head back for dinner with our host family. Back at the home-stay, our host taught us to how to make vegetable spring rolls, which our little girlloved making and eating in between playing with the family's kids and their toys. A delicious homemade feast was prepared for us for dinner and another for breakfast before we jumped in another electric buggy and headed for a different port. It was a very 'real life' experience at this village, no frills but amazing hospitality. Mosquito nets and fans were provided in the private ensuite rooms. It's worth noting that accomodation was basic, pretty clean and in the middle of a local residential area. We enjoyed the experience. On day 2 of 3D/2N cruise with Ethnic Travel, we travelled back to the original port, drove a short distance and boarded a different cruise ship. This ship was much bigger (see photos) and we set sail for Halong Bay with a group of 8 other tourists. The cruise ship had a viewing deck, with sunbeds, cushions and a shaded area, an indoor dining area with a couple of cabins on the same floor and below deck there were more cabins. Each had an ensuite bathroom. We had requested a room on the same floor as the dining area to avoid having our 3-year old on the outdoor slippery steps leading above or below deck. Halong Bay was beautiful but felt crowded with boats and tourists in comparison to the quiet experience at Bai Tu Long the day before. We kayaked around Halong Bay to some caves, where we parked up the kayaks and set off exploring on foot. Sophia loved it. We couldn't swim in the ocean due to jellyfish so built sandcastles and paddled instead. The beautiful rock formations sticking out of the ocean were picture perfect. On day 3 of the cruise we awoke to torrential rain, but undeterred, doned our rain jackets and hopped in a kayak to another bay. It was still beautiful and brightened up quickly. For the rest of the morning, we set sail back through the bay, enjoyed the epic scenery on the way back to the port and ate another delicious lunch before disembarking and heading back to Hanoi by minibus. We had a fantastic experience and would strongly recommend this tour. Our guide was super.
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Date of experience: June 2019
3 Helpful votes
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Christopher K wrote a review Mar 2020
5 contributions2 helpful votes
+1
We did the hagian trail 3 day bike tour and halong bay tour on both trips there was no shortage of food food was awesome and traditional on most cases good seafood in halong good rice and ethnic foods on the trail. Good guides but I didn’t care much for the guides they didn’t really explain much there were just there to take us along the trip but still awesome on both tours and stay on the boat in halong bay was top notch! I’d book again it’s cheaper to explore Vietnam with them then doing all the travels on your own... much love
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Date of experience: January 2020
2 Helpful votes
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Anthony N wrote a review Feb 2020
13 contributions6 helpful votes
+1
We had the BEST time on the trip. The north felt like a completely different place than closer to Hanoi, and we got a really intimate experience of it. I truly felt like we lived like locals, which felt amazing and is exactly what I was hoping for. The places we stayed at were beautiful and the hosts very welcoming Our guide was informative and knew the routes. With our driver I felt completely safe on the windy roads. I felt looked after but also given freedom to explore when wanted. Even further down south in the more popular areas our guide took us to quiet and beautiful places. We feel very lucky to have done this tour and would do it all again in a heart beat. The office was very easy to communicate with and everyone did their best to make this tour personal to us. Would 100% reccomend. They also do tours that aren’t on their website. If you ring up, they speak very fluent English. Thank you Ethnic Travel!
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Date of experience: February 2020
5 Helpful votes
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Jeanne T wrote a review Feb 2020
Falls Church, Virginia51 contributions64 helpful votes
We booked the "7 days Hagiang and Ba Be Lake" tour with Ethnic Travel. It was the high point of our month long visit to Vietnam. We enjoyed our hikes through the breathtaking scenery, ate a lot of delicious local food, and got to know fellow travelers at the homestays. However, it was our guide, Pham, and our driver, Alex, that really set this tour apart. Pham spoke English beautifully, and gave us insight into the life, religion, and customs of the areas we visited. He patiently answered all of our many (and sometimes silly) questions. Pham also modified the itinerary for us, giving us more opportunity to hike and spend time in the different areas, and less time in the car. Our driver Alex was warm and friendly. We had a couple very rainy and foggy days, and I always felt safe with him behind the wheel, navigating twisting mountain roads with water buffalo coming toward you and motorbikes passing on the right. Our meals with them were fun (and filling!), as they ordered local favorites and encouraged us to try things we wouldn't have even known to order on our own. The trip exceeded our expectations thanks to their hospitality.
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Date of experience: February 2020
3 Helpful votes
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