Having discovered Hanoikids n read abt them at their website, I have my skepticism on the service provided by them initially, more so since it’s totally free. However, after experiencing it, I am truly grateful to have their tour companion for it just makes my stay in Hanoi even more pleasant & interesting.
Considering my trip to Hanoi w my friends was less than 3 weeks ahead, I was lucky to have finally managed to book them for a one-day tour on 27/6. The Tour Department whom I corresponded enthusiastically was very patient n pretty fast in replying to all my enquiries. I had requested for a 1.5 day tour but regrettably they are unable to accommodate.
That day finally arrived. Me n my friends had the pleasure of meeting with Phuong as our tour companion, where she waited for us patiently ard 9am at the hotel lobby as we were slightly late, after rushing back from breakfast outside. She is a wonderful companion - bubbly n ever smiling.
Our 1st stop was Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum which we went by cab. When we saw the extremely long queue upon arriving, we had no choice but to forgo the visit. Moreover, it’s almost 10am n Phuong informed us that the place will close early during this time of the year (summer) in order to maintain the temperature low inside the mausoleum. During winter, the place will remain open to visitors longer, till probably noon.
We headed to the Museum of Etnology . Phuong brought us around the museum n explained the various ethnics n cultures in Vietnam. Since we are Malaysian Chinese and she is a Vietnamese Chinese, we discovered that we share a common culture n religious background. As we felt totally unpleasant since the museum inside is not air-conditioned, it was even worse when we later toured the various ethnic houses outside the museum compound as the weather was extremely sunny, hot n humid.
Temple of Literature was next. But since we would like to have some drinks first, Phuong suggested a café near the temple. We went by cab n arrived at Koto café – an interesting café run for charitable purpose to help the underprivileged Vietnam kids. Most of the waiters/ waitresses are teenagers. I had a delicious Vietnamese meal of Bun Cha – pork patties noodle soup, as recommended by Phuong. Very interesting way of eating it as well where the noodles come separately n bit by bit is taken then soaked into spoonful of the soup n eaten together w pieces of pork patties. After our meal, we headed to the temple which is just opposite the café. Here, Phuong again walked us through briefly the history of the temple.
Upon exiting the temple, we had cool sugar cane drinks by the roadside. My friends were very interested to get those cute n retro-like scooter helmets we saw most Vietnamese wearing on the road. Without hesitation, Phuong brought us to the shop where she got hers. Both my friends got what they wanted n they were totally thrilled w their unique purchases, not so much for its use as helmets but more for decorative/ souvenir pieces which definitely make for interesting conversations back home.
Since shopping is one of our to-do item, we went back to the Old Quarters (the area where we stayed) where interesting trinket shops of all sorts are abundance. Phuong led us to the street famous for art pieces. We stopped at a shop selling lamps. We were so engrossed making our purchases of the various interesting Vietnamese lamps where we spent almost an hour there. Phuong nevertheless was so obliging n patient waiting for us. She even helped us with some bargaining. We then had some drinks at a nice French-like café nearby – Moca Cafe. Disappointed though as we didn’t get to have authentic Vietnamese drip-coffee. That café seemed to serve only french style coffee n food. As Phuong needed to rush back home by 6pm, we quickly finished our drinks. However, she still obligingly brought us to a nearby local supermarket since I’d requested earlier that I need to get some famous Vietnamese coffee –Trung Nguyen. It was very nice of her instead of bringing us to those shops selling at touristy prices. The price I paid for those coffees was a steal @ approx VND 36000 as compared to my friend who bought earlier at some souvenir kiosks at almost 3x that price!
We returned to the hotel ard 6.30pm. As a gesture of appreciation for her wonderful companionship, we gave her a souvenir mug brought from Malaysia (something I learn from previous reviewers here). Phuong was delighted w the gift. We exchanged email address n finally bid farewell.
Hanoikids is highly recommended. Truly live up to one of their noble missions of developing goodwill n cross cultural understanding between Vietnam n the rest of the world. Get to know Hanoikids before they become a victim of commercialism n profit-centered organization due to their success n popularity. It’s an unforgettable experience. You’ll never regret it.
Thank you again Hanoikids & Phuong for the wonderful time!
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