New Vietnam tour
When Colum McLornan asked me what I would suggest to replace the Cambodia tour that Friendship Travel’s single holidaymakers have previously enjoyed, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Vietnam!

My name is Peter: I have lived and worked in Asia for years, and really enjoy helping Colum put together small group tours in this exotic part of the world. I hope that this new escorted tour of Vietnam will be as rewarding as the Cambodia trips, for which we received great feedback.

I’m amazed at how quickly Vietnam is changing, and it seems to me that now is the ideal time to go: the country is in a position to welcome European visitors safely and offer reliable hotels and transport, yet Vietnam’s culture and heritage is still ‘original’ and the country offers a fantastic touring experience for curious travellers.

Of course, the itinerary I devised includes the key cities and sights from Ho Chi Minh in the south, through Hué and Hoi An to Hanoi in the north. The temples at My Son are certainly worthy of their UNESCO World Heritage Status, and the watery ways of the Mekong Delta are unique, but perhaps my favourite part of the trip is the amazing cruise around Halong Bay on the Aphrodite.

This extraordinary ship offers a unique cruise experience that you’ll never forget. The crew is totally focused on guests, and the combination of old-style charm and attentive service is a real treat.

You may be on-board for just three days and two nights, but the cruise packs in an unforgettable range of experiences in that time, from night-time squid fishing, to kayaking through secret lagoons. And the scenery is truly spectacular: you’ll come back with the most amazing photos as well as fantastic memories.

Each tour is for a small and select group – just eight single travellers – accompanied while in Vietnam by a member of my team. We are mostly British and Irish-born travellers who fell in love with Asia and stayed here!

Keeping the group small creates a great unity during the two weeks of the trip. Eight means that there’s enough room in the mini-coach for bags as we travel; eight is a good number for eating together in local restaurants and yet it’s a large enough group for people with different interests to go off in twos and threes when there’s free time.

Tour offers comfort, reliability and value

Looking for a balance of comfort, reliability and value, we’ve chosen mainly four-star hotels in the cities, where of course – as with all Friendship Travel tours – you have your own double room, and we include breakfast every morning, when we hold our briefing for the day ahead. We include a few other meals, for example when we’re out on a full-day excursion, and the mini-cruise includes full board.

For lunches and other meals, we’ll eat like the locals, tasting authentic Vietnamese dishes freshly-cooked, often right in front of you.

The Friendship Travel office has already had a few people ask ‘what is Vietnamese food like?’ so I’ll try and answer that!

It’s hard to pin it down, as it’s an exciting balance of salty, sour, sweet and hot flavours – but more fragrant than ‘hot’, as chilli sauce is usually offered separately, but there’s a lot of fresh herbs involved, as well as Nuoc Mam which is fish sauce, plus Tamarind fruit, Kalamansi juice (a citrus fruit) and cane sugar.

Pork and seafood, especially shrimp, are common, and when you’re on the move, a Banh Xeo – which is a sort of stuffed pancake – makes a cheap and filling lunch. And there’s the national dish of noodle soup, called Pho, which is often eaten at breakfast or available at street stalls all day.

To help you budget, I would say you should allow about £10 to £15 a day for meals, snacks and drinks that are not part of the package.

Vietnam is a long, narrow country, with a tremendous range of landscapes as well as exciting big cities. To explore it all by coach would take forever, and make it more tiring, so I recommended to Colum that we include two internal flights as part of the 15-day package: one from Ho Chi Minh to Hué, and another from Hoi An to Hanoi, enabling you to see and do more without wearing yourselves out.

Nonetheless, this is a busy itinerary, with loads packed in and some early starts. There is a lot of exploring on foot and so the trip is not recommended for those with mobility issues, I’m afraid.

I hope you’ll take a look at this new tour, which we’ve put together exclusively for Friendship Travel’s single guests. Vietnam is a really rewarding country, ready to extend the warmest of welcomes to us.