Best of northern vietnam - 7-day itinerary, Vietnam - Nov 16 - Nov 24, 2018

Traveler: Sarah H. - Local specialist: Ha Thu

My trip to Vietnam was packed with highlights. Here are the tops:

1) My first few days in Hanoi were great. I really enjoyed Kien and his historical perspective that he was able to provide about Hanoi and Vietnam. It was clear that he studied history at the university, and had many interesting stories and perspectives to share. I walked away with a very rich view of Hanoi and Vietnam, both historically and present day. Kien also let me take my time and come back to him with questions which I really appreciated.

2) The third guide Ngoc was equally excellent. He provided a great perspective of Ninh Binh, Hoa Lu, Tam Coc, the many religions of Vietnam, and daily life in Vietnam. He provided a great cultural perspective that gave me a real picture of what it was like to be Vietnamese. He also shared great personal anecdotes. Our boat ride on Tam Coc was a beautiful highlight!!

3) All hotel accommodations were excellent. The staff were professional and welcoming, the rooms were very clean and well- appointed, and the breakfasts delicious. Each hotel was comfortable and relaxing, including the cruise on Halong Bay. Each night I was able to sleep very peacefully.

4) Transportation was also excellent. All drivers were on time, courteous, and drove safely. This was a great feature for sightseeing!

My only feedback is on the second guide Sang in Sapa. Compared to Kien and Ngoc, she was not as engaged. She didn't share any stories or anecdotes about the region. I would ask her questions, and her answers were very limited. I eventually gave up and starting asking other tribal women we encountered hiking. I bought something from another tribal woman and gave her a big tip since she was more informative and interesting; I talked with this woman more than I talked with Sang.

Sang also made me feel very stressed out about the train back to Hanoi on November 20. She wasn't sure how to get my ticket for the train, and kept asking me for details. Eventually, she figured it out but I'm not sure why she panicked. This was the first and only time that I was concerned about logistics and my itinerary.

Despite my interaction with Sang, the trip was still unbelievable. Vietnam is a special and beautiful place that I hope to visit again.