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Many Thanks And Kudos To Journeys Within​

Jill Higson is a guest who traveled  to Vietnam and Cambodia with Journeys Within over the holidays and has blogged about her experiences to share them with friends, family and future visitors. Read on as she shares her thoughts about travelling  with Journeys Within…

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Many Thanks And Kudos To Journeys Within​

F​irst and foremost, many thanks ​ (Cam On in Vietnamese and Aw Kohn in Khmer)​ to Andrea Ross, Director of Journeys Within and her U.S., Vietnam and Cambodia team of directors, guides and drivers for arranging a trip of a lifetime!  Their incredible help and kindness were endless – this included accompanying me to and from ​locations, educating me about each country’s temples, museums, markets and more.

​Also, a big thank you for transporting me in cool and comfortable automobiles, along with the opportunity to ride on fun motor bikes, tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws), bicycles and ATVs!

I could not have experienced and enjoyed Vietnam and Cambodia in such a unique, intimate and seamless manner without the Journeys Within team, especially since it was high season for travel in Southeast Asia.  Airports, hotels, restaurants and sites were full of tourists from around the world – often large groups with their cameras and selfie sticks in hand!  Everything was made more enjoyable by being able to follow Journey Within’s expert lead.

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Jill enjoying time with her guides through out Southeast Asia.

My guides were even quite the photographers themselves, finding the perfect spot to take a classic photo of me by a temple or rice field.  Also indulging me in a joint selfie as you will see from the many in the blogs – no selfie stick needed!

Time To Share My Travel Blog

So time to share, with excitement,​ my amazing and memorable two week adventure in Vietnam and Cambodia this past holiday season with ​my family, ​old friends, as well as new friends I met on my trip and of course the Journey’s Within team.

Please take a look and hope you will enjoy my blogs with some of my favorite photos and highlights.  I think you might be booking a trip with Journeys Within afterward so I included my entire itinerary!

Must See Sites – Angkor Wat and Ha Long Bay

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Angkor Wat and Halong Bay are among the most stunning sights in Southeast Asia.

Both Angkor Wat and Ha Long Bay are major tourist attractions, however they should still be considered ‘Must See Attractions’ due to their natural beauty, strong presence and the emotional impact they can have on any traveler. I recommend that you don’t let the crowd interfere with creating your own memories.

Waking up at 4:00AM to head out to see the sunrise was not originally at the top of my to-do list, however, it was well worth a few less hours of sleep to experience Angkor Wat at day break.  To begin the day looking at the sky with this beautiful temple in the foreground was a special moment and then walking inside of it and wandering around the grounds beyond peaceful.

The Angkor Wat temple was spectacular inside and out, with its detailed architecture, breathtaking views and beautiful surroundings.  One of my favorite photos was taken by a small window opening, where I sat looking out and reflecting upon the peace and tranquility of the temple — a genuine moment captured.

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Jill enjoying a quiet moment of reflection among the ruins of Angkor Wat.

I was fortunate to spend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on the lovely Dragon’s Legend Junk boat, sailing through Ha Long Bay. While Halong Bay is a well-known tourist site, it was still overwhelming to take in the beauty of the bay’s many limestone islands and islets that were in every direction I looked.  I could not decide which ones to take photos of, so settled on all!

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The beautiful crag formations in Halong Bay.

I met wonderful families from Saigon and England on my overnight boat and spent the days embracing their little rug rats in photos while basking in the beauty of the bay. I explored Thien Con Son Cave and kayaked around Ho Co Island – an experience that was enhanced by the innocent and excited eyes of the children we had on board.  It was beyond memorable to ring in 2015 with them and the boat’s wonderful staff, who treated us to a delicious eight-course dinner of fish, vegetables, rice and more.  Plus we celebrated with a pre-New Year’s Eve toast and dancing on the deck! We may have been in an often-visited location, but the experience was all my own.

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Jill and the staff of her junk cruise in Halong Bay.

As much as I enjoyed taking in the major attractions, I have to say seeing the countryside in Vietnam and Cambodia — villages, rice fields, livestock, etc. — was as memorable and important for me. Mixing in lesser seen locales helped me to better understand the people and the culture of these countries.

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The Southeast Asian countryside is beautiful and varied in its sights.

I felt in tune with my surroundings and happy as I saw farm lands with water buffaloes in Hoi An by bike, breath taking mountains and islands of Ha Long Bay from a boat and kayak and villages filled with children and cows in Siem Reap by ATV.

 

Employee Reflections: Vietnam

Our Vietnam team consists of offices in the North, Center and the South of the country that work together to ensure that the quality of each guests experience remains consistent…

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Vietnam is a beautiful and varied country. With so many different varieties of holiday destinations — from the hills of Sapa to the bustling streets of Hanoi — we appreciate having our own experts on the ground. Here are our colleagues from our Vietnam’s offices reflect on being part of Team Journeys Within.

Michelle Nguyen:

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Michelle, next to Andrea on the far left, with all the Journeys Within children and crew.

What are your thoughts about Journeys Within now?

I believe that Journeys Within has its vision and all the ears and eyes established and in the right place to develop, plan and deliver great experiences to guests.

What are your thoughts on the next ten years (or just the future) for Journeys Within?

The countries that Journeys Within hosts are gradually emerging from difficult times. The positive interaction that Journeys Within promotes through guest itineraries visibly crosses borders and helps everyone impacted to learn and share hope for the future.

What is your favorite memory working with Journeys Within?

I have so many wonderful memories, but my favourite is of the Journeys Within conference in 2012. Children are a real inspiration to us all.  The children from 6 countries, different languages and life situations spent quality time together. I am sure everyone who observed them would agree that they did not bring expectations, they lived in the moment and embraced their experience wholeheartedly. I am positive that they all came away with a better understanding and appreciation of other people and places following their opportunity. So, I would like to say that the “little JW team” are amazing too!

Binh Houng:

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Binh in Hue with some of her most memorable guests.

What are your thoughts about Journeys Within now?:

I had many nice trips with Journeys Within’s clients. With me, I always think that I am not just only tour guide for their trip but also their local friend. I am happy to share with them about Vietnam’s culture. So since I have worked for Journeys Within, I has many good friends.

What are your thoughts on the next ten years (or just the future) for Journeys Within?:

I think with modern thinkings and well-prepared services by the way we are doing now, more and more people will know and want to travel with Journeys Within.

What is your favorite memory working with Journeys Within?

I had a nice time guiding for a Journeys Within client who came to volunteer at the Hue hospital and help cancer patients there. He traveled with his wife and two sons and they were very nice.

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Khoa, always smiling!

Khoa Dinh Nguyen:

What are your thoughts about Journeys Within now?

Journeys Within is not only a unique company. It is a more than that. It is a family that works together professionally with laughter and fun to give everyone the best experience both the team and guests that travel with us.

What are your thoughts on the next ten years (or just the future) for Journeys Within?:

I can see and feel that Journeys Within is growing and expanding more in different areas. I can’t wait to see more of its success and brighter achievements.

What is your favorite memory working with Journeys Within?

April and Andrea came with me to spend some time with a wonderful Cu chi Tunnels veteran in the northwest of Sai Gon. We had lots of wonderful food cooked by his family, great conversation and probably a little too much rice wine! However, we learnt a lot and everyone had a lovely time.

“Tracy” Le Thi Thu Thuong:

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Tracy cycles through a village outside of Hanoi

What are your thoughts about Journeys Within now?:

Journeys Within is an incredible company, it is getting stronger as of it’s great works

The team is getting bigger but getting along very well, Journeys Within is really “ Six countries One team”  that makes the company being stronger and having great services to any client I am very happy being a part of Journeys Within.

What are your thoughts on the next ten years (or just the future) for Journeys Within?:

I strongly believe Journeys Within will grow fast and being a truly STAR for Southeast Asia travel destinations.

What is your favorite memory working with Journeys Within?

My favorite memory working with Journeys Within is working with local families those we bring our guests to visit and experience the local cultures and having lunch with the host.

Guiding Light: Nam Nguyen

Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital city and one of the must-see travel destinations one everyone’s list.  Nam Nguyen is one of our guides who loves showing guests everything Hanoi has to offer. Here he talks about his guiding inspirations and getting his start …

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Name: Nam Nguyen

Age: 30 years old, recently married.

History: Guiding for 8 years, working with JW since last year.

How did you become a guide?

When I was a little boy, every day I joined my friends for a sports game in my front yard which happened to be located beside the main road between Hanoi to Halong Bay. I still remember that during that time we saw many tourist buses pass by — we always felt happy and put our hands up to let foreigners know we want to say hello to them.  It would make us so happy when they would answer us in the same way! I had really hoped some day in the future I would get a chance to talk to them. My father was a business man in the Soviet Union and we often got his picture with Russian friends when he sent them back home — that made me more curious about Westerners. After high school, all of these reasons pushed me to apply to the Tourism University to work in this business.

What do you like about being a guide?

My major at University was Tourism Business and Administration. I had a part time job at a travel agency during the last year of school and the company was focused on the French market. One day the boss got a booking from two Americans and she immediately requested I arranged the trip for them and then became their English guide for their tour. For 22 days I traveled from the North to the South Vietnam with my two clients, who became my new friends and also my teachers. One of them was a soldier during the Vietnam War and they told me a lot of stories I had never heard. This first challenge made me decided to follow the path to be a tour guide.

What is your favourite part about being a guide?

Meeting many people and talking to them. I am so proud when I can help them understand any small thing or new aspects of the culture of my country.

What is the most challenging part about being a guide?

When I was a single man, there was not many things that made me feel too challenged in this job, but after got married, to balance the time for family and my job is real challenge, especially when I think about having a child in future.

What is your favourite thing to show guests?

Any of the things which I know.

What kind of things do guests ask you/ want to talk about?

Every one has different personalities and different demands — to quickly understand what a guest wants and to show them what they want to know is the most important thing.

What food / restaurants should guests try?

It depends on each guest.  A guide has to get information from the our guests at first about their favorite food or any kind of food they can’t eat to help them choose the good restaurant for Vietnamese food or for other available restaurants like Italian food, French food, Halah food or vegetarian, etc.

What should guests coming to Hanoi know?

For all the trips, I often have a brief chat with them at the first, for example: the time zone, the weather and what they need for the tour like sun-glasses or a hat. I also like to talk about the population of the city and country, hotel location and some interesting thing around their hotel.  Security in the city, local traffic and the country’s political systems are also of interest. I often remind guests of the details of their trip itinerary and discuss  what they want to do or when they want to do things, then I can arrange a flexible trip to make them feel more comfortable. I also let them know the details of local culture so they can be respectful, like wearing a long dress when visiting the local temple. I never forget to give them my contact number and local map in case the need to contact to me at any time!

Most memorable guest?

I still remember any guests face who already was been on the tours with me, I never forget any body. But the most memorable guests are the 2 Americans who were my first guests on this job.

Spring Vietnam Discount — Book Now!

Journeys Within is having a sale on spring trip to Vietnam…

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Bangkok is no longer Southeast Asia’s only destination hub — as demonstrations continue in Thailand’s capital city both Saigon and Hanoi are open and ready for business! As some travelers choose to steer away from protest plagued Bangkok, Vietnam has ramped up business at their airports and is ready for travelers looking for a care-free Southeast Asian adventure.

To celebrate, Journeys Within, the premier boutique Southeast Asia tour company and a leader in philanthropic travel, has just announced discounts on their Vietnam Spring Tours for 2014!

A hefty 14% discount is available to all guests who book a Vietnam Spring Tour in 2014. Take advantage of our discount on either the Vietnam Active Spring Tour or the Vietnam Family Spring Special.

Work your way through Vietnam’s beautiful landscape, getting off the beaten path along the way or take your family on a spring vacation holiday they will never forget.

If you have any questions on the Spring specials or the latest on the Bangkok situation, please give us a call at 877-454-3672 or visit www.journeys-within.com for more information.

Thanks so much!

Andrea Ross

Banh Cuon Viet — a taste of traditional Vietnam

 Andrea gets a taste of fresh rice rolls in Hanoi made the old-fashioned way…

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Located on a busy corner in the Old Quarter of Hanoi sits a new restaurant that is a must-visit for anyone heading to the city. Started by Ms Le Thi Thanh Thuy, this little restaurant is a wonderful hidden gem. Banh Cuon Viet features a very simple menu of traditional Vietnamese Steamed Rice Rolls, but the best part is that you can be part of the action. The chef actually sits at the front of the restaurant and makes these little delicacies for all to see. You can choose the ingredients — everything from a simple spring onion roll to a pork or shrimp roll. If you really want to be challenged you can take the hot seat and try making your own rolls.

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Watch the fresh rice paper being made for traditional spring rolls — or better yet, make it yourself!

Ms Thuy is a lovely host and because of her many years of being a tour guide she has no problem explaining the menu, the restaurant or just chatting in flawless English. Her reason for leaving guiding and getting into the restaurant business? Her love of steamed rice rolls, of course. She remembers having them as a kid and decided to go back to her home town to learn how to make them in the traditional way before bringing those skills back to Hanoi.

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Fresh spring rolls in Hanoi.

It’s the perfect light meal and a great way to enjoy some local flavor!