Vietnam: A Women's Only Adventure
An All-Women's Trip to Vietnam: Why this Land is on So Many People's Bucket Lists
By Max Hartshorne
When I speak to experienced travelers who have been to many different parts of the world, often one place pops up as a perennial bucket list destination. For many of the most seasoned travelers, Vietnam remains a place they really want to visit. Is it because so many of us baby boomers grew up with the shadow of the Vietnam war playing on the television? Is it the familarness of names like Saigon, Hanoi or the popularity of Vietnamese food in the US?
For whatever reason, if you're one of the many who consider Vietnam a place you want to see before you die, there couldn't be a better time to go. And for many travelers, an added bonus is to travel to an exotic place in the company of women. Leaving the husband or signficant other behind sometimes is a great idea.
GoNOMAD spoke with several women who just got back from a month-long trip to Vietnam, and they shared their personal highlights, downsides, and told uswhy they loved their trip.
Barbara Onischuk, of Calgary Alberta Canada explained part of why she enjoyed traveling to Vietnam on a women-only trip.
"I enjoyed travelling with only women because we are all adventurous women who are not limited because we don’t have men in our lives who are as passionate about travel as we are. An all-women’s group seems to become friends almost overnight and they are more open about their lives, etc. I have travelled with other groups that have had men in them and couples seem to stick together more and not interact like women do in an all-women’s group. I felt that I made many new friends that I will see again.
The highlight of the trip for me was a night out in Saigon on motorcycles driven by beautiful Vietnamese girls. We travelled all over the city of Saigon to sample street food for dinner. I felt completely safe on the motorcycles and to mingle with the insane traffic was exhilarating! Eating street food like the Vietnamese do was interesting and tasty. I felt that I experienced life in Saigon and wasn’t seeing it from a bus window."
Heat and Humidity
"The most difficult part of the trip was the heat and humidity, mostly in the south. I had expected it but the temperatures happened to be a little higher than normal.
I would definitely take a trip like this again. I saw the sights that I had seen in pictures and heard about on TV but I also visited places that are off the beaten path: the Mai Chau Valley village and school.
I was a university student during the Vietnam War and, although I am Canadian and was not too emotionally involved, I remember vividly the names of places that hit the news every night. It was amazing that I was now in those places----Hanoi, Danang, China Beach, Saigon---- and I saw how the country has managed to recover and move on from that."
Karen Gavenda, of Syracuse, NY, who has traveled extensively, also shared her view on the concept of women-only travel. "Traveling with only women naturally allows the opportunity to partake in activities more geared toward women.
But it also provides more freedom to customize and alter agendas at will without having to satisfy a mixed gender group. Since many women such as myself travel without a companion, I can always find someone to hook up with or someone with similar interests. This is much more difficult when the tour is comprised of mostly couples and you often feel like a third wheel."
Loving the Unexpected
Barbara Onischuk discussed the favorite part of her trip. "The highlight of any trip for me is always the unexpected. It’s the things you always remember. Yes, I loved the history, culture, people and architecture but the most memorable thing for me was strangely a motorcycle ride to a village in the Ha Long Bay area and getting lost in the woods.
Karen some additional factors that provided challenges for these women travelers.
"The hardest thing about the trip was the amount of travel time to reach Vietnam from the USA. Additionally, being over 1,000 miles long, there is considerable distance between cities within Vietnam." Fortunately the journey was for a whole month, which allowed enough time to see the north central and the south of this long country.
Barbara said. "I can’t pick one city or village that was a favorite. We visited the northern, central and southern parts of Vietnam each with a different guide. Each part is very different and each guide offered us their views on their area and their country----a common thread about their country ran through their views but each area was unique.
Barbara Blevins shared her thoughts on her first women-only trip. "Being a new widow, it was the first time I traveled so far and not knowing a soul before we met in Hanoi, but the experience was terrific and my roommate and I hit it off wonderfully and had a grand time with each of the ladies and leaders and local tour leaders.
We had great fun participating in many cooking classes also. Making several different kinds of spring rolls for a delicious first for me. The hotels left nothing to be desired. They were beautiful, luxurious and perfectly staffed."
An Interesting Concept
Sights and Soul Travel for Women offers a very interesting concept in travel. First, being an all women’s group, it is an opportunity to make new friends. We all managed to find something in common and have a lot of fun and laughs together.
The travel arrangements made by S&S were very high end and there was never any worry about what the hotel would be like or what the food would be like in a restaurant.
The cost of the tour was very reasonable and affordable. The tour covered the history and sights of Vietnam but most important to me, we got off the bus and experienced everyday life of the people.
That is how you truly get to know and understand a culture. Our tour escort on my trip to Vietnam happened to be Yolanta Barnes, the owner of S&S, who doesn’t escort every tour (she does new tours several times to get the kinks out). I felt privileged to get to know her because she is such a genuine, humble person who wants to give her clients the best possible experience that she can."
Max Hartshorne has been the editor and publisher of GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield Mass since 2002. He worked for newspapers and other sales positions for 23 years until he finally got what he wanted, and became the editor at GoNOMAD. He travels regularly, enjoys publishing new writers, and watching his grandchildren grow up.