I travel extensively and hire guides often. Family and friends always tease me about my exacting demands for quality and perfection. I seldom write reviews, because it takes effort to write, and I leave it for the most deserving. I just returned from Ho Chi Minh City with my family. I told myself I MUST leave a review for Vi.
Wow wow Vi! Could there be a more perfect tour guide on this planet? Are there 6 stars, 10 stars I can click on? How outstanding can Vi be as a guide? Let me count the ways:
HER SPECIAL INSTINCTIVE TOUCH – There are fundamental requirements that tour guides must fulfill, and Vi of course meets those with flying colours (must be punctual, informative, friendly, must speak decent whatever language is promised etc. etc.). But what really sets Vi apart is her instinctive ability to sense what her client needs without too much communicated to her:
– I was looking for a particular style of design stores and sent the same brief to a few guides. Only Vi came back with specific resources that hit all the sweet spots for me.
– For the day that Vi was not available, I booked a tour to the Mekong River Delta with another guide. The latter cancelled on me at the last minute. I SOSed Vi for help on a Sunday morning, and within 30 minutes, she got me sorted. I was immensely grateful. But what really blew my mind away was arriving at HCMC airport to find her waiting for me I had asked her to arrange a car service to pick us up, but didn’t expect to see her at the airport at all. “What are you doing here, Vi?!!!” I was after all, just another paying client, and until this tour, did not know her at all. My tour with her was not even due to start until the day after.
“To pick you up. After all frustration from other guide, I hope you feel good when you arrive,” she said simply.
Wow. I had not detailed to her how frustrated I was at my other guide’s poor handling of the cancellation, but Vi sensed it!
HER INNATE TALENT AT CONNECTING WITH BOTH YOUNG AND OLD: I had travelled to HCMC with my parents (in their 70s) and my 2 sons (aged 7 and 10), without my husband. Frankly, I was flustered and a tad embarrassed by them – my parents did not take to Vietnamese food and were not shy to show it. My boys were just bouncing off the walls all the time and were driving me up one too. Our interests and culinary taste buds were very diverse. I felt stressed and hassled without my husband around, but Vi helped soothe my frayed nerves with all the little, important things she did. She was very flexible and adaptable, unfazed by the multitude of changes we imposed on her all through our trip. Her easy-going nature and amazing resourcefulness allowed her to readily accede to new requests all the time. Not once did she betray any hint of frustration. But Vi was not just professional – she saturated her professionalism with kindness, patience and care. She won my parents over by anticipating their needs and making them as comfortable as possible. She displayed her motherly instincts in the way she interacted with my boys. I ended up asking her to help me at night when she finished her other tours.
While still at home, I asked Vi to organise a foodie tour on motorbike for my family, without realising how crazy the traffic in Saigon was. My heart was racing when one by one, my parents and young children took off on individual motorbikes. I needn’t have worried. Vi and her team of 7 riders took supreme care of us. My 7-year old, ever the vroom-vroom boy, was strapped to Vi herself as we tore through the city all night. I was riding behind and saw how she carefully manoeuvred the traffic and cared for him. That night, he went to bed with a smile on his face. It was deeply satisfying.
Vi’s ability to connect across a multi-generational spectrum of clients makes her truly special.
HER DILIGENCE AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Before arriving in HCMC, I informed Vi that I wanted to buy the best quality fish sauce available. Before I knew it, Vi had bought and delivered to my hotel a brand that was not commonly available at supermarkets. I also laughed when she sent me pictures of different brands of fish sauce she saw at the supermarket. All my other questions on restaurants etc. were always answered promptly. Vi is absolutely diligent and meticulous!
HER IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE AND CULTURAL AWARENESS: Vi at first glance comes across as a diminutive, soft-spoken Vietnamese lady. But it takes chatting with her to realise that she is herself a well-travelled and well-read person, always hungry for knowledge, and with an insatiable thirst to improve herself. She has a very lively mind. I believe that her understanding of the different habits and cultures of people allows her to adapt to her clients’ needs easily. This cultural exposure also causes her to give what is to me a more balanced yet In-depth account of the history and sociopolitical landscape of Vietnam. Speaking to her is intellectually stimulating and entirely enjoyable.
I have been reflecting on why some guides move me more than others. In Vi – I have found the answer.
P.S. If Vi is not available on your chosen date, ask her to recommend guides for you. I have met others on her team, and they are lovely.