“Amazing travel consulting company”
I write this review the morning after returning from a fantastic and highly memorable 12 day / 11 night trip to Vietnam and Cambodia planned and supported by Exotic Voyages. I was incredibly impressed by this company. I would use them again, and plan to recommend them to all of my friends and family. So what made the experience great? Let me count the ways…
1. Trip Planning & Communication: I was matched with a travel planner named Andy, a British ex-pat who has been living in Vietnam for over 10 years. He was a fabulous travel consultant, and spent considerable time helping me fine tune my itinerary (over the course of 4-5 weeks) before I ever made a down payment. Even after I placed my deposit, he continued to be prompt and helpful with the various follow-up questions that I peppered him with in the months leading up to the trip. A few weeks before departure, he sent over Exotic Voyage’s Country Guides for Vietnam and Cambodia, which were extremely helpful in setting our expectations for things like cultural no-no’s, tipping norms, how to avoid gastro/intestinal issues, etc. This trip was a birthday gift for my wife, and Andy was instrumental in helping me set up some “Easter Egg” surprises along the way, such as a romantic candle light dinner upon arrival to our hotel on the day of my wife’s birthday. The staff at the hotel knew it was her birthday and greeted us with a dessert and song, followed by a complimentary upgrade to the royal suite. After we freshened up in the room, we walked back to the beautiful infinity pool where they staff had rapidly set up a romantic candle night table for us to enjoy a fantastic dinner. I could never have coordinated this without Andy’s help!
2. Travel Logistics: Exotic Voyages was completely on-top of managing all logistics for our trip. We arrived in Hanoi and within 3 minutes of disembarking found someone holding a sign with our names to assist with our entry visas. From there, we met our local guide and driver, and traveled in a nice Toyota SUV to our hotel. As we moved around the country, we always had high quality drivers, vehicles, and guides (more on the guides below) who were always on time and made is feel completely safe. We had 3 domestic flights during our trip, and in 2 cases our flights were delayed 24 hrs before we left for the airport. Exotic Voyages monitored out flights, identified the delays, and worked with our guides to ensure we would get to the airport at the right time for drop-off / pick-up. Whenever possible, our guides would walk us into the airport an assist with ticketing and to ensure we were all set. It was always easy to find our guides at the airport, as they had custom signs with Exotic Voyage’s branding on them.
3. Local Guides: One of the most important elements of your trip is the quality of the local guides you are matched with. You spend anywhere from 5-10 hours a day with your guides, and in our case had several 3+ hour car rides together. If you don’t have awesome guides, you will feel it. We did not have that problem. We shook hands with our guides when we met them, and by the time we left them were giving them hugs. They truly became friends AND guides during our short time together. I can’t stress enough how impressed we were by these guides (shout outs to Thanh, Sarah, and Ran!). Exotic Voyages proved to me they have the ability to consistently deliver exceptionally good guides. I can emphasize the importance of this enough.
4. Experiences: All of the activities Exotic Voyages recommended were great, and a handful were truly exceptional. I’ll discuss these more below, but there were 3-4 activities that EV booked for us where we were the only westerners / tourists around. As SE Asia becomes more saturated with visitors, I believe it’s critical to work with a travel company that can help you still find those magical experiences away from the crowd. EV totally delivered here, and we would never have been able to find or plan these activities without them.
What were the most enjoyable or memorable parts of your trip?
As noted above, there were 3 special activities that EV helped to coordinate that really made an impression on my wife and I.
1) In the city of Hue, after visiting the ancient capital of the Nguyen dynasty, we drove through windy, narrow streets to the house of an ancient Mandarin (member of the royal court). We met the owner of the home, whose great grandfather had been a Mandarin, and he gave us a tour of the grounds (which featured multiple open-air buildings) and told us about how each was deliberately designed according to Fung Shui principles. Then, we had a private lunch in the guest house with delicious food and selection of beer and BOTTLES of wine of our choice, all already paid for by our Exotic Voyages package.
2) In Siem Reap, Cambodia, after visiting Angkor Wat and surrounding temples, we drove about 20 minutes into the country where we went down a very long, very bumpy dirt road (our driver actually missed it the first time) until we reached a hidden Buddhist temple. We had an amazing foot massage and delicious picnic lunch in the shade of tall trees outside the temple, which we then explored after lunch. There weren’t any other tourists around for miles. Truly a magical and memorable experience. One of my lasting memories will be lying on the picnic blanket looking up into the trees and listening to them rustle in the wind with complete quiet all around.
3) Also in Siem Reap, we ventured deep into the country side by boat to visit a bird sanctuary. We passed through a floating village, which is home to some of Cambodia’s poorest (and friendliest) residents, and changed from our transit boat to a tiny fishing boat with local villager guides (our main guide stayed with us as well). We then ventured deep into the bird sanctuary, where we saw thousands of sea birds including pelicans, storks, herons, and many other varieties I can’t name. As we rode through the marsh, our boat would send birds into flight from the surrounding reeds and we saw huge flocks take flight. In the middle of the marsh, we disembarked to climb a bamboo-and-rope ladder / staircase built by the villagers to reach a small platform at the top of a large tree (harrowing, but fun for us). Once on top of the tree, we were treated to beautiful 360 views of the sanctuary, along with a telescope to view the bird’s breeding grounds. As we headed back to town, we saw hundreds of birds swirling around thermal air columns, at one point passing right over our heads.
Visited March 2017
This review was originally posted on Trip Advisor