Here he shares his story along with some valuable tips on travelling in his homeland of Vietnam.
I have been working as a local guide in Vietnam since 2004.
I’m from the countryside, from the Mekong Delta, and I went to Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city in Vietnam, to study.
I wanted to have a good job, so I went to a vocational school which took about two and a half years. The principal there said that if you carry on studying you could have a great job so then I went to tourism school.
Later, one of my teachers told me that if I wanted to become an international tour guide, I would have to learn English. So I went back to university. In total, it took about 6 years.
Was it an easy process?
When I was studying at tourism school, I found out that this was a really great job. I was able to travel all around Vietnam – wow!
It seemed easy, but it was actually very difficult. In my class there were about 150 students, but when the course finished, only about 20 students had the ability to work as a tour guide.
How did you come to specialise in adventure tours?
I started working in 2004, and after 2 years as a normal guide, I found that I loved adventure activities like cycling and kayaking the most, so then I became an adventure guide in 2006.
This season from October to April is very busy – we call it the high season for tours, particularly for cycling tours. Guides like me are very busy because there are not many that can do cycling and adventure tours.
Can you talk us through a typical day?
Normally, my day starts at about 6.30 am. I pick up the client at their hotel and we begin our tour in the countryside. It varies, but we normally cycle about 60 to 80 km per day. All cycling activities take place in the countryside.
We stay overnight sometimes at a local homestead, or sometimes at a hotel. Once we have checked-in, I take my clients to a local restaurant for dinner and then around the town. I finish my working day at about 8:00 pm.
How do your tours vary?
I specialise in adventure tours so most of my tours involve cycling, kayaking, motorcycling, trekking or photography.
But what we do also depends on the ability and interests of the clients. Some people are more interested in sightseeing than cycling. For them, the cycling is a fun add-on. So I make a different route for them which involves more sightseeing and less cycling.
I love to help my clients experience the real Vietnam. When they send me feedback or comments saying that they enjoyed the trip and that it wasn’t just a holiday but a trip of a lifetime, then I am very, very happy about that.
Is there a part of your job that you don’t enjoy?
In general, I am very lucky to work as a tour guide. I have lots of opportunities to meet different people and go to different places. I love my job very much.
Do you have a favourite place in Vietnam?
In Vietnam, I do love the Mekong Delta, my homeland. I take many of my customers there.
It varies a lot from tourist to tourist.
If they start from Ho Chi Minh City through the Mekong Delta, then a boat trip on the Mekong River, or kayaking or cycling. If they travel from the north, then Halong Bay is one of the seven natural Wonders of the World and it is also a very popular destination for international tourists.
Some tourists that love adventure or trekking can travel to Sapa, located around 2000 metres above sea level. There are very beautiful landscapes there. If they start from the centre of Vietnam, they can visit some of the world heritage sites like Hoi An, the Citadel or the natural caves.
What are the benefits of travelling with a guide?
Having a guide is the best way to see the real destination. If they deal directly with a local guide and communicate their needs, then the guide can plan accordingly.
A local guide will also show you things you would not find on your own. For example, tourists that visit Ho Chi Minh City will wander around and probably eat some food at a very touristy restaurant. But a guide will know of local restaurants where there are no tourists. They can take their clients to these places to enjoy really authentic local food and show them things they wouldn’t be able to find in the tourist area.
A good tour guide must understand the psychology of the tourist. They must understand what the client wants in order to offer them the right kind of tour. Too often the tour guide offers what they have, but instead the tour guide must offer what the client wants – they must understand the requirements of the client.
Tourists can collect information about Vietnam via the internet quite easily. In just a couple of minutes they can get all of the information they want. But a local guide living in Vietnam will, of course, know stuff that guide books and social media will not.
Can you offer any tips to travellers thinking about visiting Vietnam?
If travellers are planning to visit Vietnam but are not sure what to see, then they should look for a local guide via a website like GuideAdvisor.com.